Atlanta: Crabs in a Barrel
May 11, 2018 7:29 AM - Season 2, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Sometimes you gotta go where the money goes. But it be feeling like something is holding me back. Like I can't leave. [official synopsis; season finale]

Atlanta Season 2 Episode 11 Review: Crabs in a Barrel -- A surprisingly optimistic Robbin’ Season finale as Earn learns how to get his. (Joe Matar for Den of Geek)
Most surprising, but welcome, is that this finale offers some levity. It’s not crazy positive (that wouldn’t fit the season’s vibe), but there’s definitely more optimism than has been on display throughout the rest of Robbin’ Season. In fact, it’s almost a complete reversal of the rock bottom that Earn hit in "North of the Border."
Atlanta Finale Recap: Flight Risks (Dave Nemetz for TV Line)
Earn and the Atlanta crew got ready to leave on a jet plane in the Season 2 finale… but not everyone made the trip.
Song(s) from this episode (one currently listed, but there's a second that in the opening that might get identified)
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From the second he put the gun in his bag, I told Earn, "Dude, you got a gun in your bag." When he went to the school, when he goes to the passport office and then standing there in the TSA line, I was all but shouting at him.


This is such an awesome show and it is amazing that it's allowed to continue.
posted by teleri025 at 8:05 AM on May 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

The episode title, "crabs in a barrel," is a reference to what is also called crab mentality, or "if I can't have it, neither can you," which is far from optimistic. And it felt like more of a somber ending to me than a hopeful one, but maybe Earn's feeling that his "whole world's falling apart" that cast a somber shade over my impression of the entire episode.

In reflection, the episode title, and the ending of the episode, flips that idea of "hold back the progress of others."

Alfred: I saw what you did - at TSA.
Earn: Mm.
Alfred: You ain't got to say shit. Just know that's exactly what I'm talking about. Niggas do not care about us, man. Niggas gonna do whatever they got to do to survive, 'cause they ain't got no choice. We ain't got no choice, either. You my family, Earn. Yeah, you You're the only one that knows what I'm about. You give a fuck. I need that. All right?
Earn (I think*): All right, then.
Alfred: Hey? Let's get this money.

* Pulled from this rough transcript of the episode

This is such an awesome show and it is amazing that it's allowed to continue.

But is it? From Den of Geek:
In the end, this was a much more solid, consistent season than Atlanta’s first and I’d be eager to see more if the cast and crew wanted to do it. However, Donald Glover has a tendency to end projects before they get stale, Lakeith Stanfield just tweeted “Bye ATLANTA,” and the scene with Earn, Darius, and Al hanging out on the couch was an obvious nod to the series’ very first episode, which is the kind of thing you do when you’re ready to move on, not to mention the fact that in the episode they literally moved on.

It would make sense if they left it here, with Paper Boi on the precipice of becoming a much bigger star. I don’t think Glover ever set out to do a series about making it big; it was more about the awkward and difficult journey getting there. So, if this is all we’re getting, I’m good with that. But if there’s more to come, I’ll definitely show up.
Emphasis original. And yesterday, Den of Geek posted a "will it get renewed?" speculation article. The only word I've seen on the season 3 is this less-than-reliable note: FX has quietly renewed Atlanta for Season 3, slated to premiere in 2019, multiple insiders inform RenewCancelTV. That "article" was dated March 19, 2018, so it's hard to believe that no one else has heard anything, or this article is somehow a secret webpage only I have found, so it's likely unreliable information.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 AM on May 11, 2018

Spouse and I fully expected Earn to get carted away, or to off himself, and that to be the end of the show. Now, I'm not so sure.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on May 11, 2018

Oh man, what a Chekhov's Misdirect! That was awesome.

"You should be headlining that tour" indeed.
posted by tzikeh at 6:36 PM on May 11, 2018

You give a fuck. I need that. All right?
Earn (I think*): All right, then.
Alfred: Hey? Let's get this money.

It's not Earn who says "aight then." Al says "You give a fuck. I need that. Aight?" and Earn just nods, almost imperceptibly. Al continues, "Aight, then" as he looks away -- conversation over.
posted by tzikeh at 6:39 PM on May 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I liked how it was like how Ern did the same thing Al did for him in middle school. The look on his face brought back all my nightmares of showing up at the airport and something goes wrong (no luggage, no passport, no ticket, etc.) and I think "Well, I am not getting on this plane today. Fuck." It was really great watching Ern get on the plane after that.

I thought Darius not being able to find the keys was one of 1000 Get Out references this season and I loved it.
posted by bleep at 8:16 PM on May 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was confused by the ending on the first viewing-- why did Ern tell Al the gun was in Clark's bag after Al already said he "saw what he did at TSA"?-- so I went back and rewatched.

