After suffering a delay in 2019 and welcoming the first teaser in December 2021, Atlanta's anticipated third season finally returned to our TV screens and did not disappoint. Now that the season's finale has come and gone, I must ask an important question: Are we ready to admit that the best part about the third season of Atlanta was the anthology episodes?
Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoyed season three as a whole, especially the episodes centered around characters Earn, Alfred, Darius, and Van during their European tour (stale baguettes, anyone?).
With Donald Glover — whose musical alias Childish Gambino gave us "This Is America" – behind Atlanta's wheel, the season featured a fair share of table-shaking topics like performative fashion brands and eyebrow-raising appearances from celebrities like Alexander Skarsgård and Liam Neeson (?).
Unlike the previous seasons, which focused solely on the OG cast, the third season saw an experimental shift. Donald Glover went sort of Black Mirror on us, incorporating spooky yet A1 anthology episodes where we were introduced to new characters and storylines each time.
Though viewers had mixed feelings about Atlanta's third run overall, these filler episodes were arguably the crème de la crème of this season. So good, I decided to rank them, not on a scale from best to worst but Emmy-worthy to scary-good.
1. Emmy-Worthy: "Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga"
In this wild run of an episode, we basically witness the character Aaron go from having the persona of a local white racist kid to Jack Harlow with a fresh cut (though, in Aaron's defense, he had a Black father and assumably white mother).
The high school senior refused to embrace his Blackness (for context, he had a signed Logan Paul shirt in his room) until it became key to receiving a full ride to his dream college.
Tastefully shot in black and white, the episode touches on topics centered on Blackness and passing. The chef's kiss moment? Fresh-cut Aaron concludes the episode by looking in the camera and shrugging his shoulders after reshooting his shot at his white ex-girlfriend.
You also have to appreciate the "Blackness auditions" for the college scholarships, spearheaded by Robert S. Lee (played by the late and controversial figure Kevin Samuels).
2. Golden: "Trini 2 De Bone"
Let me first start by saying that this episode is just like the title suggests, "Trini 2 De Bone," from the song itself being played at Sylvia's funeral to Sebastian's love for spicy curry mango.
Oh, and I can't forget Chet Hanks basically playing himself, aka an American white man who speaks in a non-inherited Trinidadian accent (another epic punchline by Glover).
The episode also took me through a rollercoaster of emotions. I was content with how Sylvia's influence molded Sebastian into this cultured, pure soul. Then, on the other hand, I was conflicted by the fact Sylvia's tireless work helped to provide for her family and thus, resulted in less time and care for her own children.
Nonetheless, I'm glad Sebastian's dad finally opened the envelope containing Sylvia and Sebastian's adorably dapper portraits.
3. Pleasing: "The Big Payback"
Simply put, Atlanta's "The Big Payback" episode is about reparations — essentially, a more serious yet satirical take on the Chappelle Show's "Reparations" episode – which ends up being a horror story for white people but a triumphant tale for Black people.
Marshall Johnson's life gets turned upside down when a Black woman Sheniqua sues him as a result of his family owning her great-great-grandfather during slavery, showing up at his home and job for her dues.
The Atlanta episode ends on a rather pleasing note, to say the least. After losing his corporate job, Johnson, now a waiter, gives a portion of his paychecks to Sheniqua, appearing freed from guilt and embracing a sense of hope for a future just society.
4. Scary-Good: "Three Slaps"
"Three Slaps" earned the scary-good rank because it was just that: scary and good. Serving as the season opener, Glover basically recreated the chillingly true story of Jen and Sarah Hart.
Atlanta's season premiere touches on several aspects of the couple's haunting story, including the viral picture of their adopted son hugging a police officer, the abuse of the household's six adopted Black children, and the sickening murder-suicide that resulted in the death of the kids and them.
Instead of mimicking the story's IRL tragic outcome, Atlanta gives one of the kids' a happy ending, allowing him to escape from the disturbing event and return home to his mother.
The premiere episode also references Atlanta's reportedly haunted Lake Lanier, formerly a Black community called Oscarville that was flooded due to a racist attack.
Though residents are more than welcome to the lake, drownings and boating accidents (and reports of being grabbed underwater) keep true Atlanta-ians clear from the scene. Spooky.