‘Atlanta’ 2.1: Florida Man/Alligator Man
“Twin Peaks with rappers” is how Atlanta was first described when FX first greenlit it, but only now is that wonderful four-word pitch starting to come into focus as Donald Glover reveals himself as potentially the black answer to David Lynch.
“Alligator Man” is a marvellous half-hour of television. It starts with a no-context cold open that instantly reminded me how great cold opens have been missing from my life since Peaks finished in September (as much as like 9–1-1 and Looming Tower, they’re far too literally-structured), and a robbery-turned-shootout worthy of The Dark Knight prologue.
Driving Earn (Glover) to the parole office, Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) tells the story of Florida Man, a terrifying figure who murders ostriches to scare black people away from the state. It’s at this moment that Atlanta kicks back into its particular niche of greatness. Florida Man is, I have discovered, a real internet meme, but obscure enough that a white Irish fellow like myself hasn’t heard of it when tuning into Atlanta. Yet it sounds like it could exist (because it does). That’s how you establish a really good joke.
We forget, with his rapping and philosophising and Star Warsing, that Donald Glover is a phenomenal comedy writer who contributed some timeless content to 30 Rock back in the day. And that shines through in this episode, which peaks when Earn’s crazy uncle (Katt Williams) is revealed to have an alligator living in his guest bedroom, a creature that ultimately emerges from the house with such godly dignity that it almost moved me to tears.
There’s pretty much nothing as unpredictable and mood-driven on TV right now (not that I’m aware, anyway) as Atlanta. I’ve missed it so much. I described season 1 as “the best TV show about how Instagram affects our behaviour”; it being a serious of vaguely connected #MemorableMoments in a year of a guy’s life. Alligator Man would make a fantastic Instagram post.