On rewatch: We know Ern put the gun in someone else's bag, Al saw this and praised him for exhibiting the ruthlessness they need to succeed. But then they're surprised to see Clark get on the plane. We find out Ern specifically put it in Clark's bag to fuck him over (maybe stop him going on tour so Paperboy is a bigger star?) but the manager took the fall for the gun. Al sighs, disappointed.

Am I correct in this reading of events?
posted by bluecore at 4:51 AM on May 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:02 AM on May 13, 2018

Am I correct in this reading of events?

I think so, but I also think there's more to it - Clark must know that Earn put the gun in his bag. And we've seen Clark be ruthless and violent - we've seen him basically order his people to beat the shit out of a studio engineer when a computer crashed. So while they show didn't dwell on it, I think there's a real dark cloud overhead with this partnership.
posted by entropone at 10:27 AM on May 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

There's a lot in that short exchange, when Clark's on the plane (after all, flight's not gonna leave without Clark County, baby). He says the "hammer" that Luke had was It was gold. "Shit was clean, though. Wish it was mine."

There's a ways to read that, and to imagine the scenario before:
1) Clark saw Earn slip the gun in his bag, and Clark then slipped it into Luke's without Luke knowing;
2) Clark saw Earn, and passed it to Luke because Luke knew he could take the fall and get off easier than Clark;
- both ways, Clark knows and by saying "Wish it was mine" he's saying "I saw what you did, but I'll pretend I didn't to keep you guessing about my actual response"
3) Luke saw Earn, and took the gun to take the fall without Clark seeing any of the exchange, so Clark honestly wishes the golden gun was his. I'm trying to remember how everyone reacted to the golden gun when it was first introduced in the first episode of this season, to gauge Clark based on his (possible) appreciation of it.

All that has me wondering about the status of season 3. There's still no solid word, but back in May, Zazie Beetz said that Donald was pitching ideas to her and he seemed to have an idea of where the story could go, and it was possible that they could start filming in January 2019.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:28 AM on May 14, 2018

Did Earn say he put the gun in Clark's bag?

I took Clark's word for it that the gun was in Luke's bag. It makes a lot more sense for Earn to put the gun in Luke's bag than Clark's. If Clark is headlining and he gets arrested, it seems like a better than 50% chance the tour gets cancelled. That would be disastrous for Al. And Earn would assume that being responsible for the tour being cancelled would be the end of the line for his job. On the other hand, by eliminating Luke from the tour, Earn is in a good place to work all sorts of stuff on the tour in Al's favor, like getting Al in the room when Clark has interviews, photoshoots, etc... And even more directly, he is blocking, at least temporarily, Al's access to Luke as a potential manager. After all, it was Luke that set up the tour that is going to make Paperboi a (more than regional) star, not Earn. But for the purpose of the tour at least, it may work out that Earn acts as Clark County's manager (or at least tour manager) rather than Luke becoming Al's manager. Despite what he said, I think Al had at least half a mind to scope out Luke in action on the tour and keep putting Earn off until he was sure what he would do. If Al had decided in Earn's favor before they got on the plane, why was he being so cagey about it?

I haven't gone back to watch it again, but maybe they were just surprised Clark's whole party wasn't held up at the gate and disappointed to have to share the flight with him? Because Clark is super annoying!

I guess Earn putting the gun in Clark's bag is more of a Hail Mary than a Machiavellian masterstroke, so it is in character in that way (and makes sense based on how much time Earn had to think about it). And for once, Earn is not just ruthless but also charmed. The stunted is the stunter for once.

Ha! I just realized, Earn is like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football. If there is a season 3, will we find out that his kick went out of bounds and possession goes to the other team?
posted by nequalsone at 9:03 AM on May 14, 2018

filthy light thief: luke and clark didn’t see earn do anything, earn asks them to grab him a bin so that they’ll look away, he slips the gun in then. it’s possible he suspects earn but he didn’t see anything. as a rapper’s manager luke probably was ready to take the fall as soon as the bag was questioned.

nequalsone: earn explicitly says to paperboi that he placed the gun into clark’s bag after he board’s the plane.
posted by JimBennett at 9:51 AM on May 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks JimBennett. I guess I reconstructed that scene in my head without that bit of dialogue because it just made sense to me that Earn would have put it in Luke's bag.

I also had myself mostly convinced that Luke was the DJ in the first episode of Season 1 that Earn knew (from college?) but obviously didn't like, who asked for money to play Paperboi's track and casually used the N word. So I was thinking here is this guy that always around and always doing a little better than Earn and now he's moving in on Earn's situation with Al and Earn finally got his chance for revenge. But I looked it up and it turns out: totally different guy.
posted by nequalsone at 10:51 AM on May 14, 2018

It makes a lot more sense for Earn to put the gun in Luke's bag than Clark's.

