[Editor’s Be aware: The next article comprises spoilers for “Atlanta: Robbin’ Season,” (Season 2) Episode 3, “Cash Bag Shawty.”]
In 2001, Michael Vick was chosen because the No. 1 choose within the NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Not solely that, however he was the primary African-American quarterback to be taken with the highest choose, after registering the quickest 40-yard-dash velocity of any QB within the historical past of the NFL mix.
In different phrases, he’s a massively well-liked determine in Atlanta who’s well-known nationwide for his fast toes. And if that’s all there was to the retired athlete’s story, the third episode of “Atlanta: Robbin’ Season” would’ve gone off and not using a hitch. Up till Vick’s cameo within the last minute, Episode 3, “Cash Bag Shawty,” is an exemplary illustration of institutionalized racism — with Donald Glover’s Earn spending a complete night time making an attempt to stunt on individuals, solely to finish up getting shut down time and time once more.
However as soon as Vick exhibits up, the dialog shifts. Why is Michael Vick on this episode? Why is he on this present? Extra particularly, why are the producers of “Atlanta” paying and, arguably, celebrating a person who spent 21 months in federal jail for working a dogfighting ring?
To set the scene (for individuals who haven’t watched), Earn emerges from a strip membership to find Michael Vick exterior racing individuals for cash. “Is he doing OK?” Earn asks, involved about an athlete who signed a $62 million contract as a rookie and earned $5 million for one season as lately as 2014 (years after he filed for chapter). “Oh, he’s effective,” an onlooker says. “It’s only a good hustle. Drunk individuals simply wish to race him. It’s his sixth race within the 10 minutes I’ve been standing right here.”
At this level, a winded runner vouches for the sport, saying opponents get three-to-one odds. So Earn says he’ll do it, a lot to the shock of Van (Zazie Beetz). “Typically you’ve simply bought to stunt on individuals,” Earn says, summing up his fundamental objective for the night time. “And in addition I haven’t run six races in 10 minutes.”
Earn steps to the road, will get a realizing look from Vick, and takes off. The music swells and he even beats Vick off the bounce… however he loses. Van sums it up plainly within the dejected limo journey dwelling: “It’s Michael Vick!”
As a joke, it’s executed flawlessly. Earn tries the whole lot he can consider to indicate off and make himself really feel like a giant shot — not in a foul, egotistical method, however as a way to elevate his morale and increase a depleted ego. In any case, Earn’s the man who buys a homeless man McDonald’s, and the homeless man throws the meals away. (And Earn, himself, was homeless only a few episodes again. He would possibly nonetheless be homeless.) Earn deserves to really feel pleased with his accomplishments by spending his hard-earned cash, however be it a racist cashier (or theater coverage), a racist lounge proprietor, or a hustle that’s too huge for Earn to topple (“You don’t lower your expenses at a strip membership,” Alfred says), he can’t discover a approach to stunt on anybody in his hometown.
Not even Michael Vick. However why did it must be Michael Vick? Why did this joke want Vick to be the punctuation mark? There doesn’t appear to be a great reply for that. Although the previous quarterback holds a particular place in Atlanta sports activities tradition (particularly for black followers — his groundbreaking place within the draft and unprecedented velocity gave him game-changing potential, making him an on the spot icon locally), the very fact stays he comes with baggage exterior of soccer and so many different Atlantan athletes don’t.
Present stars like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman might need balked at enjoying themselves whereas racing for cash exterior a strip membership, however retired athletes like Josh Smith (9 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks), Roddy White (10 years with the Falcons), and Herschel Walker (born in Georgia and gained the Heisman Trophy whereas enjoying at Georgia College) might’ve subbed in with out the troubling background. It didn’t actually must be an athlete: Throw in a line of dialogue about how there’s a monitor star racing individuals out again or a former Olympic athlete or anybody who’s identified for working (however an newbie would possibly suppose they will beat), and the scene would’ve performed out equally — minus Van’s kicker, “It’s Michael Vick.”
So why make use of somebody who, mildly put, is a controversial determine? (Much less mildly put, he’s a person who drowned and/or hanged a number of canines and tortured numerous others.) Some consider Vick is a rehabilitated man; a felony who served his time and labored laborious to restore the harm he precipitated. He’s change into considerably of an activist for animal rights after his jail stint, advocating that spectators at canine fights, not to mention the organizers, face harsher penalties. However it doesn’t matter what you consider about his present state (since he has financially benefitted from fixing his picture), his presence remains to be a confounding distraction.
Is the truth that he’s playing on himself as a substitute of playing on canines purported to be a part of the joke? Is there a goal to creating that affiliation? Ought to we be specializing in the truth that that is Michael Vick in any respect? Such questions don’t lend themselves to the principle theme of the episode (Earn seeking to change into the stunter as a substitute of the stuntee), neither is it a meta “stunt” to see Earn get beat by somebody the viewers would’ve cherished to see humiliated. Vick isn’t humiliated within the present or by it; if something, he’s celebrated.
Scripting this as a white particular person invitations comparisons to the episode’s opening, the place an offended suburban mother complains about Paper Boi’s lyrics being performed on the radio. And whereas there is likely to be a communication breakdown as a result of this writer (and different white viewers, presumably) aren’t in tune with Earn’s world, sometimes “Atlanta’s” writers (Stephen Glover, on this case) do a radical job of creating certain everybody understands their perspective. Usually the readability invoked by situational comedy and drama is the complete level of the episode, and the remainder of “Cash Bag Shawty” illustrates as a lot.
The ultimate scene feels completely different. Typically, it doesn’t appear pertinent to be discussing Michael Vick once more in 2018. It looks like an unusual and undesirable hindrance for a present that’s sometimes streamlined in its messaging, and it places a blemish on an in any other case beautiful episode (and season to date). Will Vick play a much bigger position in future episodes? Will his goal change into clearer as we be taught extra about “Robbin’ Season” and Earn’s new journey? For now, Michael Vick didn’t simply earn cash from “Atlanta”; he’s validated by being a part of its forged. And that doesn’t really feel like what the episode desires us to deal with.