FX’s Atlanta is a difficult show to recommend to someone. To simply describe it as “three guys living in Atlanta trying to make it in the rap game,” wouldn’t be doing it justice. There’s so much to unpack with each episode. As with many half-hour TV shows, the story doesn’t always follow a serialized structure. Atlanta does something else, though. Sometimes, each episode completely changes the genre. The three main regulars are Earn, Al (Paper Boi), and Darius.
Some episodes are downright hilarious from start to finish, but then the next one can get a little too real, maybe even terrifying. You could argue that each episode is its own experimental short film. We’re going to take a look at Atlanta’s most memorable episodes. These will be ranked purely based on their IMDb scores. Here are the top ten best episodes of Atlanta.
10 The Jacket (8.6)
The premise of Atlanta’s season one finale is simple: Earn wakes up hungover and he’s trying to recollect his memories from the previous night. Specifically, Earn is obsessed with finding his jacket, which we do not understand the importance of.
This episode is pretty funny throughout, but things take a dark turn close to the end as their Uber driver from the previous night is actually wearing Earn’s jacket, only to be gunned down by police since he’s discovered to be a weapons/drug dealer. Atlanta isn’t shy about showing violence, but there’s something so unsettling about how normal it felt in this world they’ve created.
9 Crabs In A Barrel (8.7)
The season two finale follows Earn reeling from the events back at the college campus show. Earn is trying to handle so many things on his plate, while also fearing that Al is ready to fire him for his incompetence throughout the season. While we do sympathize with Earn, we completely understand why Al has his reservations about keeping him on as manager.
For a season finale, it’s very low-key, well up until a tense sequence at the airport in the final few minutes. This season finale does end Robbin’ Season quite well. It leaves the door open for what’s to come as Paper Boi is now a household name and about to head on tour.
8 The Club (8.8)
If there’s one thing to take away from this episode, it’s that nightclubs can really suck sometimes. Everyone has this illusion that going out to the club is a fun thing to do on a weekend, but you can bet half the people there are actually having a miserable time. We see this from Earn’s perspective and his only goal that night is to get paid for Al making an appearance as Paper Boi.
There are some truly hilarious moments in this episode, such as every time the nightclub owner finds some way to avoid paying Earn. Its most memorable moment, however, has got to the invisible car that is involved in a hit and run outside of the club.
7 FUBU (8.9)
The theme that this episode tackles is definitely bullying, especially for such irrelevant and juvenile things such as wearing “fake” clothes. It allows us to take a breather from the previous episode since it tells an entire flashback story about the day Earn wore a FUBU shirt to school that may or may not be a fake knock off. Turns out, another kid is wearing a potential fake FUBU as well.
Just like middle school, word starts traveling fast and Earn is desperate to prove that he is the one that is wearing the real FUBU shirt. We do get to see a young Al as well, who is shown to have always had his cousin’s back since they were kids. Flashback episodes can sometimes get irritating since you just want to see where the story is progressing, but since Atlanta isn't serialized, this episode did not feel out of place whatsoever.
6 Woods (8.9)
Woods is a frightening and existential nightmare focused on Al. The biggest dilemma Al has been facing throughout season two is trying to maintain his new celebrity status while also trying to stay real and never forget his roots. As his fellow celebrity/not-girlfriend, Ciara puts it, “That dope boy from the hood act won’t last long.”
As the episode progresses, Al finds himself lost in the literal and metaphorical woods trying to escape a few thugs that tried to kill him. Director Hiro Murai masterfully captures the looming sense of dread that it becomes claustrophobic. It perfectly encapsulates the mix of surrealism and reality that Atlanta is praised for.
5 Alligator Man (9.0)
Within the first five minutes of the season two premiere, we witness an intense and violent shootout/robbery at a fast-food restaurant, introducing us to Robbin’ Season. It comes out of nowhere, but it's another example that Atlanta isn't always the safest place for our main characters.
This opening episode for Robbin’ Season perfectly plants the seeds for the story threads to come, specifically the relationship between Earn and Al. Since Al is blowing up quickly as Paper Boi, Earn isn’t sure if he still has a place in all of it. The standout in this episode is the performance by comedian Katt Williams (who also won an Emmy for Guest Actor), who plays Al's father, Willy.
4 North Of The Border (9.0)
This is definitely one of Atlanta’s most absurd episodes. That being said, it still touches on the diminishing relationship between Earn and Al. This episode takes place mostly on a college campus that Paper Boi gets to perform at. Everything should be all good, but Earn clearly still has much to learn as he does a horrible job booking it.
Instead of spending the money for a hotel, Earn decided it would be a good idea to have them stay at a sorority house with this one girl who’s just a little too obsessed with Paper Boi. As the night goes, things just keep getting worse and worse for the group in hilarious fashion. This episode is infamous for the ridiculous sequence at the fraternity house. You will never hear the song "Laffy Taffy" the same way again.
3 Barbershop (9.1)
Barbershop is easily Atlanta’s funniest episode to date. Another episode focused entirely on Al, it leads into a horrible day where all he wants to do is get a damn haircut, but his barber, Bibi, keeps preventing that from happening.
Played by Robert Powell, Bibi is just a riot to watch and every line out of his mouth is just hysterical. This episode may not have the most symbolism or social commentary like the others, but it’s just an entertaining thirty minutes of television.
2 B.A.N. (9.3)
B.A.N. was the episode that elevated Atlanta to new heights. This was the moment when the writers showed audiences that they were willing to experiment and it pays off tremendously. The entire episode plays out as a talk-show with Paper Boi as the guest speaker.
In between the banter about rap and its influence on children, we’re treated to some amusing fake commercials that feel like they were originally pitched for a sketch comedy show like Key and Peele. We also can’t forget about the legendary “trans-racial” skit about a young African-American man who just so happens to identify as a 35-year-old white man.
1 Teddy Perkins (9.7)
It’s ironic that a comedy show’s highest-rated episode is essentially just a 40-minute psychological horror film. Even more jarring is that it focused primarily on Darius, who is Atlanta’s funniest character. The episode’s title character, Teddy Perkins, is unsettling to look at (who’s played by an unrecognizable Donald Glover).
When this episode originally aired, they were able to convince FX to not play any commercials, allowing the tension to never give up. We follow Darius as he goes to buy a piano from Teddy Perkins, only to start uncovering some dark and disturbing revelations about Teddy and his past. It’s a masterpiece of television that we’re sure is going to be dissected for years to come. Show creator, Donald Glover, said that Atlanta is Twin Peaks with rappers. Teddy Perkins is a prime example of this idea.