Atlanta 2×11 – “Crabs In A Barrel” Review

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The end has arrived for Atlanta: Robbin’ Season and what a fantastic close this season took. Before the season aired, Donald Glover promised that this season would be a lot more serialized than the previous, with a overarching plot rather than just a bunch of misc. episodes with no true tie to each other. While this seemed to not necessarily be true at first, episodes like Teddy Perkins, Barbershop, and Champagne Papi come to mind, everything came together in the end with Crabs In A Barrel. If there was a main overarching plot you can assign to Robbin’ Season, it’s that Earn has been failing as a manager to Al’s Paper Boi rap career and Al was starting to have doubts about Earn’s continued employment. Earn also ruined his relationship with Van and we never really got a conclusion to how he felt about things or if he had any regrets. This episode finally addresses and concludes every lingering thread of the season in a satisfying manner, while also leaving possibilities and trials open for the future.

Earn is in full manager mode for the entire runtime of this episode. It’s the most we’ve ever seen him do and there’s some valid reasons behind this. Paper Boi is heading on a European tour with Clark County and it’s basically Earn’s last chance to prove that he has what it takes to manager Al before he gets the cut. There’s a lot of shit that needs to be done before Al can go on tour, which includes getting a entertainment lawyer in case things go south, pack up his apartment, and also pack for the tour itself. Mixed in with all of this, Earn also has to take a detour for a parent-teacher conference with Van about Lottie, which is where we see how Earn and Van’s relationship has gone since their rough time in Helen. The lawyer meeting doesn’t go so great with Earn and Al as the lawyer’s client list only includes reality stars and low tier rappers. Al insists he’d rather have a Jewish lawyer and that the lawyer being black isn’t much of a factor, though Earn seems to think so.

Earn and Al part ways for now as Earn makes his way to the school to meet up with Van. They’re expecting the worst news, but actually find it’s a good reason that they were brought to the school. Lottie is accelerating at a greater pace than the other children and the teacher recommends that Earn and Van enroll Lottie into a private school where she can actually learn more rather than be stuck in her current school that the teacher even flat out says is terrible. Everything seems great until both parents realize a private school means they’ll be needing more money and since Van still doesn’t currently work, it’d all fall on Earn and his manager dollars. This revelation raises the stakes for Earn as he wants to look out for his family and provide Lottie with the best opportunities he can, but he can only do so if he stays on as Al’s manager. Before departing, Earn and Van share some somber words together about their expectations of Lottie and the future. You can tell that they both still care about each other, but the aftermath of Helen has definitely caused a rift between them that will be hard to fix.

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As part of preparing to pack, Earn has to also accompany Darius to get a new passport. Since the location is Jewish centric, Earn decides to ask around for a good lawyer and receives some goods news. He also asks the question of the idea that a black lawyer can be as good as a Jewish one. The answer he receives is that they could be just as good, but the black one won’t have the connections the Jewish one would have…for systemic reasons. Earn is seriously asking this lawyer wise, but it can also be seen as him asking why Luke can be a better manager than him. Earn can work hard on becoming a better manager, but Luke will always have the better connections simply because he’s white. To add insult to injury, Earn gets a text from Van stating that she’s thinking of moving back to her mother’s with Lottie. The implication here is that her mother’s is outside of Atlanta, so Earn would lose the both of them in this process. The idea of losing his manager job and his family in one motion gets too much for him and Earn looks to Darius for some guidance seeing as he’s always calm and at peace with what life throws at him.

This ends up being one of my favorite scenes of the episode as Darius sits with Earn and states things as real as possible, just as he did at the end of Teddy Perkins to Teddy. He doesn’t know if Al is going to drop Earn, but he agrees that Earn has been getting better as a manager. Darius also explains that failure is necessary in learning, but Al can’t afford to have too much failure around him right now as two black men failing isn’t something they can have. So Al has to make the best move and dropping Earn might be it, but he’ll still always look out for Earn. The duo then make their way to the old couch in the field from Season 1, the first time it’s been seen this season. Al is waiting and Earn initially tries to talk out the situation between them before Darius arrives, but Al says to wait until they make it to Europe. The trio then just chill and take in the moment, with Darius desperately trying to get Earn to smoke. The battle for Earn’s job is still on the line, however, so Earn wants to take no risks in messing anything up.

Despite all of Earn’s hard work in the day, there is still one moment that he left forgotten and unnoticed, until it’s almost too late. The group arrives at the airport and meets up with Clark and Luke. Luke is warm with Al and even ponders if he got the details about a lawyer that he sent Al’s way. Luke is once again a step ahead of Earn and it’s becoming increasingly worrying that Luke will win the battle for Al. They get to TSA and start to unpack everything from their backpacks and carry-ons, to which Earn notices that he has a gun in his backpack. Back in episode 1 of this season, Earn received a gun from his Uncle Willy, told that he’d need it in the music business. When he came back to Al’s that night, he pulled it out to show it off, where he received laughter in return instead of the respect he thought he’d get. Al told him to get rid of it, but Earn stashed it in Al’s belongings instead, where it was then found while Al was packing up stuff earlier in this episode. Earn once again puts it in his backpack and is told to get rid of it yet again, but with everything going on he simply forgets and now is in the bind of his life. If he’s caught with the gun at TSA, Al’s done with him. If he is forced to stay behind because he has the gun, Al’s done with him. So there’s only one clear decision that comes to Earn’s mind.

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He asks Clark for a bin to place his laptop in and while Clark’s back is turned, he slips the gun in Clark’s bag. If Clark is caught with the gun, he’ll be taken off the tour and Al will headline it, resulting in more money and publicity for them. Earn is thinking with Al’s best interests at heart and unbeknownst to him, Al notices the sleight of hand that takes place. He confronts Earn once they arrive on the plane and at first it seems like he’s going to disapprove of the tactic, but he instead praises it and informs Earn that’s exactly what he needs from a manager. Someone to look out for him and actually gives a fuck about who he is and what he needs. Someone who is willing to bring down others if it means that they can rise out of the barrel. Sadly for them, Clark also knows this mentality and arrives on the plane. When Al questions what happened, Clark reveals that the gun was in Luke’s bag and he got busted by TSA. Earn knows he put the gun in Clark’s bag, so that means Clark sacrificed his manager just as Earn was going to sacrifice Clark. So Earn may have won the battle to be Al’s manager, but it seems they’ll have a problem on their hands with Clark in the future as he surely knows it was them that planted the gun.

“Crabs In A Barrel” brought everything full circle in the season and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Will next season start up right after the plane and see the group in Europe for this tour? Or will we timeskip back to Atlanta after the tour and see the results. Seeing as the series is called Atlanta, I’m assuming the latter, but either way it’s exciting times ahead for Earn, Al, and Darius. I’m also interested to see if Earn will be able to patch up his relationship with Van and if they’ll ever end up being the “happy two parent household” that the teacher says would be the 2nd best thing for Lottie outside of a private school. Here’s hoping Season 3 comes faster than this one did as I’d like to not wait until 2020 to see the follow-up.

Crabs In A Barrel – 5 out of 5

Author: alexsobecki

A 22 year old who has learned to love and embrace the right-brained nature about himself. Follow me on Twitter @AlexSobecki

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