|Photo: FX/Guy D'Alema|
Poor Earn. Literally. Atlanta's third episode, the aptly titled "Go For Broke," concerns itself with the perennial question "where dem dollas at?" They sure as shit aren't in Earnest's pocket, as he's been reduced to attempting to order a kids' meal from an employee who's all about the P's & Q's of corporate policy. You know the kind, and clearly Glover and Co. do too, as the worker's switch from super serious minister of fast food protocol to bright and cheery "sure!" when Earnest asks for a free cup of water was disturbingly accurate.
But I digress. Like last week's "Lock Down," this episode splits Earnest and Alfred/Paperboi up early on and follows the two cousins down the rabbit hole of their respective days. For Earn, that means scraping together enough coins to take Van out of on a fancy date, while Alfred and Darius hope they simply survive the night after a trip to visit his drug connect goes decidedly to the left.
The series' two-part premiere revealed early on Alfred was a street pharmacist, and Alfred himself made it clear he was less interested in being a kingpin and more in just paying the bills. However, in the wake of his recent brush with fame via a convenience store shooting, his day job is becoming more precarious. What as supposed to a routine re-up trip with Darius turns into a journey to the center of the forest. No sooner than they roll up than guy pops out of the dope boys' RV in his da dun di das (a.k.a. undies --Urban Dictionary also cites da dunts da dunts, so take your pick), begging for mercy. The guy in charge lets him put his clothes and make a run for it before grabbing a firearm and killing him.
Later, the shooter questions why Alfred is suddenly ordering more than usual, but luckily Earn breaks the tension by calling and asking for $20 to help pay for his dinner date. Though he leaves unscathed-physically anyway--Alfred is visibly shook up by what he witnessed, which may have him rethinking his cousin's glib suggestion he "just try not to die."
Earn's story contained no such life and death elements, but when you're forced to bicker with recently promoted day managers about kids' meals and have only $67 to your name on payday, it's hard not to feel like the walking dead. The two-part premiere dropped hints that, early-morning pillow talk aside, things are coming to a head in Earn and Van's complicated relationship. They technically aren't together, but Van obviously hasn't pushed Earnest firmly into ex-boyfriend territory either, given that he's living in her place and she bailed him out of jail. Yet she's also openly dating other guys.
Their dynamic is the classic dreamer-pragmatist. As a creative person myself, I can relate to Earn when asks Van why he has to compromise himself in order to be provide for his child. But, as someone who doesn't have crumbsnatchers but does have bills, I can also lift up my hands from the amen corner when Van responds to his "support my dream for the sake of our child" speech with a succinct "that's some dumb-ass shit Earn," and give a holy "yaass" when she calls him out for "turning me into the angry black woman" when she expresses understandable exasperation with his man-child tendencies. The clock is ticking on how long Van will indulge Earn's aimlessness, a countdown that may have started with his dropping out of Princeton but definitely began when they became parents.
The episode ends with Earnest calling to report his debit card stolen while cursing the taste of champagne. Ah, never change Earn.
--Darius insists on handcuffing himself to the briefcase containing the money, because why wouldn't he?
--The lead drug dealer that shot down random dope boy all The Most Dangerous Game style also mentions he's part of a rap group, which makes me think Alfred hasn't seen the last of him.
--"You smell like work. Is that kush?"
--I could be reading too much into this, but was there some subtly commentary going on with the close up shots of random dead dope boy's feet as he ran through the forest in the dark--i.e. like a runaway slave--and Earn and his co-worker's earlier quip about his lack of funds being like 12 Years A Slave?