Donald Glover just wrapped up his second season for “Atlanta” on FX, and it was nothing less than brilliant. Glover has always seemed to have elite level writing skills being a fixture behind the scenes for years. In recent years he took a step forward after leaving NBC’s “30 Rock” , “Community” and “Derrick Comedy”, where he played pivotal roles for years. Glover just really needed to find himself. Under his moniker “Childish Gambino”, he gave us five mixtapes quietly while building a cult following. That was all until “Camp”happened, where people began to take greater notice. Glover was now completely free to do what he wanted which led to the infamous notes about his fear and anxiety that led to the star we see today. This era of Glover seems to be what we are seeing on screen in the show “Atlanta”.
In Season 2 of “Atlanta” we see Glover’s character Earn rob himself out of opportunities and success due to fear. Something that Glover has acknowledged he experienced himself. Earn has his back against the wall as this season opens up with him sleeping in a storage unit. With so much of the progress made in Season 1, once again Earn is homeless. In the first episode Earn encounters his uncle Willie, played by Katt Williams. Later in the episode Glover has a monolog telling Willie he is afraid to end up like him. Becoming “Someone who everyone knows is smart, but just let’s stuff happen to him”. At the moment Earn doesn’t realize he is actually on very a similar path. Throughout Season 2 we see Earn take short cuts and allow pride to ensure he doesn’t get the desired outcome he wants. For all accounts Earn has been nearly useless to everyone who needs him to some capacity. In those 2013 notes Glover seems to feel the same way. He says he “feels like he is letting everyone down”. He is essentially robbing everyone of a better him. The issue is unlike Glover the character has not realized he needs to be a better version of himself. He needs to be a better father, boyfriend, and manager. He needs to be able to have more freedom and not care as much about what people think. Glover was a prisoner of his talent and potential. Earn is also a prisoner of the same things. He begins to understand that you have to do certain things to be able to survive. Glover had to leave those shows and take a leap of faith. Earn finding out a similar leap is necessary to move forward.
“I’m afraid people think I hate my race”.
In many accounts Donald Glover has been viewed as sort of an outcast. There are songs and moments that elude to his acceptance in the black community. Perhaps it was fitting that “Elevators” by Outkast ended Season 1. This theme aligns with adolescent Earn, who is seen in his room with an “Aquemeni” poster on his wall in Season 2. He has embraced being a black sheep at times. For years he was looked at like he was not black enough or not really for black people. That notion began to change the more he did music, and finally peaked during the show “Atlanta” and the “Awaken My Love” album. Gambino suddenly had that acceptance. Below is an excerpt of “Outside” from “Camp” which details:
“Mrs. Glover ma’am, your son is so advanced
But he’s acting up in class and keeps peeing in his pants
And I just wanna fit in, but nobody was helping me out
They talking hood shit and I ain’t know what that was about
‘Cause hood shit and black shit is super different
So I’m talking hood shit and cool it now like New Edition”
In Season 2 of “Atlanta” we are taken to another realm. The first season was great, but this one was nuanced with genius examples of what people are robbed of in the black community. He covers fear, mental health, discrimination, systemic oppression, childhood loss, reputation, pride, love, time, and life. All of these things are presented in a darker but still humorous way. Perhaps this is how he truly is, dark and humorous. However, the way he sprinkled in gems in each show began to turn him into less of an outcast and more like a voice. His new music video and record set it off as the black community responded graciously to “This is America”. He is the biggest commodity in show biz at the moment. Which is something the character “Paper Boi” (Earn’s cousin struggles with in the series. He struggles with the notion that he can no longer just be himself, that he is a star now. He can no longer do simple things anymore, he can no longer hide. Glover himself also could no longer “hide”. The mask was killing him, but his timing was impeccable. I’m not sure he is the voice or if even intended to be, but he looks a lot more comfortable showing all of himself.
Society was robbing Donald of reaching his full potential because he was concerned with appeasing people. Ironically it seems just like Earn in the airport in the finale “Crabs in a Barrel”, he is no longer afraid. I think he was afraid his the series would fail. I also think he would fear ending up like a Tyrese; a truly gifted talent who people just seem to have a tough time connecting with. I think its safe to say Donald will no longer allow us to rob him and as a result he will no longer rob us.