Previously on Atlanta: A biracial high-school student named Aaron, who has spent most of his life passing for white, is trying to figure out how to afford tuition for college. Aaron and the rest of the graduating senior class attend an assembly where a Black multi-millionaire announces that in order to give back to the community, he is personally going to pay for the tuition of every graduating senior who is going to college…but only if they’re Black.
THE STORY SO FAR: Van, who is rocking a wig that makes her look like Audrey Tautou in Amélie and who is now speaking with a French accent, is reunited with her friend Candice (who we first met in the Season 2 episode “Champagne Papi”) in Paris. The two of them, along with Candice’s friends, Shanice and Xosha, travel around Paris together, where things get very weird and very bloody, leading to Van being confronted by Candice about what’s really going with her.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Candice explaining to Shanice and Xosha that her reason for being in Paris is because she knows a man who really enjoys golden showers and is willing to pay her $6,000 for the experience. (She’s not one to kink-shame) Van going to a five-star hotel to pick up some keys from a friend, and that “friend” is none other than Alexander Skårsgard (yes, that Alexander Skårsgard), who loves to dance to the music of Ashanti and to do it while wearing nothing but tight underwear. Van sprinkling drugs all over his bed and then telling the hotel concierge to call the police, all to keep their friendship spicy and interesting. Van carrying around a very large baguette strapped to her back as if it were a katana. “Vanessa, this feels like Candyman.” “It does, doesn’t it?” Van confronting Emilio at an art gallery for a package that is owed to her (“I think we will be fine with a little pain? Bread?”), and seeing her use her very hard, very stale baguette to beat the sh-t out of Emilio like she’s the Bear Jew and he’s a Nazi. (Xosha: “The bread was worth it!” I also love how it’s implied later in the episode that this is not the first time that Van has beaten someone’s ass with a stale baguette like this.) Alexander Skårsgard showing up at the dinner party, and confronting Van about what she did to him at his hotel room (“Paparazzi got a hold of the story. I might lose the Baby Shark movie now.”), only for Van to literally spit in his face, and for Skårsgard to respond by…going to the bathroom and angrily doing the Five-Knuckle Shuffle while staring at himself in the mirror. Candice confronts Van about what she’s been up to all day long, and what’s going on with her, only for Van to accuse Candice of being jealous of her. Candice realizing that the package Van wanted from Emilio was a pair of human hands, and that human hands (fried, seasoned, and cooked by her boyfriend, Marcel, who is not a shell with shoes on, FYI) are what’s being served to the guests at the dinner party to eat. Van finally breaking down when Candice asks her what she plans to do while remaining in Paris, and how her daughter, Lottie, will fit into all this, resulting in Van throwing dishes and destroying everything in sight while screaming and crying. Van and Candice talking to one another while seated across from the Eiffel Tower, as Van reveals that she has been feeling depressed and confused and suicidal, and came to Europe to get away from Atlanta and try to live a different life. Shanice taking Candice’s place in meeting up with the man for his golden shower, and practically drowning him due to her peeing even longer than Jimmy Dugan when he first met the Rockford Peaches.
HUMAN HANDS?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?!: Yes, indeed. I was not expecting this episode of Atlanta to turn into an episode of Hannibal, but it happened. It’s almost enough to make that horrible-ass fried chicken from the season premiere look delicious. Almost.
I GUESS ARMIE HAMMER WASN’T INTERESTED IN APPEARING IN THIS EPISODE, SO IT WENT TO ALEXANDER SKÅRSGARD INSTEAD?: That’s an odd statement to make. Why the hell would Armie Hammer be in this—ohhhhh, I get it. Wow! It’s almost easy to forget all of those rumors that have been following that man around, and were supposed to be exposed in detail by the media, but never happened.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF COMMUNITY?: None.
HOW MANY F-BOMBS WERE THERE IN THIS EPISODE?: Several, most of them courtesy of Candice and Van.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY?: No.
ANY CAMEOS FROM THE CAST OF EMILY IN PARIS?: Heh. No, there is not.
ON A SCALE OF 1 TO “WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH?” HOW WEIRD AND TERRIFYING WAS THIS EPISODE?: Eight, largely thanks to Alexander Skårsgard and his love of dancing/humiliation kink/willingness to eat human hands, Van taking on an entirely new and unrecognizable persona throughout the episode, and the final scene that pops up after the credits.
WHAT FINAL SCENE AFTER THE CREDITS? IS THIS A MARVEL MOVIE OR SOMETHING?: Of course it is, because Marvel movies are the only fictional works in all of existence that have ever used or relied on post-credit sequences. (rolls eyes) Anyway…
Earn meets up with an airline courier in the lobby of his hotel, and is given a leather duffel bag that was lost during his flight. Earn states that this isn’t his bag, but it has his name on it, so he is told to sign for it, which he does. Earn opens the bag in his room, and finds prescription medicine, a shaving kit, some clothes (including a Deftones T-shirt), and a family photo. After Earn walks away with Deftones T-shirt in hand, the camera slowly zooms in on the family photo that was in the bag. It shows a white man posing with his white wife, and their two white children, as they all look into the camera. The man in the photo? Earnest, a.k.a. “E” (Tobias Segal), who was last seen in “Three Slaps,” as a demonic figure who explains the racist history of the lake he is fishing on with his Black friend, and in “The Big Payback,” where he explained the necessity of reparations and the massive impact of slavery to Marshall before killing himself with a gunshot to the head.
