Donald Glover says goodbye with a surreal ode to Popeyes

Unfortunately, one of the biggest television shows of the past decade has finally come to an end. After four seasons spread over six years, Atlanta aired its series finale tonight with nothing more than an ode to Popeyes, one of the biggest corporate companies and makers of the spicy chicken sandwich.

It Was All a Dream was written by show creator Donald Glover and directed by Hiro Murai Atlantathe most impressive offerings from , like Season 1’s “BAN” or Season 2’s “Barbershop.” Refreshingly, the finale is devoid of grand statements or overwrought moments, a tendency that made Season 3 a surprising low point for the typically well-done show.

Instead, like most of Season 4, we simply watch as Earn (Glover), Al (Brian Tyree Henry), Van (Zazie Beetz), and Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) navigate through seemingly mundane scenarios that become increasingly surreal and bizarre. The biggest development this season is Earn moving to Los Angeles with Van and Lottie to further his ambitions of becoming a big talent manager. And yet we end not with a tearful goodbye between Earn and his cousin Al, but with a very low-stakes moment of joy.

given Atlanta‘s contribution to black television and the medium as a whole, the series deserves the right to end on such a relaxed note.

We open with a shot Judge Judy playing on a TV screen in Al’s chic, modern home. (This is a foreshadowing of a ridiculous running gag). The camera zooms in on Darius, who is resting on a couch and listening to Amnesty’s “Liberty” through headphones. The song’s lyrics (“Get on your feet/Let’s do it/We’ve been fooling around way too long my friends”) hint at a long-awaited defining moment for Darius, arguably the show’s most dormant aimless character. However, Glover continues to use Darius for his surrealistic fantasies, trapping him in a time warp during a “dep date” (sensory deprivation tank session).

“Given Atlanta’s contributions to black television and the medium as a whole, the series deserves the right to end on such a relaxed note.”

One of his dreams is a visit to the pharmacy for his sick brother. There he chats up a friendly woman (played by Cree Summer) who used to use isolation tanks for her anxiety until she started confusing reality with what she imagined inside the tank. Darius tells her that he can tell real life from tanks with a special mind trick: the fat judge Judy. “The idea is that Judge Judy is always on TV, right?” he explains. “And when I see her and she’s fat, I know I’m in the tank.”

Unfortunately, this insane image doesn’t save him from a string of nightmares, including a chance encounter with an old friend who’s been “microdosing” vodka from a water bottle all day. When Darius gets in for a ride, she is stopped by a cop because she has tinted windows and asked if she’s been drinking. In one of the funniest moments of the episode, she downs the entire liter of vodka to prove it’s just water, but is still forced to take a sobriety test. After the cop miraculously lets her off the hook, she grabs the cop’s gun while he’s not looking and speeds away in the car, ramming a bicyclist. She gets out of the car and runs, leaving Darius with the gun. Luckily for our favorite stoner, it was all just a dream.

While Darius continues to experience Groundhog Day At a spa, Earn and Al meet Van for lunch at a struggling black-owned sushi restaurant that one of her friends has invested in and Pay for a servant to essentially hold his keys. When Al realizes it’s the same location as an old Blockbuster, we see the famous VHS-shaped marquee still plastered on top of the building.

As soon as they sit down in what looks like someone’s chinoiserie basement restaurant, it’s clear why they’re the only customers. A host hands them satin bandanas for napkins that look like they were bought at the neighboring beauty shop, and a waiter offers them hot white Hennessy in a teapot. As Al leaves to use the bathroom, he discovers that it’s actually down the street at the Rainbow. The last straw is when they are offered poisonous puffer fish.

Meanwhile, just outside the window is a detached Popeyes, with Al and Van tempted to eat instead. But Earn is passionate about supporting black-owned businesses, whether the quality of the food is good or bad. It’s a familiar conflict for blacks, who often feel the greatest pressure to fund our business ventures, as if our collective pockets as a minority were enough to sustain a separate black economy. But sometimes the promise of reliable service from a more established company trumps the urge to do the “bright thing”. In addition, supporting a company does not always equate to supporting people.

Likewise, the trio eventually decide their charity drive isn’t worth the horrible service they’re receiving and decide to leave the sushi place. Unfortunately, the restaurant is run by an extremely menacing owner, who gives them an annoying (but hilarious) rant decrying black fussiness when it comes to black businesses versus whites.


After a long monologue defending his right to run a mediocre business, the owner tells this worker to lock the doors and urges Earn to try the blowfish. Luckily, Darius, believing he’s still in an isolation tank, comes out of nowhere to save the day, bursting through the window and attacking the owner. Earn, Al and Van get into a pink Maserati he stole from the valet and end up ordering their precious salty cookies from Popeyes.

One of the last shots of the episode shows the core crew happily holding on to their Popeyes as they speed down an empty street with the top down. It’s an image as hysterical as it is beautiful — a representation of the show’s commitment to serving a black audience first and foremost, and in the funniest way. I can’t think of a blacker note to end up with. Donald Glover says goodbye with a surreal ode to Popeyes

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