In Atlanta’s “Sportin’ Waves,” Fame Can Be a Pain

Story posted March 9, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

Another week, another new episode of Atlanta. Season two of Donald Glover’s acclaimed FX series continues to be one of the most creative and introspective shows on TV and episode two is no exception. From real struggle to hilarious writing, “Sportin’ Waves” has plenty to offer this week. As always, if you are not all caught up on Atlanta, don’t read any further as there will be spoilers.

Much like the cold open of the first episode, “Sportin’ Waves” opens up with another depiction of the season two tagline “Robbin Season,” but this time it’s who Alfred falls victim to a robbery. While trying to buy marijuana, his drug dealer turns on him with a gun. The gunman apologizes throughout the entirety of the robbery, even going as far as telling Alfred that “he’ll pay him back.” An important distinction between both cold opens is the element of comedy in the second episode. While the first was very dark and gritty, the second takes a much more humorous approach. Themes of “Robbin Season” will likely continue to be spread throughout the season, whether it be a main character or a one-off role.

After the cold open, the main theme of the episode is introduced. Throughout the episode, Earn is trying to help Alfred get more exposure with his music and Alfred is trying to find a new drug dealer. These two storylines perfectly intertwine and help to highlight the priorities and personalities of both Earn and Alfred.

Earn seeks to help Alfred gain exposure with his music. In the beginning of the episode, Earn takes Alfred to a media distribution company in an effort to help him out. Throughout the duration of the scene, it’s clear that, despite Earn’s good intentions, Alfred is not feeling the vibe of the company. Earn and Alfred come across another rapper named Clark County, who seems to be fitting in just fine. Clearly, by personality alone, Clark County does not fit the gritty Atlanta rap scene that Alfred found success with. It’s not just Clark County either. The hard style that Alfred has done so well with doesn’t seem to be meshing too well with the company, despite them saying how much they like his music. This all culminates in a performance that Alfred is supposed to give in the office. As the music starts and he takes the stage, Alfred decides to cancel and walk out. Even though this would have been a great opportunity for him to gain extra exposure, Alfred didn’t want to sacrifice his integrity for success. This decision is respectable and adds an extra layer of depth for the character.

Aside from agreeing to try Earn’s plan, the majority of the episode sees Alfred trying to find a new drug dealer. Here is where Alfred experiences the minor nuisances of fame, meeting with two different dealers. The first creepily takes a picture of Alfred and Darius, then proceeds to take a second which he puts on Instagram, something Alfred doesn’t take kindly to. The second drug dealer makes a joke that he’ll give him a reduced price in exchange for a picture. Everything seems to be going fine, until he puts Alfred into a group chat between him and his girlfriend (who is a huge fan) and they immediately begin to text in the chat asking about grabbing drinks later that night, causing Alfred to ditch his phone completely. “Sportin’ Waves” spends a good amount of time exploring the mind of Alfred in the midst of his rising success. Because of this, simple interactions between someone like a drug dealer quickly turn into a way to exploit Alfred for his new found fame. Also, Alfred’s personality and rap style are beginning to prohibit him from easier access platforms that can sell him as a brand. Alfred does not approve of this plan to success and is clearly uncomfortable during his entire visit to the unnamed media distribution company. 

Aside from the overarching themes throughout the episode, a plot-line from episode four of season one was paid off in the form of cash. Back in season one, when Earn was struggling for cash, Darius gave him an opportunity to invest in the breeding of dogs. This investment was completed and never talked about again, until now. In the new episode, Darius hands Earn an envelope containing four thousand dollars, his payoff from the breeded dogs being sold. This is used as Earn’s sup-plot for the episode, where one of Alfred’s friends attempts to double Earn’s money on gift cards. The idea was mostly successful, although Earn did only narrowly escaped mall security with all his purchases after the card was shut off. 

With each new week, Atlanta continues to be fresh and inventive. This week’s episode was no different, offering plenty of laughs and character development. Earn is continuing to do all he can for Alfred’s career and Alfred is still struggling to deal with both the reality and grind of fame. Also as of this episode, Van is still nowhere to be seen. It’s unclear what she has been up to in the time between seasons and hopefully we’ll be given an answer to this question in the coming weeks. Check back every week for an in depth analysis and discussion on each new episode of Atlanta


Zach Hall is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email