“Atlanta” has reached its series conclusion. And while some of us didn’t necessarily love the penultimate season, Season 4 of Atlanta did bring about some redemption.
But it goes almost without saying that Seasons 1 and 2 were the pinnacle of the series creativity. They ushered in what we all thought “peak TV” should mean, especially in the context of the Black audience, and they had us waiting on pins and needles every, single, week!
So in the spirit of remembrance, I wanted to take us back to those first 2 seasons and celebrate all of the crazy situations and settings the creators of Atlanta put us through. So without ado, here is a recap of every episode of Atlanta’s first two seasons.
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Big Bang” – This is the episode that started it all and introduced us to Earn, Paper Boi (aka Alfred), and Darius–and I can’t leave out Vanessa, who is Earn’s baby’s mama. They do a weird (in a good way), twisted thing with the chronological order of events in this episode, but basically, we establish 4 things in this episode. (1) Earn is kind of a loser, having dropped out of Princeton, being kicked out of his parents’ house, and working a crappy job at the airport signing people up for credit cards. (2) Wanting to get out of a rut, Earn tries to take advantage of his cousin’s (Paper Boi) sudden stardom by offering to become his manager. (3) To prove himself to Paper Boi, who doesn’t originally trust him, he ends up bribing a DJ with the little bit of money he has to get Paper Boi’s new song on the radio–it works, and Earn gets his cousin’s trust. (4) Alfred has a bit of a loose temper, as he ends up getting arrested after getting into a shootout with someone who had damaged his car.
Season 1, Episode 2: “Streets on Lock” – Following the shootout, both Paper Poi and Earn are in jail. They are surrounded by a host of, let’s just say it, crazy characters, and the show humorously introduces them to the audience through Earn and Paper Boi’s remarks. Paper Boi gets bailed out relatively quickly by Darius, but because Earn isn’t in the system, he’s stuck waiting it out. While waiting for Vanessa to come through for him, Earn is forced to witness some unique conversations while under custody, including a man who starts arguing with his transgender ex-girlfriend, who is seated right next to Earn. Ultimately, Van does come through and bails Earn out, but she has to bring their daughter, to which Van says (i.e. hopes) that she won’t remember this moment.
Season 1, Episode 3: “Go for Broke” – The episode opens trying to show us just how broke Earn is, as he tries to order a kids meal to the confusion of the fast-food restaurant cashier, who ultimately refuses to do so because Earn has no kid with him. When he gets to Van’s house, she tears into him for not financially supporting his daughter, and Earn vows to make it up to her by offering to take her out to dinner on the day he expects his paycheck to come in. Unfortunately, the paycheck comes extremely lighter than what he expected, but he tries to take Van to a restaurant he knows will do the job at a price he can afford. However, once he gets there, he sees that the place is under new ownership, and they try upselling him and Van on seafood options–to which Van willfully takes part. They have a good night, but Earn can’t afford the bill and has to call Paper Boi to send him $20 to his account. Naturally, Paper Boi and Darius are up to no good, as they’re trying to execute a drug deal with the fictional version of the Migos, who ultimately kidnap and kill a man while in their presence.
Season 1, Episode 4: “The Streisand Effect” – Earn is in real need of some money for his daughter and intends to take his phone to a pawn shop to get money for it. But Darius convinces him that if instead trades it for a Japanese sword he can ultimately get more money. Earn obliges, buys the sword, and then Darius instructs Earn to trade the phone for a rare breed of dog. Then Darius arranges a meeting with Darius and a man who wants Earn’s dog for mating purposes, for which he’ll pay Earn $2,000..in a few months. When Darius learns that Earn actually needed the money now, he offers Earn his phone. On the flip side, as his fame continues to grow, Paper Boi spends his day going after a social media influencer who is trolling him online, and we get to see the dark side of being a social media personality.
