Atlanta Season 3 Episode 5 Review – Cancer Attack

We’ve all been there.

Maybe a night replete with libations. Maybe a small bump. Maybe just pure, unabashed forgetfulness.

We’ve all been there.

These days, our phone is basically an appendage. If we lose it, we feel incomplete, and though anxiety may rear its ugliest head, we know that all can be found if we look in the right places. Welcome to the fifth episode of Atlanta (FX) titled “Cancer Attack“.

We open on Earn (Donald Glover). He’s got shit locked down and Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) is in the building. His concert is about to pop off and though Earn has eyes on all, Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) has an eye on the building.

It turns out that a few rooms in the blueprints weren’t accounted for, and though Darius wants an adventure, Al just wants to get through the night.

His British agent, Socks (Hugh Coles) injects a bit of levity into what will be the next few rough days. I mean, he’s bankrolling them, right?

What’s the amuse-bouche? A meet-up from the Dream Foundation. A kid with cancer: Marvy. It’s so fitting, even the House of Chanel couldn’t fuck with it.

Though febrile Earn has his shit on lock, he still misses Van. She isn’t responding to his texts and his worried face is wearing the responses.

Wasted time was never en vogue and he knows this. He commands the security, but are things really secure with the crew?

He’s secured Al’s ginger beer, but things need to be spoken. Earn is too busy though and his cousin is too concerned for his well-being.

With a concert in less than thirty minutes, rumination and conversation are out of the cards.

It’s sad because we never focus on what’s of importmental health.

As Darius leads the rap god in prayer, a random Brit Bloke storms the stage, attempting to introduce. He’s not a fan. He’s a stan. And though Earn shoos him off the stage, his stain is indelible, and with taxes.

After the concert, Al is searching for his phone. We’ve all been there. That rush of anxiety when your personal life in carbon is left out to the world. Is there anything more incriminating? Is there anything more personal?

The aether is the scariest thing you don’t know and even more so when you have a brush of fame.

Earn accuses Marvy of stealing what is not rightfully his, but Al can’t believe humans, even on their deathbed, would stoop that low.

Socks throws it out to the Senate as if a kid could steal it. On the precipice of a “cancer attack”, Earn takes the leap and in one of his less elegant moments, searches a dying kid for a damn phone. Marvy knows what’s up and consents to a search. Thankfully, there is no seizure.

Al is restless. He wants that phone. It’s not about the cost of an iPhone, but rather the contents that lay therein.

Socks, witness to all of this suggests the runner backstage and throws him under the bus. He feels the guy was sketchy from the jump. Now they all have a new villain, and when Earn tries to settle up with the owner of the venue, a reference was never so unwanted.

As it turns out, this is the guy’s nephew. It’s Wiley (Samuel Blenkin). The nomenclature was not lost on me.

His uncle vouches for him not taking the phone, but Earn is adamant. He doesn’t have his number, but his rigger does. Earn lacks the wherewithal of playing games and even less patience. His loading time is little to nil.

Through a bit of visual insight, Earn steals Wiley’s resume, nabbing his number.

Al wants in on this, but Socks is a little too extra on what would be a simple interrogation.

Earn sets up a meeting between Paper Boi and his potential thief. Socks STEALS the phone and gives the person on the other end the what for. He’s going scorched earth, which may or (may not) be to the trios’ advantage.

It’s too late. The damage has been done.

Darius’ night is fucked. The captain of coolness, with even a bit of weed, couldn’t help this situation, and it’s about to get worse.

The dude actually showed up.

Smokes cannot be in the room, though. He’s too much of a wild card, so it’s left up to the trio to suss out the sitch.

Wiley is scared and him even asking how they are enjoying Budapest has the anger and frustration bubbling. Even Darius, one of the most gentle people in the fucking world is hyped on this shakedown.

Wiley knows fuck all. Though an admirer of Paper Boi, there’s an air to him that doesn’t sit right.

They aren’t going to kill him, but he’s wanting to maybe die at the hands of his favorite artist. I mean, that says more about the culture of celebrity than the actual celebrity.

This is especially prevalent when Wiley cites Box Top Chevy’s or kissing a thorn on a rose… This is a trigger.

Though his uncle swears the under-investigated is ‘only 19’, Socks can get fitted with a halo only too soon, by the hand of Alfred.

Wiley knows that Al dreamed about a Box-Top in high school and had a girlfriend named Rose, but the only way my dude would know about it would be to know one of Paper Boi’s earliest songs…. which he recorded on that phone.

Do you know when good things arrive in threes?

Earn comes in ‘good cop’, Al ‘bad cop’, and Darius ‘devastated’ cop.

Wiley has a one-up on everyone, though. He brings up Earn’s ‘whiteness’, and Al’s phone number, lying about his age.

What is real anymore? They are all miffed, but it only takes one to level it up.

Socks nearly throws the N-bomb down but knows clearly what company he’s in. He’s not felonious, but he isn’t exactly innocent either.

Marvy knows the game they are playing, but can only talk to Al, not Paper Boi man to man. Person to person.

Al gets his most real with his most real fan. He’s had a bit of writer’s block. Maybe life block. But being lost, he is now found.

That revelation was recorded on his phone and he needs it. His seat at the table isn’t out of the question.

This is special for Wiley. They share a birthday, and naked as the day they were born, honesty has been shared, and foolishness has been shed.

What ensues is a really awkward serenading to the rapper. It turns out Marvy’s life, despite being worlds away mirrored his admiration, isn’t so distant. So he regales him with a song.

The song itself is surfeited with metaphors and nearly sends something off that David Lynch would be proud of. It’s Paper Boi/Alfred trying to let go of himself, just in a different skin.

As the trio attempt to get out to the tour bus, Earn checks in with Van.

She seems ok, but it’s still disconcerting that she only checks out with a thumbs-up emoji.

With ‘Dedicated to the One I love’ by The Temprees firing up, we realize that Socks had the phone the entire time, which he immediately tosses in the trash. At least put some respect on the rightful owner’s name.

What ensues is a gorgeous long shot of Paper Boi enjoying a joint and a thought. Or two. Or three. He’s now hoisted by his own petard.

This is not what you expected, but at this juncture, what is?

This is dreamy and maybe fix up your pumping ventricles before watching this. In any event…

…Enjoy this rollercoaster and hold on for dear life.

Robert Kijowski
Robert Kijowski
Robert J. Kijowski is a screenwriter who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He enjoys the company of strangers in a theatre but adores the camaraderie of friends watching Netflix. He also loves to talk- a lot. This can be read through his recaps and reviews on the Workprint or heard through his weekly movie podcast, After the Credits. His presence can be felt through Facebook, Spotify or Ouija. Don’t use the latter though- he almost always ghosts people.

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