'Atlanta Robbin' Season': 4 Things to Expect From the Show (That Turns the Unexpected Into an Art Form)
Atlanta Robbin' Season is upon us.
That's the title of the second season of Donald and Stephen Glover's beautifully surreal yet deeply authentic FX series, which returns Thursday night after an extended delay (due to, you know, Donald Glover's skyrocketing career).
From the jump in "Alligator Man," the season's first episode, everything feels familiar -- Earn (Donald Glover) is trying to hustle for his cousin, Alfred 'Paper Boi' Miles (Bryan Tyree Henry); Van (Zazie Beetz) is still Earn's co-parent/best friend; and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) somehow always has the best thing to say. And yet, the quiet intensity that was always present in season one -- even during its funniest moments -- is more pronounced than ever.
"Season two is a lot heavier and darker," Beetz told ET at the show's Los Angeles premiere last month. "It kind of doubles down on the drama in the show."
This is true, but one thing the writers of Atlanta always knew, that we as viewers had to catch up on, is that the "plot" of the series is not what the show is about. Rather, what makes Atlanta shine is the bizarre leaps it is able to take, on the strength of completely grounded, real characters and situations. And as the cast has grown closer together, that authenticity just continues to develop.
"I'm more comfortable than I was the first time around," Beetz said. "Half the stuff that ends up onscreen is unscripted."
With that in mind, here's what to expect from Robbin' Season.
***Note: Beyond this point contains very light spoilers from Atlanta: Robbin' Season.***
1. Everyone's going off in their own direction.
Glover revealed at FX’s Television Critics Association press tour in January the unlikely inspiration for season two: the 1992 direct-to-video animated film Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation. In Los Angeles, Glover and co-director Hiro Murai expanded on the artistic cues they took from the movie.
"It was just a cartoon that we watched a lot when we were kids, me and my brother," Glover told ET. "We just liked how all the stories tied into each other and how it was like a cohesive piece, but it was also individualized."
"We like the idea that we could treat the season as a bunch of short stories, so you don't have to worry about how all these characters are going to fit together every episode. Sometimes they can just go off and do their own thing," Murai explained. "And hopefully, at the end of the season, it wraps up into kind of a thematic package."
In a sense, it's a more fully realized take on what the show did so well in the "B.A.N." (the public access TV show) and "Value" episodes of season one, where Glover -- the ostensible lead of the show -- drops out for virtually full episodes to present a deeper vignette of the ensemble cast's individual lives.
2. Everyone's getting money -- but don't count on them keeping it.
For a moment, Atlanta lulls us into a cathartic feeling that the hard work is paying off -- Paper Boi is blowing up, and Earn's convoluted investment in Darius' dog-scheme finally sees a return. But as the title suggests, nothing is ever truly yours during "robbin' season."
"It just means that what you think is secure may not be secure," Henry explained. "Things in the streets are a little rougher in the cold season."
And, of course, what makes things all the more uncertain is the signature reality-subverting conventions of the show.
"When the season changes, things get a little bit more nasty and desperate," Stanfield expanded. "So it's kind of interesting to see that side of Atlanta, and have it be realized through this show, which can be really fantastical."
3. Famous faces that don't feel like stunt casting.
In season two, Atlanta wastes no time getting to its "Migos" moment -- a guest star that should feel completely insane but somehow works perfectly in the reality the show creates -- with Katt Williams as Earn's crazy uncle, who just happens to keep a pet alligator in the bathroom.
If it seems like a role only someone as out there (and arguably problematic) as Williams' is can make feel real, it is.
"Donald never told me this, but I had a feeling that he had him in mind for quite a long time," Murai told ET. "Working with him was actually great."
"He's such an astute, hard, dedicated worker," Stanfield said. "It was nice for me to be around someone like that. He brought a really good energy to the set."
It's one of those "of course" spots that you could never have predicted, but doesn't feel forced at all. And we're more than here for whomever else (if anyone) the show decides to bring out.
4. Despite all of the above, everything we think will happen probably won't.
This is basically the main thing to remember about Atlanta, and what makes it such a frustrating sell to that friend who's on the fence about watching -- anything can happen. But not in the way people normally say that. Really, anything can happen.
Take just a few of season one's most iconic moments. Black Justin Bieber with no explanation? Sure. An invisible car? Of course there's an invisible car. What Game of Thrones did to killing everyone you love, Atlanta does to your entire sense of reality. Everything is so. damn. real. Until it's not.
Stanfield probably summed it up the most succinctly when we asked whether we would, in fact, get another "invisible car" moment in season two.
"Yes," he said. "But not like that, it's gonna be something else."
That's the beauty of Atlanta. The key to figuring it out is understanding you will never figure it out.
Atlanta Robbin' Season premieres tonight on FX at 7 p.m. ET.
In other Glover news, watch the video below for what he recently told ET about what to expect from Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Donald Glover Reveals 'Atlanta's' Surprising Season 2 Inspiration
EXCLUSIVE: Donald Glover Weighs In on His History-Making Emmys Wins: 'I Always Wanted to Make Good Things'
New 'Atlanta' Trailer Sets Off 'Robbin' Season'