Season 1, Episode 5: “Nobody Beats the Biebs” – Paper Boi is asked to play in a celebrity basketball game that includes a fictional, and Black, asshole-like version of Justin Bieber. While playing, the two get in a heated argument and Paper Boi ends up hitting and hurting Bieber, for which they both have to answer for during a press conference that follows the game. On the side, Earn is trying to interact with the agents of all the other celebrities in the game, and he ultimately is successful in getting a bunch of contacts that he thinks will help them. However, one lady confuses Earn for someone, which Earn plays to Earn’s advantage until he learns that this woman hates the person she thinks he is and vows to ruin his career.
Season 1, Episode 6: “Value” – I haven’t inserted my opinion on much of these recaps, but on this one, I might. For some reason, while other episodes made me laugh harder, this one that focused on Van was great, as we got to see the other side of the story with a look into the “baby mama” of the so-called protagonist of the story and really see what she goes through. Ultimately, it doesn’t seem great, as Van doesn’t exactly love her job, gets shined on by her friend who does nothing but date NBA players, and in the end, ends up fired for telling her boss that she smoked marijuana.
Season 1, Episode 7: “B.A.N.” – Paper Boi tweets out that he would never have sex with Caitlyn Jenner and ends up in a host of trouble, so Earn gets him an appearance on a talk show called “Montague” (a mix of Montel and Donahue…get it?), which airs on “BAN”, the Black American Network. Paper Boi gets into it with a transgender rights activist, but the two ultimately come to an agreement–particularly around things related to race. The most interesting thing about this episode may be the “fake” commercials that ran during it. Half the time you didn’t know if you were watching the show or actual commercials. The commercials themselves made fun of different aspects of black life, but also called out police brutality.
Season 1, Episode 8: “The Club” – Paper Boi begrudgingly goes to a club to get an appearance fee of $5,000. However, when Earn tries to collect the money from the promoter, the promoter attempts to evade him for the entire night–even using a rotating wall to his advantage. Meanwhile, Paper Boi gets into a bottle wars competition with an NBA player that is getting way more attention than Paper Boi, which angers him a great deal. As Paper Boi invites more people into his VIP section, he orders more and more liquor, only to realize the people in his section just want to use him for a music collaboration. Once Earn finally catches up with the promoter, the promoter informs Earn that Paper Boi overspent his allotted liquor budget and pays Earn just $750 of the money promised. But when Paper Boi gets wind of this, he physically confronts the promoter and gets the rest of the money promised. While watching TV at a nearby diner, Paper Boi learns that he is wanted for robbery.
Season 1, Episode 9: “Juneteenth” – Earn and Van go to a Juneteenth party, as Van wants to spend more time with the upper class. However, they quickly learn that their upper-class Black friend is married to an overzealous white man too infatuated with Black culture and history. Van and Earn pretend to be married and of the upper class, but eventually, someone recognizes Earn as Paper Boi’s manager and associates him with the shooting that happened back in Episode 1. Van’s upper-class friend judges her and Earn, which causes Van to call them out, leave and have sex with Earn on the side of the road.
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Jacket” (Season 1 Finale) – Earn is in search of a jacket he lost while partying the night before, as he says the jacket has some very important items in them. He traces his way back to a strip club to see if that’s where he left it, but after looking at a few Snapchat stories from the night before, he deduces that he left the jacket with their uber driver. The driver demands $50 for the jacket, so Paper Boi and Darius go with him to pick it up. Upon arrival, they see that the Uber driver is being surveilled by the police for selling drugs, and a swarm of police cars pop out as the Uber driver tries to make a run for it. The police shoot the Uber driver, who was wearing Earn’s jacket, in the back, damaging the jacket. Earn gets the police to check the pockets for the “important” items but there’s nothing there. In a show of faith, Paper Boi says Earn has earned his keep and pays him his manager’s fee. Earn immediately goes to Van to give her the money, and when asked to stay at the house for the night, he declines. Suddenly, his friend from work says he has his keys–the important item Earn was apparently looking for. We learn that those are the keys to a storage unit, which Earn is using as his own makeshift studio.
