Just because country roads don’t see much traffic doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.
Just because country folks are named bumpkins doesn’t mean they aren’t knowledgeable.
Just because country time moves slower doesn’t mean life can’t be changed in the blink of an eye.
Season 4 Episode 9 Recap
We open up in the woods. Al (Brian Tyree Henry) licks off some shots into some targets with first a pistol… then a Kalashnikov. Call it a mental health day. Call it a ‘piece’ of mind. Alfred simply calls it his Safe Farm.
Earn’s been blowing him up, but all Al wants to do after a hot lead session is to tend to his greenhouse. It gives him solace. They say plants do that, especially this kind. He does notice something’s been gnawing its way in, so he hightails it to the local hardware store.
At checkout, Al asks if they have any cast iron skillets. He’s outta luck. Bespectacled cashier Clyde (Steve Coulter) informs him that he may be able to order it but it’ll take a few weeks. He is convinced Al will just order it from Amazon, but upon seeing the ‘We Don’t Call Police’ sign, he assures him he won’t.
Wheeling the goods back to the greenhouse, Al notices a vegetation-laced tractor. It won’t start… yet. Heeding a YouTube channel called “These Backhoes Ain’t Loyal” for further instruction, Al’s struggling under the vehicle.
Once he hears the host mention that the machinery could roll over you without warning, as they ‘aren’t loyal’, Al books it and not a moment too soon. Tractor: 1, Al: 0.
Cooking dinner, breaking pasta (and my fucking heart), Al hears a bang from outside. Sounding like gunfire, inspection shows it’s the slamming of his greenhouse door.
Approaching with his AK at the ready, he opens it only to find a goddamn tragedy. His weed plants have been ransacked. What’s more, the bottom of his Gucci slide is now covered in shit.
He takes the photographic evidence back to Clyde and the news ain’t good; the dude’s got a feral hog problem.
I guess it makes sense. Hogs have proven in the past to be a pain, especially when truffle hunting, as they started eating the truffles. This is why dogs are used now. These days, the only way you can make a feral hog work for you is to slide it onto your western bacon cheeseburger.
Clyde knows they’re coming after whatever, but to save his bacon, Al claims he’s growing corn. Clyde’s solution? Set a trap with the ‘produce’ and shoot the shit out of that fucker when he comes to feed, not stopping until the creature is dropped.
Al is more for just poisoning it. Clyde knows the scope of the situation and believes Al should be using his scope to see his problem through to its conclusion. In Clyde’s mind, “you gotta kill them before they kill you”.
He finds this laughable, but Clyde ain’t cracking a smile. A pack of hogs killed a woman outside of Houston. Al’s not buying it.
Instead, he continues to put his energy into the tractor, attempting to give it a little start, but something’s preventing it from connecting, leading to further frustration. He opens up the chamber in front of him only to find a petrified rat in the exhaust stack.
He sacks up and pulls out the rodent with his bare hand. Maybe the old boy is not afraid to get his hands dirty after all.
After screwing steel plating to the door, Al promises to avenge his babies and that night, sets out a trap. Dinner is served…
He notices the porch light going wonky before going back in. He corrects it after a few taps as Wayne Smith’s ode to marijuana “Under Mi Sleng Teng” floods the inside of the house.
Passed out to a nature program, Al is awoken by a loud bang and squeal yonder. He grabs the semi-auto but is too late. The weed was all consumed, leaving his wagon with one less wheel. Hog: 2, Al: 0.
The next day, Al finally gets a win when the tractor finally starts up. He doesn’t take it for granted, as he takes a long, well-earned victory lap to ATL’s finest, the Dungeon Family bop “Rollin’”. Tractor: 1, Al: 1.
That is until his back tire hits a dip. Pushing isn’t going to get anywhere, and as he looks past the river to the other house, he hears a crumbling of the dirt. Before he knows it, the tractor rolls down the embankment along with its driver.
As Fate would have it, the tractor narrowly misses crushing Alfred whole, instead getting a mean hold on his left ankle. Through pointed anguish, Al manages to wrest himself from the wreckage, but most likely with something FUBAR. Tractor: 2, Al: 1.
With daylight waning, he excruciatingly hobbles back, stopping along the way for a respite and some added reflection, staring back at the house on the other side of the river.
Among the mellifluous chirp of the crickets in the beautiful twilight, Al resorts to agonizingly crawling back to the house. He’s within view of it and sees a van pull up. He screams with all his might, but the Amazon delivery person has buds in, and his cries of desperation fall on deaf ears.
Arriving at his doorstep, as if it were Death’s itself, Al opens the package. It’s the cast iron skillet he was too impatient to wait for. The skillet doesn’t even matter anymore, for today, Al had to work for his destination.
Incapacitated, he hears snorting around the corner. Dinner might as well be served up on a golden plate to the wild pig, as the look in its eyes is something of hunger, something of nightmares.
The creature charges Al and if he wasn’t moving before, he sure as fuck is now. He wrestles it down to the ground and with the last reserve of life force, grabs the skillet, proceeding to beat the ever-living soul out of the beast. Hog: 1, Al: 1.
Mentally and physically drained and with the porch light going wonky again, his phone vibrates. He’s been putting off Earn this entire time. He claws his way to the kitchen counter and finally answers, cool as the other side of the pillow.
Earn (Donald Glover) just wanted to inform Al that their current contract negotiations look above board and that he simply needs to sort a few things out soon.
He also queries his cousin if it’s boring out in the boonies and without dropping a beat, Al assures him it is. He simply needs some rest. (Preferably, a damn doctor.)
Thank heavens for next-day delivery, for it proved useful cooking that damn fine (store-bought) swine the morning after.
Icing his ankle, chomping on bacon with a whiskey in hand on the back porch, Al FaceTimes Earn, who seems a little concerned. Al plays it off, but Earn does warn his kin to take care.
From all the shit Al’s been through in the past 24 hours, these words fall on deaf ears. Earn even goes as far as to remind Al that a Safe Farm isn’t the only option and that Atlanta isn’t going anywhere. It’s his subtle hint to get him to move to the west coast.
Al’s neck is hurtin’ though and Earn’s convinced he’s sunburned.
Ray Charles’ “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” takes us out as the cousins have a spirited conversation as to whether those high in melanin can even get hit that bad.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Al: 1, Al: Won.
Season 4 Episode 9 Takeaway
Taking its title from the famed work Christina’s World, Al cheated death thrice in this episode. My guy can never catch a break.
Much like the painting’s muse, Al’s refusal to give up in spite of his shit hands dealt had him crawling across the earthen floor to his homestead. Unlike the painting’s muse, Al was ambulatory before and will be after, albeit with a modified gait.
To city folk, an off-the-grid existence may evoke images of lethargy, endless iced teas, and moonshine with only the sky dictating bedtime.
The factors working against Al are those not made by man, but by nature. Alfred seems at the end accepting of this and, to me, at peace. Despite the terrible day he had, I believe he’ll always consider this his Safe Farm, something to keep him frosty when he steps out of it—both equal parts training ground and sanctuary.
Directed by Hiro Murai, this penultimate episode of the final season did an exceptional job of showing us that country living isn’t always easy living. It took the unparalleled acting of Brian Tyree Henry, however, to show us that it can be as gully as any city block.