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‘Atlanta’ recap: Season 2, Episode 5 and Episode 6: From the barbershop to ‘ATL Sammy Sosa’ — Donald Glover’s show is on a brilliant run

When Teddy spoke about Joe Jackson, Richard Williams, Marvin Gay Sr. — that was the crux

Season 2, Episodes 5 and 6 | Barbershop and Teddy Perkins | March 29 and April 5

Atlanta is an amazing summation of parts when it manages to feature all of its main characters (or at least the majority of them). But it can absolutely carry itself during its solo episodes — the last three shows being concrete evidence. The last two in particular, featuring Paper Boi and Darius, illustrate the show’s range, creativity and outright quirkiness. It should come as no surprise that the two episodes — Thursday night’s was 41 minutes, with no commercials — set off with two seemingly opposite conversations.

Barbershop is a community gathering. It’s a situation just about every black man or woman can relate to: their relationship with an unreliable barber/beautician. And given LeBron James and Nick Saban’s current cold war over who owns the rights to the holy space, it’s only right that Atlanta represents a most accurate depiction. The things black men do, out of loyalty to our barbers, is nearly limitless.

Perkins is enigmatic, at times outright scary, and yet jocular.

Atlanta is 2-for-2 with solo Paper Boi episodes, dating to season one’s memorable B.A.N. And, from Willie (Katt Williams), Tracy and now Bibby, the supplementary characters this season have been fascinating. The only thing missing now is a solo Tracy episode, although some might consider episode two his true coming-out party. With Barbershop, Donald Glover’s Atlanta again firmly establishes its cultural relevance. It tapped into a most sacred institution, and did so with unprecedented nuance and hilarity. The episode may just end up going down as the show’s magnum opus.

That being said, if Barbershop was the episode that brought us together, Darius’ (Lakeith Stanfield) first solo venture, Teddy Perkins, is on the other end of the spectrum. The obvious, low-hanging fruit description is that the episode felt like a prequel to or a remix of the Oscar-winning Get Out. Perkins is enigmatic, at times outright scary, and yet jocular. All of which makes sense when realizing who the episode is based on. But the 41-minute airing, with no commercials, comes with its own set of bullet points:

• Buying Confederate flag hat, and coloring out letters for it to read “U Mad,” is one of the subtle and brilliant nuances that have become a trademark of the show.

  • Love Darius — but he was tripping with no map, going to that house by himself. There’s absolutely no way any black person should ever go to a big house with hardly any lights — by themself. That’s just not what we do.
  • Bless the musical directors of this show. Stevie Wonder’s “Evil” was a perfect touch. Was I the only one who peeped how they only referred to Wonder in the past tense, though?
  • Since we’re on the topic, too, who goes to move a piano by themself?
  • Thank God for the comic relief that was Paper Boi, Tracy and Earn in the drive-through talking to Darius on the phone. In that moment, you did feel like Paper Boi had temporarily become “Rod” (LilRel Howery) from Get Out?
    • The “U dead yet” text about took me out.
  • Who else thought Teddy was his brother Benny? And, who else either said — out loud, or to themselves — “N—–, get out the f—ing house!” when Teddy cracked open the door as Darius was rummaging around upstairs? And then again when he went into the room with the suit on the mannequin.
  • When Teddy spoke about the different fathers — Joe Jackson, Richard Williams, Marvin Gay Sr. — that was the crux of the entire episode. Teddy was either the father or Benny was the father. I just can’t make out which. All I know is, they weren’t brothers.

Which brings me to my final thought. Nothing this show does or implies is by coincidence. So Benny killing Teddy has to be some bizarro ode to Marvin Gaye’s death — the anniversary of which was Sunday. Methinks Benny was the son, Teddy pushed his son too far to become a musical savant, which, like Marvin, forced his son to become secluded and holed up in a house with him. Only this time, it isn’t father killing son but the reverse.

Am I looking too far into this? I’m probably looking too far into this. But couldn’t that be the point of the entire episode? It was such a drastic reach from the previous, lighthearted escapades of Paper Boi and Bibby the Barber that you almost have to try to rationalize the episode. It’s hard to grade Thursday night’s episode because, in so many ways, we’re all still trying to figure out what it is we just watched. My mind is fried. I’m going back to watch the barbershop episode to relax my mind and let my conscience be free. Teddy Perkins (aka ATL Sammy Sosa) won’t be giving me nightmares this week. That much I can promise you.

Justin Tinsley is a senior culture writer for Andscape. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single most impactful statement of his generation.