“The last breath.” “The last chance.” “The last waltz”…
“There are no second acts in American lives,” is very myopic because it came from the brain of someone in his infancy of literary genius.
“Drive it like you stole it” seems more our speed…
Atlanta Series Finale Recap
We open up to Judge Judy on the TV as the dreamy “Skyscrapers” by Bruno Nicolai guides us. Earn (Donald Glover) chats it up with Al (Brian Tyree Henry) as Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) fixate on the two, as if in a trance once the music transitions to Kami’s “Lift Yourself” before noticing a Popeye’s commercial. This is a chef’s kiss in a beautiful slow-motion scene.
They snap him out of it. Darius takes his cans off, assuring he’ll catch up with them later, for he has a date with a sensory deprivation tank.
At the spot, Al has eyes for Popeye’s. Earn tells him to calm himself and support the first black-owned sushi restaurant in Atlanta. Demarcus studied under real sushi masters in Japan, it’s fucking on point. Who could argue with a bit of culture injected into their lives?
Besides, Van’s friend invested a lot, so in kind, they’d be helping her a lot. Rolling up on the joint, Al calls it out for being a former Blockbuster.
At the pharmacy, Darius’ prescription (for ‘Eeze’) isn’t found. Wandering about the store while the pharmacist checks the back, he’s stopped by a woman (Cree Summer) overhearing him.
Don’t think I didn’t notice the beautiful, talented Cree Summer who played Freddie in A Different World.
Freddie. Who was the Dream Master also known as?
Well played, Atlanta, well played.
Her erstwhile book club transformed into a sensory deprivation club now dubbed the ‘Flo-Teps’. She stopped going as the visions inside were getting too deep, causing her to lose sight of what was real. Darius’ solution for that? Anchoring himself by imagining a thicc Judge Judy.
Silly as it sounds, the logic tracks. She’s always on TV, so if he sees her and she appears to be packing something fierce, he must be under.
Darius asks the woman if she’s there for anxiety meds. It turns out her baby needs antibiotics. She does claim to have tried everything, but she believes she’s back to normal, having changed her lifestyle. Though her baby’s father thinks she’s nuts, she’s at peace with it.
She used to view the world as a battle, but she concedes that if she’s a part of the same world as well, she’s allowed to dance in it as she sees fit. This seems to rock Darius to his core until his prescription is called.
Right before he leaves, Darius takes the initiative to tell the woman she has a beautiful spirit and thanks her. She seems smitten and maybe a Dep Sesh is in their cards down the line…
After parking and handing the keys off to the valet, Al and Earn meet up with Van (Zazie Beetz) at the spot. Al seems completely out of his element in his own city, like finding an undiscovered microcosm he doesn’t care for adjacent to the one he does. Van knows he’s got Popeye’s on the brain.
Though supporting her friend, even she can’t stop thinking about deep-fried bliss mere feet away, vindicating Al.
Chef Kenny (Damian White) introduces himself. He’ll be serving omakase due to the special occasion. This is when the customer relinquishes control, leaving it to the chef to serve only the best in seasonal cuisine. To a gourmand, this is basically an MDMA-fueled handjob.
The owner Demarcus is a big fan and is honored to have Paper Boi in his establishment, exemplified by a concerted ‘What’s up?’ from the staff. Al looks concerned.
On his way to the session, a car pulls up calling Darius’ name. The driver inside asks why he’s been dodging her. This is London (Naté Jones). He tried to hit her up, but she apparently changes her number every few months. She asks him to hit her up on email ‘like the underground days’ but he claims to have put those days behind him. This causes pause, literally, as she pumps the brakes.
She knows he used to be wildin’ back then. He knows she was, but asserts that he’s always been the same ol’ Darius. He tells that he’s going uptown to a Dep sesh. She demands he get in as she’s headed there anyway. Not one to disrupt the flow, Darius obliges.
On the way, she offers him weed. Normally, he refrains before a session, but he seldom sees London from the southside, so he partakes. He asks for a swig of her water, but it’s actually vodka. Oh, boy.
Sirens are heard from behind. Darius has to step on an empty beer bottle as she speeds up to air out the car. Oh, boy.
As she’s pulled over, she affirms being sober. As the cop approaches the car, she’s all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. The stop was for illegal tint, but after claiming it’s her mother’s car, she’s questioned on if she’s been drinking. Darius knows they are fucked, but she claims it’s water and downing it as if she’d just finished a 10k. Oh, bwoy.
After successfully (with panache) completing a field sobriety test with the added kicker of answering how many seasons Homeboys In Outerspace exist (one), she’s given a citation and bade a good day. All seems well, on-
Well, think again. She grabs the dude’s gun, and rushes to drive off but ends up hitting a cyclist before running away, apologizing but asserting that it’s all Darius’ fault, leaving him holding the gun.
Darius ascends from his vision in the deprivation pod. An assistant (Daniel Chung) rushes to him. He’s just a little shaken from staying not stirred. The staffer offers a break in their tea room, which he happily accepts. Remember, the last time Darius had tea, strange things were afoot.
