‘Atlanta’ Season 4 Episode 4 Is the Funniest the Present’s Been in Years

“Mild Skinned-ed,” written by Stefani Robinson and directed by Hiro Murai, is a return to the sunshine, crackling comedy largely absent from Season 3.

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Atlanta” Season 4, Episode 4, “Light Skinned-ed.”]

In Season 4, “Atlanta” isn’t simply shifting again to its titular hometown; it’s staging a comedic comeback.

Earlier than attending to the elegant silliness in Episode 4, simply take a look at what we’ve seen to this point: The premiere opens with Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) delivering an beautiful, well-deserved dig on Marshall’s, earlier than spending the remainder of the episode being stalked by a (racist) girl steering a slow-rolling scooter. Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) goes on a scavenger hunt run by a useless man. Tracy (Khris Davis) makes his triumphant return as a bossy receptionist (in what seems to be a reasonably spectacular secret efficiency). Earn (Donald Glover) has to stroll out of a gathering after a co-worker utters the gloriously oblivious phrase, “I simply completed that guide. It gave me an actual paradigm shift on how issues won’t at all times be as they appear.” Even Van (Zazie Beetz), who’s sadly scarce from the ultimate season, squeezes in a couple of quips at a haunted Atlantic Station.

“Atlanta” at all times has and at all times will probably be humorous. Whether or not the jokes are darkish or foolish, they’re nonetheless baked in, however — even in comparison with the fretful “Robbin’ Season” — Season 3 drifts from nervous laughter to simply plain nerves. In a means, a way of unease is becoming. Who’s not slightly further nervous after they’re away from house? Unhealthy desires (“Three Slaps”), dangerous journeys (“New Jazz”), dangerous meals (“Tarrare”) — to not point out the pointed commentary in a lot of the penultimate season’s one-off episodes — all of them forged a pall on the group’s madcap journey; a pall that’s extra noticeable within the mild of Season 4 and particularly in Episode 4, “Mild Skinned-ed.”

Author and government producer Stefani Robinson, who injected welcome vigor into the Season 3 finale (through Alexander Skarsgård’s bikini briefs and Van’s “Amélie”-esque reinvention), pens her first episode of Season 4 — one befitting the creator of Jackie Daytona (she’s a author and E.P. on “What We Do within the Shadows,” as properly) and creator behind “Atlanta” episodes like “Barbershop” and “Juneteenth.” “Mild Skinned-ed” makes a worthy successor, each in its self-contained story and uproarious laughs. Earn and his household are on their strategy to church — specifically, his mom, Gloria (Myra Lucretia Taylor), his aunt, Jeanie (Michole Briana White), and his grandpa (Bob Banks). Earn’s father, Raleigh (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) skips out, selecting as an alternative to take some me-time on the mall, which turns into its personal little misadventure.

From the second Raleigh drops a simultaneous “hello and bye” to his spouse and son, Episode 4 presents one pleasant shock after the following. Gloria informs Earn of her secret plan: to “steal” grandpa from her sister. Then, with out hesitation, she does simply that: dashing away as quickly as Earn and Jeanie step out of the automotive for church, with the outdated man nonetheless within the again seat. (The look on Earn’s face when he realizes his mom is about to ditch him — priceless.) Jeanie, a lady as controlling as she is judgmental, quickly latches onto Earn, suspecting he knew his mom’s plan, and even follows him to a recording session with Alfred the place she berates them each. (Earn and Jeanie’s one-word dialog — “So.” “So…” “So?” — would make Meisner proud.)

The following cellphone calls between Jeanie and her siblings, then Jeanie and the cops, infuse the episode with pathos. (Gloria’s fragile relationship along with her father is named out, then strengthened.) However simply whenever you assume issues might decelerate, the comedian rhythm retains tempo. There’s little beats, like the way in which Alfred and Earn sit down on the sofa, mirroring their shared frustrations over getting caught in a multitude. There’s thrilling cameos, like Katt Williams, again for the primary time since his Emmy-winning visitor flip in “Alligator Man.” And there are nice traces: “You may’t kidnap your individual dad,” Uncle Willy tells his determined sister. “I don’t have time to elucidate it to you proper now, however the phrase ‘child’ is in it, so mathematically, it’s unimaginable.” And all of it — very a lot together with Grandpa’s mistaken perception that he’s been “in Egypt” for 2 weeks — is buttressed by the telling reactions of Earn, Alfred, Willy, and Aunt Pearl (Teresa L. Graves), captured with loving precision by director Hiro Murai.


Isiah Whitlock Jr. in “Atlanta”

Man D’Alema / FX

Facet be aware: I like how Jeanie, Willie, Pearl, and Gloria are all framed the identical means of their respective areas — visually connecting the 4 siblings — however their conduct and environment distinguish their disparate personalities. Whereas Willie cooks burgers (presumably for his household/visitors), Pearl folds laundry (for her family), and Gloria sits along with her dad in a crowded mechanic’s ready room, Jeanie is barely captured alone, shouting more and more determined accusations. (Even when Murai’s digicam strikes nearer, there’s an empty chair behind Jeanie, or Alfred and Earn are stored out of focus — like when the previous raises his hand to politely request she not name the cops.)

Talking of the beleaguered cousins, they lastly understand their solely means out of this mess is to go away Aunt Jeanie behind — bodily and emotionally, not less than for a short time. Raleigh conveyed as a lot to Earn earlier that day, when his son known as for assist from the church rest room: “I’ve been coping with this household for 30 years, you’ll be OK for in the future,” Raleigh says, whereas having fun with his “me time” with a relaxed shoe-shine. “I’m certain you’ll do the precise factor.” Historically, that might imply sticking by your loved ones — even when your aunt is to this point off the deep finish, her personal siblings admit to hating her — however for Earn, it’s the alternative. Quite than dealer peace or anticipate all of it to blow over, he bows out, goes to dinner, and enjoys time with the household he truly cares about. He’s simply following his dad’s lead, even when Raleigh may solely observe his personal recommendation to this point. (He averted the household drama, however couldn’t keep away from the mall drama — I preferred the hat, although!)

“Mild Skinned-ed” attracts curious parallels between Earn and Raleigh, particularly of their ongoing quests for respect, however that’s a dialog for an additional time. Episode 4 ends prefer it started: on fun. Everybody goes to look at a Redbox tonight — a lot to Grandpa’s delight — whereas passing round their free basket of bread. Gloria bought her dad again, Raleigh bought his new cellphone, Earn hung out along with his people. For the Marks household, all’s properly that ends properly. For the “Atlanta” viewers, Episode 4 is a rattling good time right through. Extra please.

Grade: A

“Atlanta” Season 4 releases new episodes Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX, which can be found the following day on Hulu.

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