The episode quality of Atlanta over the last month has been through the roof. Staring with “Helen” which was the first of the character specific episodes with a splash of Get Out thrown in all the way to last week’s tremendous “Teddy Perkins”, which could be my favorite episode of television this year, the second season of Atlanta is completely ignoring the idea of a sophomore slump. With that being said Atlanta’s latest episode, “Champagne Papi”, may not have held the same high quality as previous episodes. That’s not to say that it was a bad episode, it wasn’t, but I think anything that had to follow “Teddy Perkins” would be seen as a dip.
Still following the format of following one member of the central cast per episode, “Champagne Papi” follows Van as she and her girlfriends look to head to a party at Drake’s mansion. Yes, that Drake. Van, since breaking up with Earn has been trying to find herself and her own spot in the world. It doesn’t help that she has become consumed with social media and what’s presented there, and that’s “Champagne Papi’s” biggest social commentary. The concept of reality and is what we’re perceiving what’s actually happening? There’s no doubt that people put their best selves on social media and it has an effect on people. Look at Van, who sees a video of Earn having his hair played with by some random woman, making her immediately assume that he’s moved on. We don’t know the context of this video. We don’t know if Earn knows this woman or why she’s playing with his hair. My immediate thought was he was going to be getting a haircut, but because it’s on social media Van takes it as almost a slap in the face. Especially when she tells us her Instagram is essentially pictures of her baby and chicken.
The episode then becomes Van’s pursuit to get a selfie with Drake at the party having seen a number of them on Instagram already. She feels that’s the image she needs to give her life a boost. To make others see that she’s living adventure after adventure, but even the party at Drake’s isn’t what it seems. For starters, he’s not even there. Drake is out touring Europe. Van, after wandering through the empty hallways and rooms of Drake’s mansion, putting on his clothes while humming “Hotline Bling”, and wearing his cologne comes to understand that the pictures that everyone is posting with Drake are just pictures in front of cardboard cutouts. No one at that party has had any interaction with Drake but you wouldn’t know that based off their social media feeds. Van is given the choice to join the parade and pay twenty dollars, thirty comes with some slippers, and watch her followers boom. For a minute it seems like she considers it, the slippers did look comfy, but ultimately passes on the opportunity. Van chooses reality and being true to who she is opposed to lying on social media. The party itself is enough adventure that no picture with a cardboard cut out could do justice to. Plus she steals the jacket and a pair of Drake’s sweatpants.
Elsewhere we have one of Van’s friends who reacts badly to a weedy gummy bear and questions her place in the world. What first seems like comic relief, the 9-1-1 call had me laughing, quickly turns into something a bit deeper. Luckily she bumps into Darius, who seems to have recovered from last week, who explains that everything is a simulation. That nothing is actually real… accept the girl dancing in the mini pool behind him. The conversation between Darius and Van’s friend definitely reminded me of the premise of The Matrix but further proved my theory that Darius is the soul of this universe. That he’s tapped into something more than the superficial. Almost like he’s a spiritual guide to many of these characters.
Outside of all this Nadine, another friend of Van’s, is on a quest to sleep with a famous actor only to find that he’s with a white woman. Nadien’s immediate thoughts are that he’s dating her for show and immediately goes in to attack mode. It turns out that the girlfriend though has been with the actor since the start way before he was famous. They have an actual bond and love which drives Nadine even deeper into a frenzy. Mostly because her perception was wrong. While Nadine makes some very poignant points during her outburst her overall methods are less than desirable. Especially when she considers she just wanted to sleep with the actor because he was a star. Maybe if she had just had a conversation with the girlfriend both parties could have walked away with a deeper understanding. Instead, we get an awkward “thank you” and an apology from the actor.
All and all “Champagne Papi” was a fine episode that almost comes as a sigh of relief following the latest string of episodes. At this point, I’m just hoping Van is able to bounce back. I really enjoy this character and I don’t’ think she’s recovered from losing her job last season. If anyone on this show could use a win right now it would be here. Hopefully breaking down the wall between reality and perception gets her moving down the right path.
There you have it Geeklings, what did you think of this weeks episode of Atlanta? Would you have taken a picture with the Drake cutout? Did you think Nadine was in the wrong? Are we living in a simulation? Sound off in the comments. If you’d like to talk more Atlanta with me then you can find me on Twitter @iamgeek32. See everyone next week with the next episode review.
Images from FX