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'Atlanta' Recap, 'New Jazz:' Where Are All The Black People In Amsterdam?

By Brian Richards | TV | May 8, 2022 |

By Brian Richards | TV | May 8, 2022 |


beebf33960aa965875f92b5cd01dac73.jpg

Previously on Atlanta: An upper-class white married couple in New York City find themselves struggling with what to do next when their son’s nanny, an elderly Trinidadian woman named Sylvia, dies unexpectedly.

THE STORY SO FAR: Paper Boi and Darius decide to get high on hallucinogens and walk around Amsterdam together.

WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Darius attempting to pay for the Nepalese Spacecakes that he and Paper Boi will be ingesting to get high, only to be told he doesn’t have enough money for them. “Well, I’ll just let fate take care of it.” (“And by “fate,” he means having Paper Boi swoop in and pay for it himself) Paper Boi’s response to whether he’s willing and able to handle getting high like this: “My nigga, I had to watch the movie Cats sober with a bitch who lied to me about having some dank, OK? So I know extremes.” (And no, Darius, Cats is not underrated, and I say that as someone who drank four Moscow Mules to prepare myself for seeing Cats in a theater on opening weekend). Paper Boi getting chased by a group of teenage white boys who recognize him and demand his autograph, and then snatch a baby out of its stroller and toss the baby around like a football when they can’t find him. (Fortunately, it ends a lot better than the last time he was ambushed by fans when he was on his own). Paper Boi winding up in an art gallery where he meets Lorraine (Ava Grey), who escorts him around Amsterdam when Darius is nowhere to be found. Paper Boi and Lorraine meeting up with Lorraine’s friends at an underground bar where their drinks (two dirty martinis, gin and Hpnotiq, white Hennessy served neat, a.k.a. “two dirties, a Blue Lagoon, and a Chris Evans.”) are paid for by … an older white man and someone dressed head-to-toe in a Dalmatian costume. (Is this God hanging out in Amsterdam this time instead of New Orleans?). Paper Boi and Lorraine confronting each other in the middle of the street, where he makes it clear that he doesn’t trust her, and Lorraine tells him that it’s because she tells him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear, including the fact that his family and friends take advance of him now that he’s successful. Their argument ending with the revelation that Paper Boi has actually been high this entire episode, and that the Goofy hat-wearing, drug-addicted tourist lying in an alleyway and shaking all over while lying under a blanket who Paper Boi and Darius walked past at the beginning of the episode after having their coffee and Nepalese space cakes? That was Paper Boi. (Lorraine is also the name of Paper Boi’s late mother, so when she described herself in the art gallery as an angel who came along at the right time was not entirely inaccurate). Earn proving once again that he’s good at his job, and that he has Paper Boi’s back, when Paper Boi asks him whether or not he owns the master recordings of his music, to which Earn responds that Paper Boi does own them.

ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: No.

HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: About two or three, courtesy of Paper Boi and Lorraine.

ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY?: No.

ON A SCALE OF 1 TO “WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH?” HOW WEIRD AND TERRIFYING WAS THIS EPISODE?: Nine. It wasn’t terrifying, but it was so damn weird.

ANY TIME-TRAVELING ALIENS IN THIS EPISODE? No. And even if they did appear, they won’t even be the weirdest thing to appear in this episode.

CHET HANKS DOESN’T SHOW UP IN THIS EPISODE TOO, DOES HE? No, Chet Hanks and his wack-ass Jamaican accent is nowhere to be found here, but Liam Neeson is.

I’M SORRY, WHAT? LIAM NEESON IS IN THIS EPISODE?: Yes, he is.

LIAM NEESON? THE WHITE LIAM NEESON?: Yes, Socks! Liam Neeson makes an appearance here, where he runs into Paper Boi in the underground bar that Lorraine brings him to.

I…WELL…WOW! SO…WHAT EXACTLY IS HIS ROLE HERE?: Paper Boi sees Liam sitting at the bar and enjoying his drink, and they make conversation with each other. Liam is curious as to how he got to this bar (which is called Cancel Club), and what he said or did to get there, and then goes to explain his most recent f-ck-up (in which he actually felt the need to confess during an interview that he wanted to find a random Black man and just kill him after one of his close friends was sexually assaulted) that got him in trouble and put his career and his reputation in jeopardy. Paper Boi expresses relief that Liam has seen the error of his ways, and is glad to know that he doesn’t actually hate Black people. To which Liam corrects him and explains that because they tried to ruin his career, he definitely hates them now and considers them his mortal enemies. As to whether he’s learned that he really shouldn’t be saying things like this, Liam’s response to that is this: “The best and worst part about being white is … we don’t have to learn anything if we don’t want to.”

HE JUST…HE JUST REALLY SAID THE QUIET PART OUT LOUD, HUH?: Indeed he did.

TO SUM IT ALL UP: A season of Atlanta that is almost set entirely in Amsterdam wouldn’t really feel complete if we didn’t get to see at least one character get higher than giraffe p-ssy, and we do get to see that happen to Paper Boi. He once again ends up on a solo adventure where he is forced to confront his fears about himself and his career, and then decides to confront the reality of the situation when his escapade has ended. (It’s also another solo escapade where Paper Boi is confronted by the memory of his late mother) Yes, Lorraine asked him questions and said things to him that needed to be said. But was “Lorraine” just talking sh-t to get under his skin, or did she just want Paper Boi to ask these questions himself and confirm whether or not the people around him could really be trusted when it comes to him and his future? (Earn has already proven more than once that Paper Boi can trust him. Darius and his non-paying ass? The jury’s still out …) Not to mention the fact that she gets him out of Cancel Club because, according to her, they were about to force him to perform on stage for the crowd. The fact that Cancel Club is a mostly white establishment that looks like something out of Mulholland Drive and where the “New Jazz” acts are introduced as if they’re King Kong? Could also be taken as a sign that “Lorraine” wants Paper Boi to be more careful and mindful about what he does, how he does it, and the audience he’s expected to do it all for. And not just because he was recently chased by white fans who were far too entitled and aggressive about getting what they wanted from him.

Liam Neeson’s cameo appearance in “New Jazz” marks the second Atlanta episode in which a problematic white man has appeared on the show, and if you were to ask some viewers about this, it’s not something that they’re happy to see when watching Atlanta, regardless of whether or not Liam or Chet Hanks are in on the joke that Donald Glover and his collaborators are telling. There have already been complaints about the series losing its way, how it’s not focusing enough attention on the main cast, how it’s even been gentrified and is no longer as Black as it used to be because of all the white people who keep appearing on the show, and how it seems determined to keep talking too damn much about whiteness. I’ve already stated how I felt about these complaints, so there isn’t much point in repeating myself. What I can and will say is that this was another clever and well-done episode, Ava Grey was a fantastic breath of fresh air in her scenes with Brian Tyree Henry, and if that you didn’t already know that Atlanta is the work of some sick and twisted geniuses, then the scene with Paper Boi and Liam Neeson will make damn sure that you now know.

But if Rachel Dolezal shows up in these last two episodes of the season, then I’m going to have something to say about that.

This episode of Atlanta has been brought to you by “The Flower Called Nowhere” by Stereolab:

And “Dear Mama” by 2Pac:

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Brian Richards is a Staff Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.



Header Image Source: FX Networks