FX’s Atlanta is clearly set in a world very similar to ours, but with some tiny differences. The show’s surreal and slightly altered universe was expanded upon this week with “Nobody Beats the Biebs”. For starters, Justin Bieber is a young black man instead of a badly-tanned Canadian. There’s also a bizarre case of mistaken identity for Earn, Alfred plays in a celebrity basketball tournament, and Darius almost starts a race war at a shooting range. Atlanta is a weird place sometimes, but Atlanta is even weirder.
Last week‘s episode was pretty light and fluffy compared to its predecessors, and this week followed that trend. “Nobody Beats the Biebs” is all comedy. In addition to the surrealist line of humor that runs through the series, the episode also features several laugh-out-loud moments that really work. There’s a little bit of social commentary, but it’s nothing as dark as the police brutality bit in “Streets on Lock“.
This week, each of the series’ three main protagonists gets a separate plot. Darius arrives at an indoor shooting range with a poster tube. He rents a high-caliber handgun and proceeds to one of the lanes. He unrolls his shooting target – that of a dog – and starts firing. Other people using the range are disturbed by his choice of target, and one guy decides to say something about it.
The bothered individual is a white country boy with a spot-on Georgia accent. “You ain’t gonna shoot no dog target,” he drawls, a silent friend backing him up. Darius tries to argue his choice, explaining that dogs in his neighborhood “bite babies”, when two more men appear. These guys defend Darius’ right to shoot whatever he wants and start talking about a revolution. The Hispanic guys backing Darius try to start a fight with the white guys, and Darius is escorted out by the shop’s owner, brandishing a rifle. So much for Darius’ dog target practice.
Meanwhile, Alfred is playing in a celebrity basketball tournament to raise money for charity. He tries to get a pretty reporter to interview him and fails, miserably. Justin Bieber shows up and acts like a complete tool: knocking things over, peeing on walls, and yelling racial epithets left and right. (He is black in this iteration, so it’s less offensive but still not great.) Alfred gets increasingly annoyed with his antics and swears that he’s going to take him down on the court.
In the end, Alfred does just that. He can’t beat Biebs’ basketball skills, so he tackles the brat and proceeds to wrestle him on the parquet. A stunned Jaleel White (aka Urkel) shouts at Alfred to cut it out. After the two act like a couple of overgrown children, Biebs gives a press conference apologizing for his behavior. He turns his cap around and proclaims his love of Christ. The media placated, he then shares his new single. It’s a nice, biting piece of social commentary on the way celebrities manipulate their fanbase. Alfred isn’t buying it, though, and after meeting up with Earn, he decides to just get out of Dodge.
After Alfred goes to change and play in the tournament, Earn is left standing around. An older white woman puffing on a cigarette mistakes him for “Alonso” and begins chatting him up. She takes him to the VIP lounge with the other managers and agents, despite his not having a VIP badge. Earn works the situation for all its worth, schmoozing with agents. They give him their cards; he tells them he’s out of cards himself. Earn is great at pretending to be something he’s not, and he uses his words carefully. Nothing he says is actually a lie, it’s just stated in a way that gives the agents a different impression. (For example, he tells them that he’s “independent” when they ask which agency he works for.)
The woman that brought him in then catches him at the bar and begins to yell at him for stealing her clients. Earn tries to tell her that he’s not actually “Alonso”, but she’s not hearing it. She promises to ruin him. Clearly terrified, Earn gets out of there as fast as he can and goes to find Alfred, who wants to leave for his own reasons.
- The agent’s final threat to Earn is incredible: “I’m gonna make sure that you die homeless.” Christ.
- A fan screams “I love you Justin!” to Bieber at the ballgame. His response? “I know, b*tch.”
- After the game, Alfred tries to get the cute reporter to interview him again. She turns around and tells him this gem: “People don’t want Justin to be the asshole. They want you to be the asshole. You’re a rapper, that’s your job.” Ouch.