Admit it: When you heard that FX would be airing this week's episode of Atlanta commercial-free, you knew it was about to be some shit, right? For a show that's already approaching black life on TV from a different angle than practically any show before it, even this was a huge feat—especially when it was announced that the episode would have a 41-minute runtime. That's practically the length of most hourlong TV shows (with commercials), and was set to give LaKeith Stanfield's Darius much more room to breathe, which was great considering that the episode we were given, "Teddy Perkins," was the closest thing to Get Out since...well, Get Out.
Ed. Note: If you haven't watched this week's episode of Atlanta, do not pass go. You will be spoiled.
The episode starts out innocently enough; Darius hops in a U-Haul to pick up a piano that he'd be getting for free. He happens upon an intriguing home, far bigger than anything we'd seen on the show before. The door's already open when he gets there, and he's introduced to a peculiar man who introduces himself as Teddy Perkins. The older gentleman is very fair-skinned, has a higher, awkward tone to this voice, and just moves in mysterious ways. He's eating a soft-boiled ostrich egg for Christ's sake! That should've been the first sign. Teddy then takes a mini hammer to the giant shell, beating it several times before severing membranes or whatever is inside of an egg, removing all kinds of disgusting pieces before consuming.
As we soon find out, Teddy says it's just him and his brother Benny Hope living in the mansion. Teddy explains that Benny's sick and can't go outside due to a skin condition, and he later shows Darius that Benny was, at one time, a well-known pianist. Oh, and their father used abuse to turn Teddy and Benny into great piano players. All the while, Darius is sensing something is awry and is looking for a way out, including calling Paper Boi to get his thoughts on the situation. Paper's take is to, of course, get out, before ending the call in laughter after being distracted by a picture when Earn Googled "Sammy Sosa hat" on his phone and shared the results.
After noticing a drop of blood on one of the piano keys, Darius is ready to bounce. He tries to remove the piano via the elevator, but gets redirected to the basement where he comes across a wheelchair-bound man who is completely covered up in a way that obscures his identity (Benny?). He doesn't talk but scribbles on a chalkboard for Darius to get a gun from the attic to take out Teddy. WTF!
Teddy's already hip to the plan and greets Darius in the parlor with a shotgun. Teddy reveals that he was setting Darius up all along and the piano was just a ploy to make it look like he murdered the man in the wheelchair during a home invasion. Surprisingly, Benny makes his way to the lobby to not only shoot Teddy dead, but also kill himself, leaving Darius shaken (and without that piano because it's now police evidence).
The thing is, there's a lot going on here. Poring over the theories reveals a number of things. First off, you come to realize that Atlanta Robbin' Season is more than just "people in the hood taking from others during the lead-in to the holidays."
ep. 4: "helen" - earn & van rob each other of a potential future together— mike taddow (@taddmike) April 6, 2018
ep. 5: "barbershop" - bibby robs everyone of time, honesty, money, lumber, trust
ep. 6: "teddy perkins" - a father robs his kids of their childhood, ends up with deadly consequences
Let's sit on that Episode 6 thought for a bit. The story Teddy Perkins tells is centered on their father's abusive parenting skills and how that can figuratively rob a child of their adolescence. This theory is weaved in a number of ways from the section of the house that's dedicated to his father's memory (complete with photos of the fathers of Marvin Gaye, the Williams sisters, and Michael Jackson) to this sly convo about rap never escaping its adolescence.
Teddy is seemingly baffled by the idea of a good time; perhaps it's because his love for music is also interwoven with the abuse he suffered for years at the hands of his father. And let's keep it a buck: What megastar does Teddy remind you of? If you said Michael Jackson... you're smelling what I'm stepping in. MJ was a big deal when he was a child, touring the country with his brothers as the Jackson Five. Under the rule of a strict, abusive father, he definitely lost out on being able to be a kid, hence the building of Neverland Ranch and all that came from it, both good and bad.
So did no one else catch that Michael Jackson's first song was 'Ben' (read music lyrics) and Teddy Perkins brother name was Benny. #AtlantaFX— Nakea Tyson (@FearlessKea) April 6, 2018
Keep in mind, there's also a whole other school of thought positing that, similar to Darius' line of thinking, Teddy Perkins and Benny Hope aren't two people at all, but the same person, and that the man in the wheelchair was really Teddy/Benny's father all along. That would add an additional, sinister level to this ultra-macabre tale, but ultimately, it wouldn't change the fact that "Teddy Perkins," outside of being one of the freakiest tales told on Atlanta (and on television in general), showed us once again how much of a craftsman Donald Glover is. I imagine he, or someone in the Atlanta writer's room, looked up from their joint and a plate of food and said, "What if Michael Jackson didn't end up dying, and became a creepy old man, ruminating on his life and what he lost to the point of torturing a loved one?" It highlights the brilliance of this show, which can elevate the funny and the fear of everyday life, all the while highlighting how overarching the Robbin' Season banner of the series truly is.