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Teddy Perkins episode of ‘Atlanta’ explores the horrors of child abuse and fame

via FX (press photo)

“Robbin’ Season” is the theme for season two of “Atlanta.” True to form, each episode features a form of robbery, or someone taking from another person through force or coercion. In episode one, the Mrs. Winner’s was robbed by gunmen looking to steal marijuana and money; episode two began with Paperboi being robbed by the guy who sold him marijuana; Earn was robbed by the cost of a night at a strip club in episode three; Earn and Van were robbed of their potential relationship in episode four; and Paperboi was robbed of his time by a conniving barber in episode five.

However, those episode did not prepare viewers for what they would witness in episode six. The episode opens with Darius, the most eccentric character in “Atlanta,” buying snacks at a store. The reality of the South becomes evident when Darius sees a hat with a Confederate flag on it that reads “Southern Made.” Darius decides to purchase the hat and a marker, eventually transforming the hat into a sentence that reads, “U Mad.” It’s a subtle knock on Southern racists who are often upset with the progression of any group that’s not White.

Darius drives a U-Haul truck to a decrepit mansion where he encounters a pale-faced Black man named Teddy Perkins, a Michael Jackson-like figure who appears to be the only person in the mansion. Perkins, played by Donald Glover, greets Darius with an awkward two-hand shake. Darius was set to pick up a piano with kaleidoscope keys that Perkins was giving away for free. But instead of a free piano, Perkins gives Darius a glimpse into his past life which consisted of fame, fortune, and childhood abuse.

Viewers can confirm that Perkins is unstable after he cracks a large Ostrich egg and eats the gooey substance inside. But Darius’ curiosity keeps him intrigued to discover more about the mysterious man in the empty mansion.

Perkins mentions that his brother, piano virtuoso Benny Hope, lives in the basement, but can’t take exposure to sunlight due to a skin disease. Darius is later shown a faux museum with old photos, awards and T-shirts of Benny Hope. Perkins eventually escorts Darius to the basement where he shows him a statue dedicated to his father. Perkins reveals how his father used abusive tactics to inspire greatness by saying, “My father used to say great things come from great pain.”

In a nod to other famous overbearing fathers, Perkins says that Serena Williams’ and Marvin Gaye’s father would also be honored in the museum.

There are elements of the Oscar-winning “Get Out” throughout the entire episode. Darius is warned by Paperboi to leave the house through cell phone conversation, but he decided to stay because he would regret missing out on a free piano. There’s also the notion of being invited into a home where you lose all control while being a guest.

But overall, the episode reveals how childhood abuse and fame can lead to despair and mental health issues. Teddy Perkins was robbed of his childhood and the effects were horrific. With all of the achievements, he could never run away from the problems of his past.

In the end, Darius barely escapes with his life after witnessing a murder-suicide.

It’s the creepiest thing that you will see on TV this year, but it’s also another example of Glover’s willingness to push boundaries.