After three incredible episodes, FX’s Atlanta is settling into its rhythm. The show is billed as a comedy, though thus far the episodes have been as serious as they are funny. This week’s episode, “The Streisand Effect“, was much lighter in tone and featured more easy laughs. After the seriously dark “Go for Broke“, a little levity was needed.
“The Streisand Effect” follows two plotlines. In one, fledgling rapper Alfred (“Paper Boi”) stresses over a blogger who repeatedly makes fun of him online. In the other, Earn tries to make some cash with the help of Darius.
The episode starts with Alfred and Earn taking a smoke break behind a venue after one of Alfred’s rap sets. A guy approaches them wearing a beanie with “#zansexual” printed across it. He introduces himself as Zan. He’s apparently an internet celebrity of sorts, and a big fan of Paper Boi’s. He tries to get Alfred’s e-mail, but settles for Earn’s phone number. The guy is a stereotypical YouTuber, and he quickly gets on Earn and Alfred’s nerves. When they tell him to go away, it’s revealed that he’s on a hoverboard and he wheels backward and offscreen.
Earn is sleeping over at Alfred’s now, his relationship with Vanessa rocky after their bad date. Alfred is freaking out over videos Zan is posting making fun of him, but Earn tells him to let it go. Earn and Darius head out on an adventure to find a way to make Earn some cash. They head to a pawn shop, where Earn is going to trade in his phone. Darius discovers a katana (ninja sword) and tells Earn to trade the phone for it instead of cash. Earn is hesitant but Darius tells him that the sword can make them way more money than just trading the phone. He agrees and they head out, katana over Darius’ shoulder.
Darius and Earn first meet up with some asian folks to trade in the sword. Darius comments on how all chinese people are short because of Genghis Khan, which leaves Earn incredulous. “Look it up,” Darius says. “In what, the racism book?” Earn retorts. Just as they move out of frame, an asian man appears behind them. It’s perfect timing and a great visual gag. (Moments later, Darius confirms that the man is not chinese and therefore won’t be offended.) They trade the sword for a massive dog and head out once more.
The duo drive out to somewhere in the country (basically, anywhere fifteen minutes outside of Atlanta in most directions) and trade the dog to a skinny white guy. He doesn’t give Darius anything to give Earn. This frustrates Earn, but Darius tries to reassure him that he’ll make two-to-four grand in a few months, after the dog has bred with a female and the guy sells the puppies. Earn flips out, but Darius is his usual calm self. Other than the time he almost ended up getting his arm sawed off, Darius has been a master of zen.
While Darius and Earn are off on their magical adventure around Atlanta, Alfred gets trolled hard by Zan. He’s posted YouTube videos, Snapchat updates, tweets, and more all making fun of Paper Boi. While talking to a friend about it over a game of pool, he finds out where Zan works from the bartender. Alfred decides to confront Zan and meets him at his place of work, which happens to be a pizza place. Zan is headed out to deliver a pizza, so he has Alfred get in the car with him.
Zan seems oblivious as to why Alfred’s upset. He explains that what they’re both doing is similar, they’re just hustlers. He tells Alfred that he doesn’t have to be a rapper, to which Alfred replies, “I scare people at ATMs. I have to rap!”
Alfred notices a kid in the backseat, and decides not to swear in front of “Zan’s son”. Zan quickly reveals that the kid is not his son, but rather his business partner. Zan tells him to share their catch-phrases, and one is so filthy that they bleep it out and put a censorship blur over the kid’s mouth. If Alfred’s reaction says anything, whatever the kid said was foul. They arrive at their delivery point and the kid goes to drop off the pizza and ends up getting robbed. Zan sits in the car, recording it all on his phone. Alfred decides that none of this is worth his time, and he just leaves.
While the episode is very funny and light, it also feels a little empty. Nothing is resolved. Earn doesn’t get his money; Alfred doesn’t resolve things with Zan. It’s a wandering, meandering journey around Atlanta with almost nothing to show for it. Maybe it only feels like a letdown because of the greatness of the previous episodes, but “The Streisand Effect” doesn’t totally hit its mark. The only real critique of society being made is that of the Youtube generation, and even that feels a bit forced. Regardless, the episode is a good time and leaves the viewer wanting more.
- When Darius and Earn are in the pawn shop, they notice a movie poster featuring Steve McQueen. They ask the pawn shop owner if he knows who Steve McQueen is and his answer is great: “Black people don’t know who Steve McQueen is. If some dude come in here asking me about that poster, he’s trying to get me to turn around so he can rob me.”
- Everything Darius says is fantastic, but he drops a real gem while eating breakfast from a coffee mug: “Everything’s made up n*gga, stay woke.”
- Zan’s Vine poking fun at Paper Boi is on point. It’s exactly what most popular Vines are like, and it’s hysterical to see that format made fun of on national tv.