I wouldn’t blame anyone for failing to heed entertainment recommendations from me. We all have bizarre friends who watch “The Bachelor,” live sports, or sitcoms with laugh tracks – all of whom insist they have just the show for us to enjoy. My tastes are as weird as a squirt of ketchup in a glass of lemonade.
So, instead of trying to get you to watch the entire run of “Atlanta,” I’m asking you to give Season 2, Episode 6 a try. It’s a stand-alone episode, independent of its season and character arcs.
“Atlanta” is one of those shows in which your preconceived notions about its content will interfere with your ability to fully enjoy it. It’s one of the best shows on television and one which I’m pleased to say I overcame my idiotic idea of preferences and taste. It’s been a joy to watch, as many of the moments Donald Glover has captured are tiny boxes of the sublime. Despite moments of involuntary laughter, the show isn’t supposed to be a comedy per se. Watching it reminded of the time I saw “No Country For Old Men.” During the infamous shower scene in which the killer pulls the shower curtain on his victim before blasting him with a shotgun, I alone laughed long and loud in the crowded theater. I just ‘knew’ it was supposed to be surreal and amusing. Apparently, no one else did.
Season 2, Episode 6, titled “Teddy Perkins” was one of the best single television episodes I’ve ever watched. It ranks near the series finale for “Six Feet Under,” although for completely different reasons. This particular episode can be watched without having seen any of the previous installments of “Atlanta,” although I recommend beginning with the first episode. This episode was originally shown without commercials. While watching, I dreaded that the episode would end. I knew while watching it that something special was afoot. Teddy Perkins is like a long bout of loud maniacal laughter during a eulogy.
While I’m certainly not the main demographic for this show, I can’t imagine a more sublime story for the “Teddy Perkins” episode, one which delighted me with its strangeness and wit. The episode is packed with so many cultural references that it’s impossible to slow down sufficiently to note them all. It’s suspense and horror, but also a revelation.
Darius’ character has many of the best moments, in my opinion, and this episode allows him to revel in his reactions. Watching Darius observe Teddy Perkins as he eats an ostrich egg is somehow more unsettling than witnessing a murder. While he might have originally visited the mansion with the intent of retrieving a free piano, I’ll bet Darius would’ve traded anything to be somewhere else. Darius has a chance to flee the mansion more than once but stays in hopes of getting his piano. Nothing is free, even if the cost is an intricate dance with one’s sanity. (Even if the piano keys are elegantly painted in rainbow colors.)
While I didn’t know it at the time, it was Donald Glover himself who portrayed the enigmatic and horrific Teddy Perkins character. Everything about the show “Atlanta” is a reflection of his genius and this episode finalized my conclusion that the type of television he makes is something that I’d watch a lot of.
The episode is both horror and commentary, yet can be watched with an amazing sense of disbelief without concerning yourself with deeper meaning. For a moment, it seems as if the inevitable violent ending would be avoided. It wasn’t. We should have known better. On one level, the episode can be about the violence so many fathers show their sons. As in the case of angry fathers, someone will pay. It’s just a question of when.
We wouldn’t have wanted to turn off the television and imagine living in a world in which Teddy Perkins might end up in a dimly-lit room with us.