Atlanta: The Big Payback
April 8, 2022 1:23 PM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

A standalone speculative fiction episode this week: middle-class white guy Marshall deals with the fallout in his life from new reparations taxes on descendants of former slave-owners.

AV Club: this detour—a dark satire that tackles systemic racism and the concept of reparations, laying bare the worst nightmares of the anti-CRT brigade—is absolutely worth taking.

Vulture: Unintentionally, the episode exposes the limits of reparation without revolution.

Seppinwall: This one doesn’t work nearly as well as “Three Slaps,” though, and suggests there’s a limit to even this great show’s ability to do and be anything from one episode to the next.
posted by mediareport (11 comments total)
 
Wow, that final shot. So quietly powerful.

"Black Mirror" for sure, in multiple senses; always amazing how powerful a fantasy inversion of the usual social structures can be. Some great moments, like the one Sepinwall calls out: the cut away from Lester the co-worker when Marshall asks his advice about what to do - that was perfect. The "Daddy are we racist?" conversation in the car was sharp and unsettling, and is definitely on the anti-CRT crowd's nightmare list. Beautifully directed, even if the sum of the parts didn't hit as hard as I was hoping it would early on.

I'm not sure what to make of Orange Ernest showing up as the Conscience of Whiteness talking about curses again; that monologue where he sloowly spelled out some obvious themes of the episode seemed unnecessary, but that's Orange Ernest, I guess. We'll probably see him again before long.
posted by mediareport at 1:51 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


Fantastic. Charlie Brooker in shambles right now - Black Mirror wishes it was this good.
posted by adrianhon at 12:18 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what to make of Orange Ernest showing up as the Conscience of Whiteness talking about curses again; that monologue where he sloowly spelled out some obvious themes of the episode seemed unnecessary, but that's Orange Ernest, I guess.

That stuck out to us too. It certainly added to the surrealistic atmosphere of the episode, kind of reminded me of a stage play. Perhaps he is some avatar of the Earn character? Like an Earn from an alternate dimension, and how he would analyze and react to the situation if he were white? Honestly, I'm still digesting this episode.
posted by ishmael at 2:02 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


“Three Slaps” generated some laughs from the smug obliviousness of the white foster moms, but for the most part treated Loquareeous as the victim of a genuinely dangerous and horrifying circumstance. Here, Marshall is presented as both the victim and the butt of the joke. There’s a long history of comedies with losers at the center. But in this case, Marshall is such a forgettably milquetoast character that almost none of the jokes land(*), and the show’s attempts to escalate the premise instead feel repetitive.

I feel like this is like when you're sitting around with friends making jokes and everything is hilarious as long as someone else is the butt, but as soon as they get around to you they've taken a step too far, no matter if it's funny or not. Everything that happened to Marshal happened because every time he had a chance to engage with Sheniqua as a person he didn't see her that way, so he didn't. It's not "attempts to escalation the premise", it's "telling a story with a clear point of view". If he HAD seen Sheniqua as a person, he would have simply done what Lester said, which would have been respectable & anti-racist, nothing else that happened to Marshal had to happen.
posted by bleep at 8:28 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


To me it's the height of fragility to see someone doing to your people what your people did to them and cry about how it's not funny enough. I thought it was hilarious.
posted by bleep at 8:30 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


for the most part treated Loquareeous as the victim of a genuinely dangerous and horrifying circumstance. Here, Marshall is presented as both the victim and the butt of the joke.

I'm sorry, I can't get over this. These were real children who were murdered by their parents, and this reviewer sees fit to compare a realistic recounting of their criminal mistreatment to a fictional story about a victim of his own actions in order to gin up sympathy for a fictional, satirical idiot? It's absurd & disgraceful.
posted by bleep at 9:04 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


This episode could also unironically be aired on Fox News channel.
posted by Marticus at 2:53 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what to make of Orange Ernest showing up as the Conscience of Whiteness talking about curses again; that monologue where he sloowly spelled out some obvious themes of the episode seemed unnecessary, but that's Orange Ernest, I guess.

I think it's a lot more of a cutting indictment of a certain sector of the white audience - those that would express the obvious smugwoke position of 'a large portion of what I have is because I was advantaged by a system built on centuries of POC blood, a just system would address that inequality even if it cost me personally' but still be completely unable to cope when trying to reconcile living with that actually coming to pass. Honestly, that was the part of the episode that seemed so obviously telegraphed as soon as Earnest stepped away from the conversation - I actually turned to my partner saying "and then, bang" about thirty seconds before he reached for the gun - but it's also the part that made me most closely squint at my own positions and convictions.

Marshall is a schlub who doesn't want to examine his own position in society, but in the end he's still able to accommodate to the changes and find some kind of peace in the new economic strata he finds himself in (one that is *still* majority POC, even after the reparations). Earnest talks the talk, but lacks the strength to actually continue in the world of changes he claims to support.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:07 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Marticus, can you say more about that?

Or maybe it's better if you don't.
posted by allthinky at 9:51 AM on April 16


It was just a pithy comment that they would show it as a horror movie of what would happen if the libs won.
posted by Marticus at 8:11 PM on April 16


This cut very sharp for me. Very intense television.
posted by Nelson at 10:21 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


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