Season 2, Episode 1: “Alligator Man” – Oh, yes, the episode that featured Katt Williams in a manner that was 100% Katt Williams, but also 100% weird–letting us know just how crazy this season was about to be. In the episode, Earn goes to visit Katt, who is playing Earn’s uncle, and whose character has routinely been involved in domestic and professional mistakes that has led to his constant legal issues. As the police actually threaten to come into the house and take him away, Katt makes a run for it, but not before leaving a gold gun with Earn, which for some reason, Earn decides to keep.
Season 2, Episode 2: “Sportin’ Waves” – This episode begins with Paper Boi/Alfred in need of a new drug dealer. He meets with several, but they are constantly infatuated with his rap career, and Alfred hates that their “love” for him constantly gets in the way of the secrecy that is required to be–ya know–a drug dealer. Meanwhile, Earn’s payoff from dog breeding (remember episode #4 from Season 1), amounts to $4,000. But never satisfied, Earn goes along with Alfred’s cousin in an attempt to double that money by using some gift card scheme at the mall. Of course, the scheme doesn’t go as planned, and Earn has to start frantically spending money before all of it renders useless.
Season 2, Episode 3: “Money Bag Shawty” – Paper Boi’s record has gone gold, which means the boys have finally started to earn some money. Earn, with the money burning a hole in his pocket, decides to take Van out. They try a movie theater, but after trying to pay with a $100 bill, Earn is rejected and threatened with a gun by the cashier. They then try a nightclub, but the bouncer accuses him of using a counterfeit bill, even though he knows it’s not counterfeit, and Earn is forced to leave. Lastly, they go to a strip club, but from lazy strippers and $200 minimums, to “change” fees and Van’s pity for a lonely stripper, it seems like Earn just can’t keep his money in his pocket. He and Van ultimately decide to go home, but not before Van loses a foot race to Michael Vick in the parking lot.
Season 2, Episode 4: “Helen” – Van and Earn decide to take a trip and go to a German festival in another city in Georgia. While there, Earn is incredibly uncomfortable as seemingly the only other black guy there. Van is loving it, as she is part German and can even speak fluent German with just about everybody she sees. She and Earn end up getting into it because Van wants more commitment from Earn, and Earn likes things just the things are. They decide to play a game of ping pong to settle their fate: if Van wins, Earn can only talk to her about their daughter and money, but if Earn wins, things will continue as they are and Van will hold out hope for their future. The next morning, as Earn drops Van off at home, it is insinuated that Van won the game.
Season 2, Episode 5: “Barbershop” – Alfred takes another ride in this episode, this time as he is simply just trying to get his haircut. Upon going to see his regular barber, Bibby tells him that he’s super busy and has some stuff to do, but if he wants a haircut, Alfred can roll with him. However, Bibby has a ton of stuff to do, including visiting his girlfriend, cutting his own son’s hair, and illegally repossessing lumber. Not to mention, they get into a car accident and Bibby decides to pull off and do a hit and run. After all of that, Bibby gives Alfred a haircut at the original barbershop–where Alfred could’ve simply just waited for his ass in the first place.
Season 2, Episode 6: “Teddy Perkins” – Darius goes to pick up a piano he learned about through a message board, and he ends up in a scary-looking mansion owned by a former child star, Theodore “Teddy” Perkins. Darius just wants to get the piano, but Teddy is very talkative and even talks to Darius about his mute brother, Benny, who uses a wheelchair downstairs. After getting the piano, Darius somehow ends up in the basement, where he runs into Benny, who writes out on a chalkboard that Teddy plans to kill both of them. Darius tries to escape, but he’s cut off by Teddy, who tells Darius that he’s going to kill him. However, Benny miraculously ends up on the scene and shoots Teddy dead, and then Benny immediately kills himself. Darius somehow is left to go home after the police arrive, and he doesn’t get his piano.
