Atlanta: Robbin Season
by Kayla Herrera-Daya
The debut of Atlanta’s second season, “Robbin’ Season,” presents Donald Glover’s self-aware, witty writing with acute instances of social commentary on gender relations, race, and the power dynamics across these intersections.
Season One of Atlanta left its audience with an air of satisfaction after Alfred (Paper Boi) was asked to go on tour, and it was revealed that our homeless protagonist, Earnest, had been living in a storage unit. Whatever comfort Season One may have offered was remarkably temporary, as the second Season opens with unfamiliar faces robbing Mrs. Winner’s, a Southern chicken-and-biscuits restaurant. The jarring scene ends with the robbers, who are two close friends, expelling a woman from the backseat of their car before fleeing to the main road. The woman, bloody in the face and shrieking in terror, introduces the tension of Robbin’ Season.
The flat characterization of an unnamed black woman serves as a vital element to understanding the Atlanta that Glover presents. The first instances of female characters in the episode are products of fleeting aspiration on the part of their male counterparts. If only to have a symbol of success was as permanent as actually having success- this is how female characters are crafted to fit in to Atlanta. The use of women as props represents what the male characters want to be: successful and popular with their choice of women. Glover subverts real-world instances of unequal power dynamics by using his female characters as props.
When Alfred, bound to the couch on house arrest, tells Earn that their Uncle Willie kidnapped a woman, he and a reliable source of existential wisdom, Darius, make their way to Uncle Willie’s for peacekeeping. On the car ride over, the audience begins to understand that Robbin’ Season highlights a tangible change in way of life in Atlanta. While en route to Uncle Willie, Darius and Earn discuss a comparable reality in Florida, highlighting the “Florida Man” phenomenon where curious and unusual crimes are committed in the state of Florida, with headlines often reading “Florida Man accused of …”
When the pair arrive at Uncle Willie’s house, played by infamous comedian Katt Williams, Earn finds that Willie indeed has a woman locked in a bedroom over a dispute of $50. The repeated use of the exploitation and domination of women emphasizes how ingrained the practice is in society. The significance of Alfred being worried about it is that he nor Earn have the capacity to get Willie out of trouble if the situation escalated.
There is a supernatural air to this episode where to a series of coincidences takes places in the background of many shots. While Earn and Darius are at the gas station, in the background we see a robbery is taking place, harkening back to this season of Atlanta’s title, Robbin Season. There is also significance in Earn and Darius’ discussion about the “Florida man” and then Uncle Willie having an alligator, now a transferable trope to Atlanta. This use of magical realism in these ways maps out Atlanta as a constellation of peculiarities and individual gain. Coincidence is used to assert that real life is almost impossible to overcome.
The premiere of Robbin’ Season bridged some gaps and left acute questions hanging. Thus far, Robbin’ season is defined as an urgent plea to make aspirations a reality.