The world is sleeping on Donald Glover, he is the new-aged definition of an entertainment go-getter: actor, writer, and an entertainment aficionado. From portraying Troy on "Community" to being a part of the writing team on "30 Rock "to rapping under his moniker Childish Gambino (remember the song "Heartbeat?"). Some could say that this is just the beginning for Glover. He has accomplished it all and he is only thirty-three years old. With his resume dripping in success, it is hard to believe he found the time to start yet another task to take on and this time as an executive producer for the little-known hit show "Atlanta" on FX.
Ever heard of the show "Atlanta"? If not, it is a show on FX that only a few people know of. If you do know of it, it could be because Donald Glover was the main protagonist of the entire show. Not to say that is the sole reason why people tuned in; however, it could be a likely reason.
"Atlanta" & David Lynch
Anyone and everyone who loves television knows of David Lynch; his unique directing style has been closely tied to minimalism. “Lynchian's” out there know his popular television show "Twin Peaks" which aired between 1990 and 1991 embodies that signature style. Lynch’s minimalism is the use of three plot points that move the plot along; out of those three plot points, one is the main plot. While this may seem contradictory to the minimalistic and simplistic style, it only confirms the notion of minimalism (more on this later). "Atlanta" borrows this minimalistic style in the similar fashion that Lynch introduced it.
Helmed by David Lynch and returning to the small screen in May 2017 much to the delight of fans worldwide, the cultural legacy of "Twin Peaks" cannot be understated. David Lynch, throughout his career, is an entertainment go-getter in much the same respect as Glover. Lynch has worked on numerous films and television shows since 1990 such as "Louie," "Thank You Judge," And "Zelly And Me." That is not among the countless others that use his signature esoteric and dreary style that he has directly influenced the likes of Veronica Mars," "Bates Motel," "Hannibal," "X-Files" and most of all "Atlanta."
To quote Donald Glover from an e-news article (which is no longer accessible online, but can be seen here):
"Twin peaks was this show I really liked...it was very strange and had a lot of almost, for millennials, was lost-esque at the time," he explained. "A lot of questions would come up with no real answers and there was a mystery, and I kind of wanted to do a show that had those elements but for people who were rappers."
David Lynch was the perfect person to derive notes from while making the show "Atlanta" and Glover knew that. That is why he wanted to make a “Twin Peaks for rappers.”
When it comes to the first episode of both counterparts they are stylistically and visually similar in countless ways. The vibes are esoteric, meaning that you get something bad is going to happen or already has happened in the show prior to you seeing it. "Twin Peaks" does this very well by making it known that a murder has taken place and that something evil is lurking in town.
In the first episode of "Twin Peaks" titled, 'Pilot’ and ‘Northwest Passage’ the gloomy vibes, right off the bat, start to blossom. The episode begins with the character, Josie Packard, looking into the mirror and humming a daunting tune. The sound of dreary music plays in the background, foreshadowing an ominous event. The music is accentuated by the opaque and dark pigmentation used to color the scene and that makes the music seem unwelcoming.
The fisherman decides to take his morning routine such as any other day when he encounters a dead body. Upon seeing the body at the sawmill the fisherman runs back to town screaming and calling for harry, the policeman of "Twin Peaks." This is how viewers are introduced to the beginning of the show.
The same ominous beginnings are seen in the show "Atlanta." In the episode "The Big Bang," within the first seconds, we see Paper Boi’s side view mirror being kicked off. The pair, which could be assumed a couple, is confronted by Paper Boi who demands they pay for it. This scene resembles "Twin Peaks" with its use of dark and pale blacks and blues. After arguing, paper Boi brings out a gun and shoots the male in the chest. The gunshot is heard ‘round the world as the camera zooms out in a grand theft auto picturesque scene. This scene depicts the beginning of "Atlanta."
Opening the show with these two scenes was an intentional choice by Lynch and Glover. First and foremost, both shows have a murder that happened previous to the episode airing; in the case of "Atlanta," the murder is happening in this episode, except it’s from the past. Darius mentions the feeling of déjà vu in this scene (which will come up later), cluing viewers in that time is going backward and not forward.
Why is this show something we needed?
While "Atlanta" may be minimalistic in style when it comes to the show itself, a lot is happening and nothing is happening at the same time. That means if you went up to two people and asked them separately what "Atlanta" was about – they could both say different things. One could express how the show contains many plot points and that is why it is great.
However, the other could say that it does not contain many plot points and that is what makes it great for them. They are both right in that circumstance. Much like "Twin Peaks," "Atlanta" defines these characters by showing so little of their lives. Which means, we get who they are by decisions they make, attitudes they have in certain circumstances, and how they communicate with people they encounter - not exposition.
Most of what we see is depicted in three scenes: Earn, Alfred (Paper Boi), and Darius smoking weed in Alfred’s apartment, Earn in bed with the mother of his child/best friend Vanessa, and random scenes that pull together the rest of the show. This is what "Twin Peaks" does very well in the same retrospect. "Twin Peaks" has two main scenes and the rest is scenic backdrops that pull together the rest of the show. This ties into the three plot points mentioned before. "Atlanta" and "Twin Peaks" both contain these three plot points.