I…BUT…SO WAIT! IF WHITE EARNEST EXISTS IN THE SAME UNIVERSE AS OUR EARNEST, DOES THAT MEAN THAT THESE SELF-CONTAINED ANTHOLOGY EPISODES WEREN’T DREAMS THAT OUR EARN WAS HAVING? THAT ALL THOSE CHARACTERS AND ALL THOSE EVENTS ARE REALLY PART OF THE SHOW’S UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED?: It seems very likely. But the only definitive answer I can give to your questions is…
WOW! OKAY THEN! DO PAPER BOI AND DARIUS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE AS WELL?: No, they do not.
ANY TIME-TRAVELING ALIENS IN THIS EPISODE?: For the last time this season, Dustin, the answer is no.
WHAT EXACTLY DOES “TARRARE” MEAN?: There was an actual person in the 1700s known as Tarrare, who was known for his huge and unusual appetite, similar to the rich white cannibals in this episode. From the fine people over at Wikipedia:
Tarrare ([taʁaʁ]; c. 1772 - 1798), sometimes spelled Tarar, was a French showman and soldier, noted for his unusual appetite and eating habits. Able to eat vast amounts of meat, he was constantly hungry; his parents could not provide for him and he was turned out of the family home as a teenager. He travelled France in the company of a band of prostitutes and thieves before becoming the warm-up act for a travelling charlatan. In this act, he would swallow corks, stones, live animals, and a whole basketful of apples. He then took this act to Paris where he worked as a street performer.
TO SUM IT ALL UP: As I previously mentioned in the recap for “The Old Man And The Tree,” a lot of signs were pointing to the strong possibility that Van was dealing with depression, hence her questionable behavior during the episode. And several episodes later, that theory was finally and sadly confirmed, as we saw Van forced to realize what she was doing with her life, and Van lashing out and losing her composure upon this realization. Props to both Zazie Beetz and Adriyan Rae (who played Candice) as the two sat together and Van poured her heart out about her suicidal feelings, her failings as a parent, and her need to leave it all behind and start anew with the hope that things would get better. And it was a beautifully-written reminder of how crucial it is for Black women to receive just as much care and support for their mental health as they do for their physical health, and to receive the kind of care and support that will actually listen to what is being said, and providing treatment and advice that is best for these Black women, instead of making assumptions that can result in misdiagnosis and just bad advice. And here’s hoping that Van is able to get whatever help she needs, and figure out how to be healthier while also improving her life for the better to get out of the downward spiral she’s been since losing her job back in Season 1.
All that being said…”Tarrare” brought into sharper focus a lot of the issues that some critics and many fans have had with this season overall. The lack of screen time for Earn and company. No screen time for Van that would provide additional detail about the depression she was feeling, and all of these steps she took (meeting Marcel and Alexander Skårsgard, doing modeling and appearing in magazines, getting involved in smuggling body parts to be cooked and eaten by rich white cannibals) to create her fake persona. No screen time for Paper Boi to learn more about how he’s dealing with his newfound success, as well as h his writer’s block. What the hell was up with Socks, and his need to tag along/f-ck around with Darius and Paper Boi? No stories about how Earn has adapted to becoming a busy and successful manager, and the effect that it’s having on him. The fact that some people felt that the anthology episodes weren’t as sharp or smart or good as Donald Glover would like us to think, and how they just made this season feel like it wasn’t worth the wait. The fact that Chet Hanks and Liam Neeson and Kevin Samuels were all given opportunities to be on the show. This season feeling like it was more focused on discussing whiteness instead of on Black characters and the Black issues they deal with, which made the show feel like it was gentrified, and no longer feel like it’s being written and supervised by Glover himself.
I didn’t and don’t agree with all of the complaints, but I do understand where they are coming from. Especially from those who just want to spend time with Earn and Paper Boi and Darius and Van, and not learn more about some oblivious parents whose son gets more love and attention from his Trinidadian nanny than he does from them. And as much as I enjoyed this past season, there were a few ways that it could’ve been stronger and better, and its narrative focus needed a little more adjustment. But Glover has said that next season will go back to taking place in Atlanta, so if you hated this season and what the writers were doing, this next season will make everyone much happier.
Season 3 of Atlanta had its issues, but I liked and appreciated what these episodes did (especially that Rachel Dolezal didn’t show up at all like I hoped she wouldn’t), and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Donald Glover and company will decide to close the book on Atlanta later this year. And also how many people on Twitter will be pissed off some more as a result of how they choose to close the book.
And with that, my watch has…been paused until the final season of Atlanta premieres later this fall.
This episode of Atlanta has been brought to you by “Foolish” by Ashanti…
“Piss On You” by Dave Chappelle as R. Kelly…
(I know that recent events, including this past weekend, have turned a lot of people against Chappelle, and for very good reasons. But if you want to watch this clip, and remember when he wasn’t so heavily reliant on transphobia to try and make people laugh, go ahead. If not, that’s fine, too.)
“Niggas In Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West…
And “You Just Don’t Know” by Phyllis Hyman.
Header Image Source: FX Networks