Atlanta Is At Its Best When It Does a Paper Boi Episode

Culture
Have you noticed the eighth episode of all three Atlanta seasons is always Alfred-centric?

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Coat Human Person Hat Brian Tyree Henry Sleeve Sun Hat and Long Sleeve

Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles in Atlanta.Courtesy of Coco Olakunle for FX.

So far, nailing down the themes and overall story arc of this season of Atlanta has proven elusive. Three of the season’s eight episodes so far have been self-contained short stories involving characters with no connection to the rest of the show, leaving some fans frustrated. But last week’s episode, “New Jazz,” is a fine return to the core group’s adventures in Europe, focused mostly on Paper Boi as he goes on a drug-fueled tour of Amsterdam. The last “Paper Boi episode” was season 2’s “The Woods,” in which he gets lost in a forest, and before that, season 1’s “The Club,” in which he goes on a fruitless quest to get into the VIP section. Whether by coincidence or intent, there’s a pattern here: the eighth episode of every season of Atlanta is always Alfred-centric. (If you want to take it further, there are eight letters in Paper Boi.)

“New Jazz” sends Alfred down the rabbit hole of seedy Amsterdam when he quickly gets separated from Darius after they eat a powerful cookie. He stumbles into an art gallery where he bumps into Lorraine, a trans woman (this isn’t made explicitly clear in the episode, but she is portrayed by Ava Grey, of Pose fame) who jabs at Alfred’s insecurities, takes him to a weird club, and tells him his friends are using him for money (the beginning of the episode shows Darius getting him to pick up every bill) before leaving him curled up in the street, muttering to himself. An exchange between Earn and Alfred in the episode’s last scene reveals that Lorraine was Alfred’s mother’s name, and the record deal that Earn negotiated for Al includes ownership of his masters.

Each Paper Boi-centric episode finds him at a different career crossroad, but they share similar themes: the tolls and realities of rap stardom, whether Al can trust his friends, and his relationship with his mother. “The Club” hammers home that the reality of local rap fame isn’t so thrilling, and was followed by Alfred spending the rest of Season 2 challenging Earn’s managerial skills.“The Woods” opens with him dreaming about his mother on the anniversary of her death, then spending the day with an Instagram influencer who’s clearly trying to use him for clout before an argument with her that effectively ends their relationship. On the walk home, he gets beat up, chased into the woods, and stalked by a knife-wielding loon who makes a comment about Alfred being like his mother. In the end, he makes way to a convenience store where, bloodied and dirty, he graciously snaps a selfie with a fan. Alfred’s survival pushes him to apply some of Sierra’s ideals—you can draw a line from the lessons he learns in this episode to the fact that when we catch up with the gang in season 3, Alfred’s celebrity is on a much bigger scale.

It’s unclear what to make of Al’s interactions with “Lorraine” in “New Jazz.” Was there a spark between them, despite his firm protests otherwise? Was she even real? (Near the beginning of the episode, Darius and Al walk past a man huddled in a street corner, and Darius says “don’t be like him”; at the end, the man is revealed to be Al himself.) In “The Club,” Al tries to strike up something genuine with a club girl he spent the whole night talking with, only for her to declare their interaction purely superficial. As we’ve seen earlier this season, Al isn’t hurting for groupie love, but these Paper Boi-centric episodes always find him searching for a real connection, and failing.

By this point in the series, Al is enjoying the surface thrills of rap stardom while privately getting anxious about his future. How will he be remembered? Earn may have become a good manager of his career, but they still haven’t figured out how to open up and talk to each other. Early in Atlanta, Al mentioned Earn not reaching out to him since his mother’s death. The conversations between the two in season 3 are all work-related so far—in the fifth episode, A’s attempt to have a sincere check-in goes completely unnoticed by Earn. Maybe all that explains why a psychedelic cookie sends Alfred walking the Amsterdam streets with Lorraine, his mother/guardian angel, having conversations with Liam Neeson and trying to figure out if he owns his work.

”New Jazz” has a happy ending, but considering their stilted communication as of late, we may be heading towards more Earn-Al static. If the arc of past seasons is indicative of anything, the events of this episode are about to force Paper Boi to have another hard think about his life, and make some major changes as a result.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

RCS could be finally justifying its existence
BT presents a straightforward use case for 5G at live sports
Red Power Ranger Actor Arrested and Charged with COVID Fraud in FBI Raid
New Artist Spotlight: Bubble Gum Pop Gets a New Flavor With Emery Pulse
The M65 Field Jacket: In Praise Of An Outerwear Icon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.