Paper Boi and the Missing Phone Case – Rolling Stone

A review of this week Atlanta“Cancer Attack”, coming as soon as I follow the white Liam Neeson…

After last week’s detour to an America transformed by reparations, Atlanta returns to Paper Boi’s European tour for a good old closed bedroom mystery. Only because it’s Atlantait’s only vaguely old-fashioned, very bizarre, often amusing and ultimately sad.

The place: the green room at the stop of the tour in Budapest

. The crime: Al’s phone went missing while he was playing. The suspects: a small boy with cancer who has come for a charity visit with his musical idol, and Wiley (Samuel Blenkin), the nephew of varying ages of venue owner Folk. Investigators: our three intrepid heroes, Earn, Al and Darius. Budapest is also the location of parts of

Russian doll

Season 2, making the city the hottest spot for spring television.

. Jamal Olori’s script does an effective and in-character job of explaining why Al cares so much about the phone: the paranoid Darius (whom Al dismisses as “Conspiracy Jones”) convinced him not to save his files to the cloud , so everything on the phone itself will be gone forever if it can’t be found.

LaKeith Stanfield is still a delight in the role, but he’s somehow funnier than usual this week, not just with his plan obsession but with his exuberant backstage dancing to Paper Boi’s opening number.

Atlanta — ‘Crank Dat Killer’ — Season 4, Episode 6 (Airing October 13) Pictured: Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred ‘Paper Boi’ Miles. RC: Guy D’Alema/FX.

It takes a while, however, for us to know exactly what he’s so upset about potentially losing. First, Earn has to give himself a mortifying sight by frisking the little boy – who is literally taken from the theater on a stretcher due to the “cancer attack” which gives the episode its title – just in case the The kid’s fandom was so extreme, he wanted to take home a keepsake. Then the crew – which somehow expanded to include Socks, the loudmouth who took such great (and ultimately violent) offense at MK’s conversation with Darius in “The Old Man and the Tree”. – turns his attention to Wiley, who hides in the theater all day and even jumped on stage to rock the crowd just before Al entered. Things already seem strange because Folk seems to not know his nephew’s basic details, such as his phone number (which Earn finds on a copy of Wiley’s resume) or his age (Folk thinks he’s 19; Wiley claims to have 32). And Socks has already ruined things by threatening Wiley on the phone, turning what could have been a friendly chat into a tense interrogation. When the kid/man shows up, Earn and Al try to charm him, then try to play good cop/bad cop—Darius, naturally, declares himself a “devastated cop”—but no matter what they try, Wiley won’t budge. It’s a fascinating sequence, especially if you go back and replay it knowing who the real culprit is. (More on them in a bit.) At first glance, when it’s easy to assume Wiley stole the phone, it plays more or less like the Joker fucking with Jim Gordon and Batman. Wiley is a pure agent of chaos who seems to implicitly understand how to get inside his interrogators’ heads. He knows the lyrics to one of the first Paper Boi songs that Al never released. He knows Al’s phone number. Even when he farts in response to Al’s threat, it almost feels like a troll, as if this master criminal has such complete command of his bodily functions that he can scare opponents away for minutes. When he says “people just want to be seen; no matter why,” it looks like he picked up the phone as a way to get an audience with Paper Boi. Watch it again, however, and Wiley is largely who he claims to be: a candid fan who, like the solemn Cancer Boy, is overwhelmed to be in the presence of his favorite performer. Everything he says is the truth. He doesn’t try to play with anyone and is grateful to have a few moments alone with Al to talk about what Paper Boi’s music means to him, and even to play one of his own compositions inspired by Al. When he leaves saying “Thanks for seeing me” and wishing Al found his phone, he’s being completely sincere. (The genius of Blenkin’s performance is that it works both ways.) There’s, of course, the fact that he knows the words “box top Chevy” and that he knows Al’s home phone number. How does he know if he hasn’t picked up the phone? Well, how was Justin Bieber a black man when he played with Al in a charity basketball game? How was there an invisible car when the guys came out to the club? How was Tupac choked to death in Amsterdam in front of Darius and Van? There has always been a surreal aspect to this show, going all the way back to

the bus scene in the very first episode. Wiley says when he first heard the Paper Boi mixtape, he felt no sympathy or empathy; “I felt the same.” Maybe by some logic Atlanta

under which the universe operates, this skinny white dude is really mentally in tune with Alfred Miles – both of them had crushes on girls named Rosie – and knows things that only Al should know?

And for a brief and harrowing encounter, the man who understands Al is capable of surpassing him. After kicking the other guys out of Folk’s office, Al confesses that he was unable to write a song for months and often feared he would never be able to do so again. But this morning, he explains, he heard his artist’s voice in his head, singing a song which he then recorded on the missing phone. Without it, it may not be able to record anymore. He never particularly wanted to be an artist, and only saw it as a way out of poverty – “I scare people at ATMs”, he once explained. “I

have to rap!” – but now it’s become his whole existence . Without this song, and the ability to write more after, what can he do? Wiley responds by playing his own song on an acoustic guitar – not to taunt Al, as it might have seemed at first glance, but to express himself in front of the big and powerful Paper Boi. Wiley for this moment has the gift that Al fears he has lost forever. In the process, Wylie gets his moment, and he can be seen, which is all he wanted, while Al has to figure out how to move on.

It also became Earn’s entire existence. Earn has become very good at running the whole Paper Boi machine, but aside from his constant concern for Van – who hasn’t returned since she left Fernando’s party and responds to Earn’s worried text messages with just a thumbs up emoji – he doesn’t seem to have anything else on his mind. When Al tries to have a real moment with him before the show, Earn is both distracted and unable to really answer Al’s question about how he is doing. In the end, the culprit turns out, of course, to be Socks, who cavalierly throws Al’s phone in the trash before jumping on the tour bus. Like the stolen letter, the answer was right in front of our guys the whole time. Socks somehow joined the entourage despite none of them actually liking him, and despite almost using the N-word in front of them when excited about Wiley. (On the second view, lots of hot air from Socks can be read as he tries to deflect suspicion from himself to the more obvious alternate suspect.) Why did he pick up the phone? Because it was there, and Socks is an asshole who pretends to care about other people’s feelings but can never think about the world outside of his own head. Why is he throwing it away? Maybe because after seeing Al’s commotion he realizes it’s too dangerous to keep, or maybe because, again, he doesn’t care what his claimed friend wants or needs. It’s a dark comedic payoff for another singular episode of this show – one that’s also even funnier the second time around than the first. Al may be worried about losing it; Atlanta certainly not.

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