The future can be a scary thing, especially as we get older.
When it comes to birthdays, however, all it takes is one candle and one exhale to be excited, if even for but a moment, about what could be.
Season 4 Episode 7 Recap
We open with the vox of ageless enchantress Sade. “Your Love Is King” fills the airspace as Earn (Donald Glover) and Van (Zazie Beetz) keep the conversation uncomfortably taciturn.
She suggests they slow down a bit on the country road. This is textbook foreshadowing 101.
Earn comes to a gentleman who also tells earn to slow down around the campground. Earn booked the entirety of the grounds for the birthday girl in the backseat, Lottie (Austin Elle Fisher). Upon him wishing her a happy one, Lottie lets a smile slip…
Once parked, Van is slightly concerned that Earn thinks there might be an 8% chance of the three of them being murdered in their sleep by the owner of the campsite. It’s surely 8% more than she was hoping for.
Earn begins to set up a massive tent, said to house up to 12 people and Van knows they’re going to be freezing due to the sheer size of it. Lodging like that is going to be a multiple-person job, but Lottie refuses to pitch in and help, catching Earn off guard. Van reassures him she’ll be fine.
Stopping at the edge of the lake, Lottie takes in the sheer vastness of the woods, the sheer immensity of the unknown.
As Earn and Van set up, he brings up the elephant in the woods: Los Angeles. She’s thought about it a lot, but at the moment, that’s as much ball as she’s going to play. She prefers to table the talk for later. This is Lottie’s celebration, after all. The nature around her is her oyster.
After what is said, or rather unsaid, they both complete the construction of their temporary home. Something feels off about it, but Lottie’s loving it, so it’s a success all around. It may be imperfect, but it’s something they built together.
Lottie claims her spot, insisting that dad sleep outside. So far, he’s battin’ a fuckin’ thousand.
The three embark on their hike. They seem to be having fun until they come across a rather aggressive river. Earn thinks they can ford it, but Van adamantly refuses. This seems to mirror their California dilemma perfectly. She heads back to set up their picnic somewhere else, leaving earn to his thoughts.
Earn’s worry about Lottie’s disposition grows only further when she reveals that she’s not enjoying her birthday. She’s in a mood due to not being able to catch any creature. Van promises her that the day only has more fun in store for her; they go fishing, and tonight Lottie’s going to have the chance to catch a “Snipe.”
If you’re familiar with Snipe hunting, you know this is more of a prank than an actual game, meant to tire out kids. Van wants her daughter to have some fun using her imagination, especially when explaining why only the coolest and smartest are able to catch it.
Armed with more confidence about the night’s hunt, Lottie’s day is looking up as she’s caught a toad. The happiness quickly subsides as Van makes her release the newfound friend. It’s nature and it’s to be appreciated, not kept.
On their way to catch fish, Earn entertains Lottie with a silly story to lift her spirits and at the moment, Van can’t help but have eyes for him. He’s trying his damnedest and Van is starting to notice, even if she refuses to admit that to herself.
On the canoe, Lottie admits to wishing her grandparents were with them. It makes sense to Earn but does admit to loving it just being three of them together since it’s a rarity. This breaks Van’s heart to hear because their daughter knows it’s the truth.
Sitting down to dinner, Earn brings up L.A. again. Van knows it’s a conversation that needs to happen, but before they can rip the band-aid off, Lottie knows it’s time for the hunt. Though the vibe has been brought down, they simply cannot disappoint the birthday girl any further.
After giving Lottie instructions on the fool’s errand, Van and Earn decamp to the fire to have an honest talk. Earn’s the first to speak up, but Van seems to deflect. The pain in their eyes is palpable, with her admitting the only reason to remain in the ATL is that it would be a choice she made for her and that type of agency is significant.
She also feels his main desire to bring her and Lottie out there is just for fear of being lonely. She refuses to play the role of a grown man’s security blanket. Before they can both internalize that cold, but honest sentiment, it looks like a certain special someone caught the Snipe!
When asked about its appearance, Lottie proudly describes what is exactly in her pillowcase: a long creature with red eyes. Van’s now freaked the fuck out. The Snipe was never meant to be caught because it doesn’t exist. She commands Lottie to drop the pillow case and run.
Earn is equally freaked out but curious, approaching the pillowcase slowly before whatever the hell was in it jumps out and scurries away, letting out some otherwordly sound. The only one not to scare is the hunter. The beauty of the fearlessness in a child’s eyes is something both Van and Earn could use more of in life. On a night like tonight, nothing is impossible, everything’s in play.
Tuckered from the day’s adventures, Lottie refuses to be sung to, instead making her wish among the chirping of crickets. Year 6 of her life is sure to be a good one.
Bedding down for the night, Earn’s freezing. Van allows him to get in with his family. He admits in going to LA, being alone wouldn’t have to be the only option. He could find new people, find a new woman. The truth of the matter is he wants to be a family. Lottie is a byproduct of true love in his eyes and that love for Van has never been extinguished. Vanessa needs more than to exist as simply a love for the mother of his kid and Earn knows this. He’s madly in love with her and has been since Amsterdam.
The interaction between the two is the most genuine and heartfelt I’ve ever seen. He’s fighting for her and his speech about how special she is to him not only as a mother but also as a woman had me legitimately on the verge of tears.
I swear to fucking god, if Donald doesn’t win an Emmy for this heart-bursting monologue, something’s seriously screwy with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
The impassioned plea works, however, and Van agrees to the move. She won’t be alone. They’ll be right by her side ’til 3005. For the night, however, she’ll have her fellow adventurers right by her side in one giant sleeping bag.
The next morning, the crew books it, leaving their expensive tent behind, as the rain starts to pour. Inside the car, Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride” plays on as Earn drives home as if to guide them through that metaphorical storm ahead.
With the banter lively and jocular, Lottie notices how happy Daddy is making Mommy and lets a smile slip…
Season 4 Episode 7 Takeaway
This was by far the most gorgeous episode in recent memory. Hiro Murai, never one to play it safe utilizes the practice of natural light with all of the shots, which is bold, but easily beautiful and haunting if done right. Francesca Sloane’s script took the paucity of dialogue and used it judiciously, letting the episode breathe and handing over the reins to the biggest star: nature itself.
The bookend of love’s ambassador, Sade was simply the hot fudge on the top and bottom of a deliciously complex, poetic sundae.