Sure. That's why it's a reversal. We expect that Earn put the gun into Luke's bag because the back half of this season — and this episode in particular — has been playing up Earn's anxiety over being fired as Al's manager (and quite possibly replaced by Luke). By taking Luke out of the equation, Earn substantially firms up his position with Al. We get a few moments to drink in the implications of this twist, and to be surprised that Earn had such a Machiavellian scheme inside him, waiting to be hatched.

And then, unexpectedly, Earn tells Al that he put the gun in Clark's bag. This ups the WTF drama, because now we have to wonder who Clark will blame for planting the gun in his bag. But it also suddenly changes our perception of Earn's actions.

Remember that someone (Earn?) commented earlier in the episode that Al, not Clark, should be headlining the tour. So by taking Clark out of the equation, Earn hopes (maybe naively but whatever) that Al will be promoted to headlining status on the gigs. Even when he screws the other guy over, he's screwing him over to the direct benefit of Al, not to the direct benefit of Earn. (Intuiting whether that revelation negatively impacts Al's newfound respect for him as a cutthroat is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
posted by Mothlight at 11:17 AM on May 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Well, that's not what I expected at all. I expected him to zip up the bag and say, "Yo, guys, I forgot to do something. I gotta go do this but I'll catch another flight," turn his back to the camera and start to walk away, and, because this is not a show where Earn wins, have 5 or 6 airport security guys fall from like 3 stories up and land on top of him screaming and the last shot is Earn on his stomach with his face pressed into the floor and a helpless "fuuuuuck me" look in his eyes.
posted by nequalsone at 1:59 PM on May 14, 2018

JimBennett: earn explicitly says to paperboi that he placed the gun into clark’s bag after he board’s the plane.

And it's edited as a bit of a cliff-hanger: Earn tells Alfred that "The piece was in Clark's bag," and then it cuts to Tracy with a lady and Chinese food, banging on Al's door.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:15 PM on May 16, 2018

The ‘Atlanta’ Season 2 Awards -- As “Robbin’ Season” comes to a close, the Ringer staff looks back on its best episodes, performances, guest stars, and chocolate milk advertisements
posted by filthy light thief at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd always heard the crabs thing as people who think you can only escape by dragging others down, to climb on top of them. Either way I think it works - there's a lot of people here trying to escape, and not enough resources for everyone to do it. So people turn on each other because there's not a lot of other options.
posted by harriet vane at 9:09 AM on September 15, 2018

File this under, "Well, of course," because FX has officially renewed Atlanta for Season 3. (T.V. Guide, June 7, 2018)
Here's the even better news: Since Glover, the creative power behind the series, doesn't currently have a Star Wars movie shoot on the books, Season 3 is expected to drop in 2019. That is still a ways away, but it's much better than the year and a half fans had to wait between Season 1 and Season 2 while Glover was in a galaxy far far away.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:24 AM on September 21, 2018

Hah -- almost a year to the day, I'm updating the progress on Season 3:

‘Atlanta’ Renewed for Season 4 at FX, Production on Seasons 3 and 4 to Begin Next Spring (The Wrap, August 6, 2019)
Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” has been renewed for a fourth season at FX before production on its previously-ordered third season has even begun.

The Season 4 renewal was announced during the cable channel’s day at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday, when it was also revealed that production on both upcoming seasons — which are eight episodes apiece — is scheduled to begin next spring.

But we still don’t have a shooting location for the show, which films in its title city, and Glover and FX have yet to address how Georgia’s anti-abortion law may or may not affect the show’s decision to continue to film in that state (previously).
Effin' Georgia. I'm sorry for all who live and work there, given the actions by the conservative, regressive politicians.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:07 PM on September 20, 2019

Atlanta Season 3 Premiere Pushed Back to (January) 2021, with Season 4 to follow in Fall 2021 [TV Guide]
FX President John Landgraf addressed the issue at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, telling reporters, "[Donald Glover] came back to us recently because things went so well in the writer's room and asked if we would support 10 episodes [in Season 3]... and we said yes," Landgraf said. "As of now, the second will be 8 [episodes]... They're going to shoot them all in sequence, and a good chunk of it shoots outside the United States which is fascinating to me although a lot of it will shoot, or at least be located in Atlanta. And then, the plan is that one would air in January, so early next year, and then the other will air I think late that year, somewhere around the fall. So they'll be less than a year break between them."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:04 AM on February 14, 2020

Obviously late to watching the show, but enjoyed it greatly. “Oops, I left a gun in my backpack” style anxiety is my least favorite type of anxiety so every time he touched or moved the backpack I was cringing (especially loading the kid into the car) even though I knew it would end up at the airport. Still, I had to laugh when they were leaving the classroom and one of the wall decorations was a big cartoon backpack with the text “What is in my backpack?” written on it, complete with a winking face!
posted by mikepop at 9:09 PM on January 22, 2021

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