Atlanta: Nine Episodes To Watch if You’re Just Jumping In

Atlanta: Nine Episodes To Watch if You’re Just Jumping In

These are the best episodes to get you started on TV’s smartest comedy.

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(L-R) Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz attend the premiere of the 3rd season of FX’s “Atlanta” at Hollywood Forever on March 24, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images)
(L-R) Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz attend the premiere of the 3rd season of FX’s “Atlanta” at Hollywood Forever on March 24, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/Getty Images)
Photo: JC Olivera (Getty Images)

When Atlanta premiered there was nothing like it on TV. Donald Glover delivered a unique comedy that no one could pin down. It didn’t fit in the “Black TV show” category, so critics weren’t prepared for how amazing it is. With Zazie Beetz, Brian Tyree Henry and LaKeith Stanfield, we got introduced to a new group of up and coming stars before they became big time. As Season 3 winds down and we get ready for the fourth and final season, it’s time to look back at some of the series’ most essential episodes and examine how far it has come.

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Season 1 Episode 1 “The Big Bang”

Season 1 Episode 1 “The Big Bang”





Right from the first episode, Donald Glover set this awkward tone that is simultaneously funny and embarrassing, because let’s be honest, we all know an Earn, Paper Boi and Darrius. They’re ok to hang out with for one night, but you kind of don’t want them to be your full-time crew. There are times when these guys are the trainwreck you can’t look away from. Of course, that doesn’t make them bad guys. It’s just the first episode, so their characters haven’t fully developed yet.

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Season 1 Episode 2 “Streets on Lock”

Season 1 Episode 2 “Streets on Lock”

After the weird yet funny tone that it establishes in its first episode, Atlanta shows us its true brilliance in Episode 2, “Streets on Lock.” As Earn sits in jail, he has a front row seat for the full experience. He deals with homophobia, racial profiling, mental illness and every other systemic breakdown you can think of. It’s the way Stephen Glover crafted these moments to elicit all the right emotions while never losing sight of the absurdty that Earn finds himself in.

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Season 1 Episode 7 “B.A.N.”

Season 1 Episode 7 “B.A.N.”




This is where Atlanta really shows us what kind of comedy it is. Using the setting of a ridiculous talk show, the episode leads into a conversation about homophobia in the Black community, as well as transgender rights and what hip-hop really means to its fans. Brian Tyree Henry shines as Al hilariously dodges both nonsense and reasonable questions. His reaction to Antoine/Harrison is legitimately laugh out loud funny and showcases how underrated Henry is. And the fake commercials are just the cherry on the sundae of this smart, fresh episode.

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Season 1 Episode 9 “Juneteenth”

Season 1 Episode 9 “Juneteenth”

Van and Earn’s relationship is one of the driving forces in his desire to make something of himself. Yes, they have a beautiful daughter. But they’re also deeply dysfunctional and one of those couples you see at the party and think ‘why are they still together?’ Their stark differences are clearly highlighted here as Van wants to network with the upper class at a Juneteenth-themed party and Earn is baffled by the racist nonsense of it all. Van also knows it’s all bullshit, but she’s searching for a way out of her paycheck to paycheck life. It lets us know that no matter how much they care for one another, their life goals are just too different to make this work long-term.

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Season 2 Episode 5 “Barbershop”

Season 2 Episode 5 “Barbershop”

If ever there was an episode of Atlanta made For the Culture, it’s “Barbershop.” Every Black person knows that one barber or hairstylist who you hate going to because it’s always drama, but it’s 100 percent worth it when your hair is done. There’s also that moment where you reach your breaking point and realize you don’t have to be held prisoner by this person anymore. That’s where Al finds himself. After spending all day putting up with his barber Bibby’s increasingly over-the-top shenanigans, Al decides to go to a different barber, except now he has to start the relationship over at the beginning. This is a premise that couldn’t work on any other show, and frankly, wouldn’t be executed as well.

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Season 2 Episode 6 “Teddy Perkins”

Season 2 Episode 6 “Teddy Perkins”

The reason why fans are so devoted to Atlanta is that you can’t figure it out. If you watch The Neighborhood or Black-ish, you know what you’re going to get every week. Whereas Atlanta is completely unpredictable. Seriously, who expected “Teddy Perkins” halfway through Season 2? It’s a psychological thriller that plays out over 34 minutes and doesn’t miss a single beat. It’s just a really good story, which is all we actually want from TV. And in case it wasn’t already clear, Donald Glover is a genius.

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Season 3 Episode 1 “Three Slaps”

Season 3 Episode 1 “Three Slaps”

After such a long break between Seasons 2 and 3, we wondered if Atlanta would still be the same. Turns out it wasn’t. The time away actually made it better. The world had changed and the show had changed with it. The crew traveling abroad gave the series a chance to explore the themes of race and class that the world is now reckoning with. Except, it’s all done the Atlanta way. “Three Slaps” is a standalone surprise that has no connection to the overall show, but also feels very Atlanta.

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Season 3 Episode 2 “Sinterklaas is Coming to Town”

Season 3 Episode 2 “Sinterklaas is Coming to Town”

After the dream within a dream Inception-style Season 3 premiere, we thought maybe we were getting an unrecognizable off the wall, new Atlanta, but as it turns out, things hadn’t completely changed. Al is arrested for getting caught up in the usual “Al shit,” while Earn once again ignores Van to deal with it. Same old, same old right? Well, once we see the baby in blackface we know this is about to take one of those wild Atlanta turns. Everyone in town is dressed as some old Dutch character, who by Earn’s understanding was probably “Santa’s slave.” This leads Al to ditch the performance, while Earn ends up running from the club owner. And I can’t forget about the exceedingly nice Dutch police, whom Al definitely takes a liking to. None of it makes any sense, and yet, it’s ridiculously funny.

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Season 3 Episode 4 “The Big Payback”

Season 3 Episode 4 “The Big Payback”

This is the one we’ll never stop talking about. Only Atlanta could put such a clever, modern, unique update on reparations. Even though the story is focused on new characters, it’s always clear we’re watching Atlanta. The show never loses sight of its distinctive voice, something a lot of shows haven’t figured out.

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