‘Atlanta’ Season 4, Episode 9 Recap/Review
The following Recap/Review Contains Spoilers for Season 4, Episode 5 of ‘Atlanta’. Check out our review of Episode 8 here.
The final penultimate episode of FX’s Atlanta has finally arrived and what a wide ride it’s been. With last week’s deviation from the season’s main narrative thread and the show’s main characters, fans got to see the fictional rise of the first Black Disney CEO Thomas Washington, and his mission to make A Goofy Movie the Blackest movie ever made. This week, we are back in the titular city with a more horror-themed aesthetic. Or at least on the outskirts of it. Alfred AKA Paper Boi gets the solo-adventure treatment this time around and, honestly, Brian Tyree Henry is such a magnetic performer that seeing him lead the story this time around all on his own is a welcome treat as we say goodbye to the series.
Donning his most comfortable flip-flops and bumping Mystikal on the loudspeaker, Alfred is busy firing an assortment of firearms at targets taped to trees and ignoring his cousin/manager Earn’s phone calls. A few episodes back, Alfred found himself in the middle of a shootout in a shopping mall while running from the so-called Crank Dat Killer. While this would be traumatic for anyone – and Atlanta seems to play with continuity here and there – it’s refreshing to see Alfred get his own little bit of character development before next week’s final conclusion. Seemingly, Alfred is taking the advice of Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em who advised him to get a Safe Farm in the case of a necessary retreat from the world. Alfred has his own quiet place away from the city, but as always with Atlanta, nothing remains too safe and sound for long. It’s clear Alfred is in the middle of a mostly white community in the South. As a dark-toned Black man, this may not be the safest Safe Farm for our hero.
From learning how to change the oil in his tractor to quietly making himself dinner, it’s abundantly clear that Alfred is in desperate need of some alone time. However, there are things to go bump in the night. Going to check on a noise in his shed/weed plant house, he discovers some creepy droppings. After seeking guidance from the old white man who works at the convenience store, Alfred is suddenly in the position to battle feral hogs. They are attracted to his crop (weed) and they are invasive creatures that Alfred has to kill before they kill him. Laughing at the notion of being killed by a pack of feral hogs off, Alfred is back with the tractor. It feels as if the episode is building to something. One thing this show has always done well is build tension in subtle ways. Even the smallest reveals such as finding a rat lodged inside the tractor are built in a way that forces the viewer to lean in and feel as if they are about to witness something massive. Atlanta is at its best when it’s keeping its audience guessing as to what the hell is going on and where the story is heading. The penultimate episode does this excellently and builds to a deliciously crafted climax.
In his first major move against the feral hogs, Alfred creates a trap of his weed crop to lure them in. The plan is to trap the feral pigs with that which attracts them and then slaughter them. However, the plan falls apart when Alfred falls asleep and sees the feral hogs have destroyed the trap and stolen the weed. The mystery continues. When you select the episode on your preferred TV provider, the tagline reads “they always making Paper Boi go through something.” However, Paper Boi reaches perhaps his highest high during the 46-minute runtime. He accomplishes his goal of fixing the tractor and, accompanied by the soulful sounds of André 3000, he whips that baby around his land in style. Only to have a wheel slip off the surface of a cliff and become stuck. When he goes to check it out, the tractor slips and damn-near crushes him. Turns out, that aforementioned tagline was right along. Alfred has been put through more high-anxiety situations and near-death experiences than any other character this season. In fact, outside his wild success as a globally acclaimed hip-hop artist, Alfred has always found himself in the strangest situations across the board. Poor guy.
Alfred awakes in the worst possible position: nearly safe from being crushed by the tractor, except for his foot/ankle. In order to reach help or even the comfort of his own home, he’s got to walk quite some distance on the injured foot. Brian Tyree Henry is able to put on a tour de force of a performance as a desperate man in absolute agony pleading and screaming for help. Forced to crawl his way to his home, Alfred finally comes face-to-face with the feral hogs. And one attacks. Alfred is forced to beat the hog to death with a skillet he just got delivered from Amazon. That sentence alone is the perfect reason why Atlanta will go down as one of the greatest shows in television history. The beautiful absurdity that comes from the mind of Donald Glover is a gift to the world.
Episode 9 gives the fans one final chance to really spend some time with one of the actors who has benefitted the most from the success of Atlanta. Since the show’s debut, Brian Tyree Henry, who found early success on Broadway before the show, is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Eternal Phastos and in hit action films like Godzilla vs. Kong and Bullet Train. The man is a bona fide movie star, and it will be bittersweet to see him walkway from the role of Paper Boi. However, this episode serves as a perfect example of his talent. It’s going to be exciting to follow Henry on his path toward even more greatness. The episode ends with a reminder of the wholesome brotherhood Earn and Alfred have as they argue over if Black people can get sunburned over Facetime featuring the soulful tunes of Ray Charles’ “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.”
Man…I’m going to miss this show. – Christian Hubbard
Atlanta premieres Thursdays on FX and the next day on Hulu!
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