In a perfect world there would be little to no connection between the current Presidential election and the excellent television show Atlanta. They would exist on separate plains, operate in different timelines (you know, like Westworld might be doing.) Linking greatness and pure originality like Atlanta with the raging dumpster fire that is the current race to be our next President is just plain unfair to Donald Glover and the rest of the people behind 2016’s best television show. But you know, life isn’t fair. If it was, we’d have at least one good candidate for President and more people would have invisible cars.
Yet because of timing, Atlanta and the 2016 Presidential election are unfortunately joined at the hip. I think it’ll be impossible to move forward without at least giving a passing nod to the relationship between the two. When the book is written on 2016, they’ll share a chapter and on any clever timeline of the year the Internet spits out, they’ll be neighbors. Atlanta, the election and the 2016 World Series. Brothers in arms. And while I think there is merit to including the World Series in this conversation, I don’t think it works. The Cubs/Indians’ series is operating on entirely different level. If these three events are brothers, it’s the middle brother. It’s the brother no one knows what to do with and the brother that eventually moves out west to study film-making. The election and Atlanta however, they might as well be twins, albeit weird, diametrically opposed twins. But still, twins. Arnold and Danny at the beginning of the movie, as opposed to the end.
With apologies to Game of Thrones, The Night Of and Stranger Things, Atlanta is THE show of 2016. It’s practically lapped everyone else and while I wasn’t totally sure of this two days ago, after watching the series finale “The Jacket,” I most definitely am now. I can’t remember being more entertained from start to finish by a television show. Well, I mean, I can. It was an episode of Game of Thrones. But there’s something different, yet kind of similar about the way I’m entertained by Atlanta. On the similar tip, both shows immerse you fully and bring you into their world. It’s how dragons aren’t overly jolting and neither is a sleazy club promoter dipping out by vanishing behind a secret door at a club. Both shows created a world when anything came happen and when it does, it makes complete sense within the confines of the show. Yet where I think there is a difference, at least a major difference, is in the scope of things. Game of Thrones is huge; an expansive mansion overlooking the bay with two Land Rovers in the driveway and more than one hot tub. Atlanta is a cozy bungalow with enough room for a stand-up paddle board out front and a breakfast nook. Breakfast nooks are sweet.
The world of Atlanta benefits from the size of the world because it allows the world to be free and wild within a tight playing field. You know, it’s kind of like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in that respect. The strength of both shows is the cast and how each show squeezes so much juice and electricity out of a small bench and limited options. Atlanta’s cast is even smaller than Always Sunny’s. There’s just Ern, Alfred, Darius and Van. They don’t even always appear together, which makes it even crazier. Two of the show’s strongest episodes, “B.A.N.” and “Value,” where driven by one of the four characters out on their own adventures and journeys, Alfred and Van respectfully. Ern might be technically the main character and the show appears to be his story, but it’s also the story of Alfred’s rap career and Van’s life. Darius is the “comic relief” but he’s Kramer flipped on his head. Yet regardless of the circumstances or an episode’s plot (and the mystery of each episode is one of the most underrated perks of the show,) each one of the four characters has your attention and affection. The investment is there, the investment is real. The investment is a rolled ball of hundreds and we all want to find a way to pass it along to our loved ones.
The joy felt by Atlanta and the immense pleasure the audience derives from it runs completely counter with the pure sadness and shame the Presidential election is bringing out in us. It’s a shame that Atlanta can’t run a week or two longer, just to get us through until the election is over. Although to be fair, I’m not sure this election will ever be over. It will never end. Never.
But if it does, it’d be nice to still have Atlanta in our lives to console us and get us through. Atlanta is one of those shows that doubles as escapism, again, going back to this whole idea of admiring the expert world building they underwent. It’s only twenty some minutes long, but when Atlanta is on, that’s where I am. As this election slugs and shits it’s way to the finish line, we need ways to hide from it. If the 2016 World Series is the middle brother, who gives us nothing but confused and conflicting emotions, the other brothers are concrete emotions. They are the light and the dark, the plus sign and the minus sign.
It’s weird sitting here on a Wednesday, my mind toggling back and forth between Atlanta and the election. It’s weird realizing that we live in a world where both can exist and exist so close to each other. It’s weird that in one week, more specifically, on one day, we can witness something like “The Jacket” and also witness a barrage of tweets about emails, ineptitude, racism, hate speech and more. It’s as if Atlanta and the election are light houses on opposite sides of the ocean and we’re all in a boat, making a decision about which one we should point our bow towards. Do we want to keep being inundated with negativity and disgust or do we want to sit back and also wonder if Ja Rule was a dog?
Atlanta is nothing like the 2016 Presidential election. The Presidential election is nothing like Atlanta. Yet the two will be forever intertwined.
It’s true. Life isn’t fair.
Or is it? Maybe the existence of Atlanta, given to us to help ease the pain and suffering of the election, is proof that life is actually incredibly fair after all? Maybe we should stop complaining, stop scrolling through Twitter, stop listening to the news? Maybe we should go outside, enjoy the weather.
Maybe we should just keep binge-watching Atlanta until November 9th?
Yeah, that sounds good.