Season 2, Episode 7: “Champagne Papi” – Van goes to an alleged Drake party with her friends, but upon arrival, they take some gummies, have varying levels of responses to said gummies, and get separated from one another. Van ultimately just wants to find her friends and get a picture with Drake to spice up her Instagram, but ultimately, she runs into an elderly man who speaks Spanish and claims to be Drake’s grandfather. The so-called grandfather tells Van that Drake is on tour in Europe and won’t be at the party, despite the fact that everyone at the party is posting pictures of Drake on their IG–which Van learns is the result of some cardboard cutout that everybody is using.
Season 2, Episode 8: “Woods” – Alfred decided to spend the day with his friend Sierra (aka star of First Dates on BlackOakTV, Angela Wildflower), but almost immediately gets annoyed by her constant use of social media while calling him inauthentic in the process. Of course, he has no ride home without her, and while walking, he ends up getting jumped by some folks who recognize him as Paper Boi but also see that he’s completely alone. To get away, Alfred runs into the woods but ends up lost while a crazy-looking dude named Wiley quietly follows him around, eventually letting him know that he’ll kill Alfred if he doesn’t get out of the woods before it’s full-on dark. Upon finally getting out of the woods, Alfred ends up at a gas station and offers to pose with some of his fans for a social media post.
Season 2, Episode 9: “North of the Border” – Earn books a gig at a college campus, but sheepishly opts to avoid a fancy hotel or support for Alfred’s crew (Darius and Tracy). The night gets off to a bad start, as the college student that booked them has a crush on Alfred and gets jealous when she sees Alfred talking to another girl. Meanwhile, Tracy makes some bad decisions which forces the crew to leave and they end up crashing a frat party. At the party, Alfred lets Earn know that he is considering finding another manager because of all the mistakes Earn keeps making, which is only exacerbated by the fact that Earn’s laptop gets stolen and Alfred’s car gets vandalized. On the ride home, Tracy keeps pushing Earn’s buttons, so Earn demands to fight Tracy on the side of the road, whereupon Earn is easily and routinely manhandled.
Season 2, Episode 10: “FUBU” – In the most nostalgic episode of Atlanta yet, we flashback to the late 1990s, when a middle-school-aged Earn is wearing the same yellow FUBU shirt that another kid, Devin, is wearing. Students start to make fun of them and claim that one or both of the shirts are fake. After school, when Earn’s believed-to-be-fake shirt is about to be exposed, Alfred deflects all of the attention to Devin, who is then immediately humiliated and made fun of by everyone–sparing Earn any shame. The next day, however, we find out that Devin has committed suicide–leaving Earn feeling guilty and Alfred seemingly emotionless.
Season 2, Episode 11: “Crabs in a Barrel” (Season Finale) – Van and Earn find out that their daughter is super intelligent and that the school thinks she should be upgraded to a private school. Van considers moving in with her mom, likely to be able to turn her rent payments into tuition payments for their daughter. That said, Earn is highly focused on the European tour Paper Boi is about to do, and even though he is pseudo-fired as a manager, Alfred says he still has Earn’s back and it appears Earn is coming on the trip anyway. At the airport, Earn realizes that he has the gold gun from Uncle Willie still in his backpack, and perhaps in a “lesson” learned from Alfred, both as an adult and in the previous FUBU episode as a kid, Earn puts the gun in the bag of Clark, a music persona that Alfred doesn’t really like, and gets on the plane. On the plane, Alfred tells Earn that he saw what he did, but that he’s okay with it because he knows they have each other’s back–unlike everyone else in this business. However, seconds later, Clark still manages his way onto the plane, claiming that his friend had a gun in his bag, even though everyone knows that Earn had put the gun in Clark’s bag.
Looking for more Black TV shows? While I wish we could watch episodes of Atlanta 24/7, there’s just not enough of it, even when you account for all of the episodes through Atlanta Season 4. However, at BlackOakTV, we have brand new content coming out every single Friday. So why not check out of some of our original, Black TV shows, like Ms/Manage or LA, as well as any of our other 15 original series now streaming! Start Your Free Trial
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