The 5 Smartest Episodes of ‘Atlanta’

Bonsu Thompson
5 min readMar 22, 2022

Before inhaling the long-anticipated third season of Donald Glover’s hit show, we remind you why you fell in love in the first place.

Photo courtesy of FX Networks

Is there an entertainment show that’s done a better job of capturing the experience of being unapologetically Black when surrounded by red, white and blue? Atlanta doesn’t just rep for its people or simply do it for the culture; it uses electric blue comedy as a force to shove African-American magic and trauma into the face of its viewers; it illuminates the gold in our colloquialisms and the hilarity in our survival as a lifestyle.

Every Atlanta character is a fun house mirror. In them, we see ourselves — who we think we are as well as a side or two to which we were never before introduced. Earnest (Donald Glover) and Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) plate us the realest form of love — two complicated young adults unclear on what it is they want outside of the wellbeing of their advanced baby daughter. Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) is the pulse, also serving familiar realness, but from a completely different perch — sometimes it’s upright; often it is upside down or redefined all together. He reminds us how much we love the hustle, then teaches that dreamers rarely factor the recalibration demanded with every level-up. Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) is just on another level. He’s like a walking peace sign strapped with kush, an occasional pistol and a couple unpublished Milton William Cooper essays. He’s either providing the most sage counsel or eating blunts. Just depends on the day.

On March 24, Atlanta returns after a four year hiatus. Not much has been revealed about its third season, but we do know that Paper Boi, Earn and Darius pick up where season 2 concluded. The three have arrived in Europe for the Clark County tour and are undoubtedly with all the shit and shenanigans. But first, lest we forget what makes this FX show so cerebrally singular. Below are the five smartest episodes of Atlanta’s first two seasons.

Vitiligo Donald Glover is visually disturbing — like Sammy Sosa’s new face and watching a runny ostrich egg get fisted.


Bonsu Thompson

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.