Lynch has played with the idea that the suffering artist is a romantic concept; and, "Atlanta" played on this idea that Lynch has perfected in many of his films today. Understanding the idea of a suffering artist as one whole concept is a difficult one to portray. "Atlanta" uses the example of Earn and Alfred.
Earnest 'Earn' himself is a hardworking Princeton dropout who is the manager of his cousin Alfred (Paper Boi), helping to get Alfred’s music career off the ground. Both Alfred and Earn suffer, Alfred in the artist sense and Earn in the financial sense.
Earn is living in his baby mother Vanessa’s house and does not know where he wants to go with his life. Therefore, Alfred, who is a rapper, is learning the difference between the two concepts and teaching Earn at the same time. Throughout the basis of the show, it is about figuring out that the 'rap game' is entirely different from reality. You can try to intertwine the two, but it does not work out the way you plan it.
In "Go for Broke" (s1, e3) you see Paper Boi and Earn side-to-side trying to deal with what it means to be starving and suffering. Paper Boi is attempting to get into the 'hustle' business (what one can assume is the drug business) and Earn is taking Vanessa on a date at a five-star restaurant and he's completely broke.
Side-by-side you see both trying to make suffering and starving into a whole concept, which they never learn themselves by the end of the season. This episode shows that it is not just about starving and suffering, you should want more than that. You should aim for more than that.
Earn is the prime suspect when you want to talk about the romantic concept of starving and suffering. Earn makes the starving and the suffering into one whole concept with his love life. He is suffering and starving romantically because, at the same time, he wants to prove his love for Vanessa; however, on the other hand, he also does not want to be broke all his life. Throughout the course of the show, you see that he must choose which is more important to him and in most cases, he chooses the manager side of the starving and suffering.
In "Juneteenth" (s1, e9) you, once again, see Earn as the starving and suffering romantic character. Earn is proving he can have both as a whole concept (that means: as a starving and suffering manager). Earn attends a party with Vanessa and they must pretend they are married and love fine art (essentially, act like they are Caucasian by putting on a different persona).
Throughout, Earn does what he can for Vanessa at this party and shows his compassion and strive for their relationship. At the same time, he also goes off on a couple for insulting Paper Boi and his 'management' career. This proves that he can do both, even if he does not realize it. Earn often believes he should choose between the two as if they are choices when they are not. This only proves that Earn can his cake and eat it too if he so pleases.
Lynch finds himself perfecting the idea of abstract emotions and plots throughout his directing. Both "Atlanta" and "Twin Peaks" achieve this standard. The abstract emotions that play a part in their daily lives do not affect what is currently happening. Yes, Earn constantly has issues with Vanessa – but, that does not bleed into the plot. When Earn, Alfred, and Darrius are on the couch smoking weed, those previous emotions are not being presented in this plot point. The emotions being presented are a thought or an idea, but they exist separately from what is going on with the characters.
The focus on going backward and not forward in certain scenes and instances is where the abstract plots come into play. "Twin Peaks" is the story of a girl who was murdered and they are going back to find out who did it. "Atlanta" did that perfectly in compliance to Lynch and "Atlanta" focused on the idea of going backward in the trailers released prior to the show. When the first episode started, it was ending of the episode rather than the beginning. Therefore, it was an indication of going backward and the déjà vu that Darrius stated was real.
Lynch has a spectacular way of making a television even better with his musical abilities. This is something he did not invent by any means, but the "Twin Peaks" soundtrack is breathtaking. Finding a perfect balance between the television show and the scenes being presented is challenging. Throughout the years, we have had examples of television shows that have done it wrong. Corresponding music with the pace of the show and knowing where those transitions lie is a gift. Knowing the perfect time to put them is what makes the show even more outstanding to the viewer.
This can be seen throughout the entire season of "Atlanta." The soundtrack itself is not short of amazing, it features the songs: "Broccoli" by D.R.A.M, "Skrt" by Kodak Black, "Grandma's Hands" by Bill Withers, "Real Sisters" by Future and "Elevator" (Me & You) by Outkast. This does not include the many others that made the show a delight to watch.
At the end of the day...
Why is this so important for millennials to know?
Minimalist television seems to be just the beginning of something that Lynch helped, among other directors, bring to the surface. This is not a Lynch conspired idea, other directors have tried their way with this minimalistic style; however, Lynch does a brilliant job of it and that is why "Twin Peaks" was a fitting example.
"Twin Peaks" was completely beyond its years and it follows suit with shows such as, Daria and Freaks and Geeks that were canceled too soon. They identified with the similar style that Lynch was perfecting. "Atlanta" did not overdo the millennial minimalist view, it was simplistic. As Glover states, the show has a 'lost-esque' vibe and you get that from the episodes of "Atlanta."
This is a show for the century; it does not only reveal what Glover can do as a director, but what he will do. Glover can write, direct, and produce in any way he so pleases and the fact that he chose a minimalistic way proves how powerful he is. Glover is a force to be reckoned with in 2017 and beyond.
"Atlanta" is what we all needed in our lives. I don't think we have seen someone reciprocate Lynchs’ ideas, as well as, Glover did. Glover shows us how to properly adapt someone’s ideas besides your own without taking the idea entirely and claiming it to be yours. This is important today -- to know where that line rests. Glover here’s to you and season two of "Atlanta!"