In the tea lounge, he’s met by three older white women. He informs that he’s been coming once a week to cleanse his spirit. The woman claims to come for the tea room and when asked why they keep calling it the ‘tea room’, they simply laugh and say, that it just is the tea room to their endless howls of laughter.
This prompts Darius to grab the woman, screaming at her to wake up. This prompts the assistant to kick him out with his clothes. Poor guy thought it was a dream.
At the sushi joint, Al isn’t feeling the food as he longingly stares at Popeye’s. Van’s not even feeling the lukewarm food, but Earn’s trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. Al just wants to rip the band-aid off quickly by just dipping into what they know and love.
Earn wants to support Afro-Asian fusion, but the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Alfred is when he’s asked for a refill of Hot White Hennessey. He asks for the “bathroom.”
Darius is texted by Earn. The group’s not complete. Is he coming?
He simply has one last stop- a sick friend (Kevin Iso) to drop off the medication. He invites Darius to a proper bowl of Jollof rice (which he was robbed of last season in England) and though initially declining, he relents to half a bowl. How could he refuse his own brother?
He does notice the television with Judge Judy on and once she gets up, she saunters off with a nice big booty in tow. They both admire it before Darius ascends once again from his soul slumber, gasping.
The staffer rushes to his aid. Darius turned over in the tank which the assistant had never seen before. He claims he was under for 30 until Darius ascends once more from the salt water session, screaming in frustration.
Once Al comes back from the john, literally across the street, he tosses over the bathroom key, ready to head over to Popeye’s before the high school crowd storms it.
The most delicate of dishes are now served: fugu.
Though the trio attempt to squirm out of the situation, a gentleman calls them out on booking it for Popeye’s. They all do.
Relaying a story of the night Queen and Slim premiered, they were booked solid. People were riding the high, supporting their own. Fifteen minutes later that night, they were empty, as not a single soul ate the blowfish. Every Yelp review just said it was just black people serving ‘poisoned fish’.
Real sushi is made with bare hands and served at room temperature. Any other reputable place on earth wouldn’t be questioned, but when a person of color holds himself to the same standards, they are considered unsafe.
Al tries to interject but while school’s out for the teens in that Popeye’s, school is in session for him. He’s informed that one of the world’s most exclusive sushi joints is tucked away in a Tokyo subway station. His master studied there. This is Demarcus (Calvin Dutton).
God-level sushi could come from anywhere, but Demarcus is saddened that his master didn’t have the experience of being “just another nigga from Florida.”
Al is met with 151-proof rage from the owner. He calls him out on staring at a modern-day “coon chicken” restaurant served to them by a modern ‘Aunt Jemima’ telling the masses she’s benefitting from a recipe that’s all hers.
The cold, hard truth of the matter is the person who owns the recipe is an Italian man and his family, none of which have married black.
Al seems to have ‘gotten it’ but must prove himself by eating that declaration through the fugu. Demarcus demands they look to the future by staring at the Popeye’s. In his eyes, the reason shit like this exists is that blacks were taught to be mistrustful of each other, only looking after themselves. With that, he commands his staff to lock the doors.
Like a blazing hawk, Darius swoops in, decking Demarcus, and shooing the trio into his pink Maserati.
They peel out to the tune of Marvin Gaye’s “Dream of a Lifetime” and excitedly cruise the Atlanta streets with an Ellen moment of looking under their seats to find Popeye’s.
At the crib, it wasn’t all a dream. As Earn puts it, “Food tastes better when you think you’re about to die.” Truer words were never spake.
High-spirited, they ask Darius where he got the ride. Easy. He stole it from the valet to looks of consternation pursed on their faces. He claims it to be alright, still being in the tank.
Everybody’s concerned, but Darius confidently posits that maybe it was all just a dream and all of them are just players on his proscenium.
With that, they all go outside to smoke something nice. Darius assures Al he’ll join in a moment. He observes them from afar on the couch, just as he did in the beginning, coming full circle.
With Judith Scheindlin on the tube, Darius perks up and waits. Upon Judy’s exit, we’re greeted by his diminishing grin.
Atlanta Series Finale Takeaway
The final piece of the puzzle was Darius, having tied up Earn and Van’s situation and Al’s newfound peace.
He was always my favorite of the series and someone of a quizzical nature and with the Afro-surrealism of the series as a whole, it was always fun figuring out where he factored in as the glue to the other three.
Filled with wanderlust and out-of-the-box thinking, I believe Donald Glover (who fittingly wrote the fitting ending to his series) and directed by the only co-pilot I’ve ever seen him with from start to finish, Hiro Murai, Darius’ sayonara was nothing short of brilliance.
I believe he’s seen himself in Darius as much as he’s seen himself in all of the Fab Four he’s created. I mean, it was his dream, after all, and he seeps through it.
The overall arc of the narrator in the episode’s descriptions was spot on and hilarious, ever and lent to the overall surrealism of the viewing experience. It’s as if someone was conversationally telling us what they thought of the episode we were about to watch.
This series is dedicated to dreamers, those who have their heads in the stars. Remember, a dream is just that until it becomes reality.
Our grading star system is only limited to 5. However, since 7 is the number of completion: