Atlanta: Barbershop
March 31, 2018 11:11 AM - Season 2, Episode 5 - Subscribe

You know how you need a fresh cut but your barber is always on some wack stuff? He's lucky I only trust him. [Official synopsis] Paper Boi has a photo shoot coming up, and he wants to look good, so he sees Bibby to get the usual.

Atlanta Robbin’ Season Recap: A Good Day (Bryan Washington for Vulture)
It would’ve been foolhardy to try to top last week’s episode, so the Atlanta folks seemed to have bypassed that expectation entirely. If “Helen” excelled in character development, tension, and emotional resonance, “Barbershop” proves to be a whole other thing. The episode is an extended bit, which would be a pretty big gamble if the jokes were unfunny or dumb, but the paradox of the relationship between black guys and their barbers is a world unto itself, a premise the entire series could’ve been built on. [That said, this episode was enough for me, thanks!]

In this case, Al and his barber, Bibby (played by the comedian Robert S. Powell) go on an adventure throughout the city — or, as Bibby later says, they have a “good day”). Al’s got a photo shoot coming up, so he drops in to get his regular cut, but the thing about appointments is that, depending on the barber, they are an abstract concept.
Atlanta Review: Season 2, Episode 5 — "Barbershop" (Mike Jordan for Hip Hop DX)
Barber loyalty is a real thing. I’ve learned this the hard way, between waiting too long for a proper haircut and losing touch with folks who I could always count on for a job well done. And it was maybe inevitable that Atlanta Robbin’ Season would tap the black barbershop’s rich reservoir of content possibilities. Maybe a little too inevitable.

As the first episode this season to focus exclusively on Paper Boi, “Barbershop” is a reminder that Brian Tyree Henry is really good at character acting, and Paper Boi lives a life somewhere between heroic neighborhood superstar and uncannily humorous struggler. He plays the locally famous rapper very much the way Atlanta rappers really are, by removing the facade and remaining Alfred even as more people recognize him as Paper Boi. By doing so, he remains everybody’s cool-as-hell buddy who happens to sell weed but can be ready to fight or shoot at any moment, depending on the level of disrespect.

Acting as the show’s comic relief as he navigates the strange world of Atlanta, Alfred also gives things a bit of normalcy, particularly in situations where he interacts with others and must deal with their terribleness. His visit to Bibby the barber provides another example of how comically tragic things sometimes are.
Thundercat & Flying Lotus scored Atlanta’s great “Barbershop” episode (Bill Pearis for Brooklyn Vegan) - it's all exclusive music.
posted by filthy light thief (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I like how this show will always follow up a heavy deep episode with a Curb Your Paper Boi Enthusiasm episode, like a show within a show.
posted by bleep at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I read an interesting theory about this episode, that Paper Boi leaving Bibby for another barber might be foreshadowing his split with Earn as his manager. It's a pretty good theory but one which I hope is wrong.
posted by cazoo at 1:46 PM on March 31, 2018

Paper Boi leaving Bibby for another barber might be foreshadowing his split with Earn as his manager

You've got it backwards. Van leaving Earn was forshadowing of Paper Boi leaving Bibby.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:16 AM on April 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

From Albert's face at the end of this episode, I think he's going back to Bibby. I do like getting confirmation that Bibby is a really good barber too (Hip Hop DX piece linked above).
posted by gladly at 8:01 AM on April 2, 2018

I like how this show will always follow up a heavy deep episode with a Curb Your Paper Boi Enthusiasm episode, like a show within a show.

I never watched CYE, and I missed this interview with Glover when he was promoting Robbin' Season, but here's the key quote:
When Colbert asked him if Paper Boi’s experiences as a rapper are inspired by Gambino’s own career, he explained, “Some of them are me. Some of them are my brother. Some are just the writer’s experiences. A lot of people picked up that this is Twin Peaks for rappers but it’s really Curb Your Enthusiasm for rappers.”
There are definitely surreal, Twin Peaks like episodes and moments throughout, but this season really feels like it's focusing on the awkwardness of fame, which seems to be the parallel with CYE.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:49 AM on May 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ha. I knew it. I got the Curb Your Enthusiasm last season as well. To me the comparison is not just about the awkwardness but in CYE there's also a feeling of eternal futility. Like no matter what Larry David does, he thinks he's playing by the rules, but then he always finds out the hard way that he is not. Although for him, white and past the peak of his career, the stakes are much lower. But he, Al & Earn are all just trying and trying, succeeding a little, failing, failing again.
posted by bleep at 2:49 PM on May 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Brian Tyree Henry is a master of nonverbal acting, he can tell us SO much just with his face. I would like to put him up against Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock and have them do a "disgusted with the human race" facial expression-off....

Oh do I love this show.
posted by biscotti at 6:30 AM on July 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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