Atlanta’s fourth season kicked off with two back-to-back episodes on Sept. 15, but the second episode, “The Homeliest Little Horse,” might be one of the most crucial of the entire series. The episode peeled back the many layers surrounding the show’s main character Earnest “Earn” Marks (Donald Glover) and finally revealed the reason why he dropped out of Princeton University. At the start of the series, we met Earn as a struggling college dropout, who in order to make ends meet and provide for his daughter, convinces his cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) to let him manage his music career.
Now that things have finally settled for them and they have found success, Earn is at a point in his life and his career where he can pause and reflect on how his past has affected him and is still controlling the way he operates in the world. The episode kicks off with Al laughing and roasting Earn over the phone when he says he’s on his way to therapy, joking that he’s paying him too much money since he’s “giving it away.” The Sopranos already covered the whole aspect of tough men secretly going to therapy in fear of being shamed more than 20 years ago, but that exchange between Al and Earn is a reminder that the conversation surrounding Black men, vulnerability, and therapy still has ways to go.
Earn begins the conversation with his therapist, Everette Tillman (Sullivan Jones), and he begins to talk about having heart problems and a tightness in his chest, which his doctors have told him could be due to depression, panic attacks, or anxiety. Earn doesn’t believe them because things are going well in his life, like his probation ending and Princeton asking him to speak at an event. The therapist continues to probe more, and slowly Earn reveals that he’s actually deciding whether to accept a job offer in Los Angeles that could take him away from his daughter Lottie, which starts causing tension in his chest during the session—hinting that his stresses and anxieties might just be behind the physical symptoms he’s experiencing.