Atlanta has been known to get weird time to time. Donald Glover even once referred to it as “Twin Peaks with rappers”. This episode right here though took the weirdness to another level and proves that Atlanta won’t let any limits stop it. I already knew something was up when I learned that this episode would be aired completely commercial free and once you see the episode, you’d understand why. It’s a tension filled slow burn that can basically be considered a mini Get Out, even going further on the nose by having it be a Darius focused episode (Lakeith Stanfield was in Get Out, just for you unaware). While I did love the horror vibes that radiated throughout the episode, I also found myself very drawn to the main theme which was explored: the robbing of childhood.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the titular Teddy Perkins and his brother Benny Hope are stand-ins for Michael Jackson, sharing the musical background, bleaching of their skin that they mask as a skin disease, and a troubled relationship with their father. Both of the brothers have sectioned themselves off in their mansion, with Teddy taking care of Benny as his conditions are worse enough to leave him sensitive to light and in a wheelchair. Darius stumbles upon Teddy’s home in attempts to get a piano he saw for free online, but ends up being a pawn in Teddy’s insane game against his brother. While they both were taught piano by their abusive father, Benny ended up being the one to gain success off of it. Meanwhile, Teddy remained in the background, having endured the abuse, but getting no fruits from the pain. This obviously lead to a sibling rivalry and Teddy schemes this today together to murder his brother and put the blame on Darius, staging it as a home invasion where Darius had broke in to steal the piano.
Darius knows right away that something is off about Teddy, though he originally just believes (and makes the audience believe as well) that Teddy and Benny are one in the same and that Benny created the Teddy personality due to an inability to accept who he was. Darius explains this theory in the only breath of fresh air scene of the episode where he calls Alfred to inform him of what’s going on at the mansion. With absolutely no commercials to decompress the tension, I was very thankful to get this scene with everyone joking around with Sammy Sosa skin bleaching jokes, all the while Alfred is having his own hilarious problems with a drive-thru and his demands for wanting no fries with his meal. That’s not to say this scene is the only comedy of the episode, but it’s basically the only comedy that doesn’t include a bit of darkness to it. Darius’ interactions with Teddy do lead to some dark comedy, like Teddy listing off all the “great” fathers of the world and actually listing fathers who abused their children as well.
Darius’ idea of the Teddy situation changes when he finally gets a chance to leave with the piano, but ends up taking a detour to the basement of the mansion instead. Here he finds Benny, who reveals to him that Teddy plans to kill both of them and instructs Darius to fight back with a gun in the attic. Darius refuses this and decides to attempt an escape with the piano, only to find he’s blocked in by Teddy’s car. A confrontation with Teddy shows that Teddy became wise to Benny’s plan and found the gun. He then escorts Darius downstairs where he breaks down the idea of killing his brother and putting the blame on Darius. A surprise appearance by Benny, who has a gut wound meaning Teddy had already tried to kill him, saves Darius when he picks up the gun Teddy had and kills him before also killing himself. This series of events leaves both brothers dead in their feud and Darius left without the piano he came for as it’s taken into police custody.
As I said before, the part that I enjoy the most about the episode is its focus on the robbing of childhood. Teddy and Benny didn’t get the chance to enjoy their childhood as they were verbally and physically abused by their father to become proficient at the piano and music. This leads to Teddy having the idea that great things have to come from pain and there’s no other way as that’s what he experienced in his life. He even praises his father for his abusive method of teaching, which is why he wants to dedicate a part of the Benny Hope museum to “great” fathers. It’s a dark topic for Atlanta to cover, but one that is very real, just as Michael Jackson himself had endured. Darius counters at the end of the episode that pain doesn’t have to be the source of great things and love can instead fill that void. He mentions Stevie Wonder, who is brought up multiple times and whose music opens and ends the episode, stating that though Stevie was born blind he didn’t let it get him down as he could see through his music, opting for love to overshine the pain of being blind.
This may end up being the most ambitious episode of Atlanta, though I’m sure Donald and his crew will attempt to one-up it later down the line. As for now, it’s a solid piece of television and show that Atlanta isn’t only just a comedy, but can have serious shots in the direction of drama. “Teddy Perkins” is easily the best of this season thus far and I can’t wait to see how Atlanta continues to move forward for the rest of these 4 episodes. Also, it took me until maybe 3/4th into the episode to realize Donald Glover was playing Teddy Perkins.
Teddy Perkins – 5 out of 5
- Darius has always mostly been a sidekick character, so it was great for him to finally have a solo episode…and then this be the one of all things.
- The eeriness of Teddy Perkins is so strong. His entire mansion being dark, his odd habits, soft voice, and those brief moments where he lets his anger get the best of him.
- The Alfred/Earn/Tracy interlude scene was hilarious and well-needed. “I put some extra fries in there.” “Take them out.” “Just don’t eat them, damn!”
- The Teddy Perkins makeup is a great disguise for Donald Glover. The thing that gave it away for me was his high pitched yelling at Darius.
- Can Atlanta just become an hour long series? Please?