After nearly four years, Atlanta is finally back on the air, reuniting viewers with Earn, Van, Al, Darius, and … some kid we’ve never seen before? The first two episodes of season three just dropped, the first of which, “Three Slaps,” mainly focuses on a kid named Loquareeous, beginning with his nightmare that, not unlike the ‘80s Twilight Zone movie,  features two dudes, at night, talking about spooky stuff, ultimately ending in a jumpscare.

Loquareeous soon gets into trouble at school and is slapped by his cap-wearing grandpa in the school hallway, prompting the staff to notify child services, who then whisk him away to a foster home headed by an abusive lesbian couple who assimilate “Larry” into their slave labor kombucha racket, feeding him inedible “fried chicken” and ultimately nearly killing him in a murder-suicide along with his foster siblings – and that’s just the first episode

Ultimately, this entire upsetting storyline turns out to have been a dream Earn was having after hooking up with some random woman in Copenhagen – which for all we know, is just what happens when you spend a drunken night in Copenhagen. 

But both of these “nightmares” were very pointedly pulled from real-world events. Loquareeous’ opening dream seems to be referencing the supposed ghost sightings of Lake Lanier, and the intentional flooding of the town of Oscarville after its Black residents were driven from their homes in the early 20th century. And Loquareeous’ ordeal unsubtly recalls the story of Devonte Hart, who was placed into the care of Jennifer and Sarah Hart in 2009, despite the fact that the white couple had “numerous abuse allegations and investigations against them.” Atlanta even recreates the 2014 viral photo of Devonte hugging a police officer that was taken wildly out of context at the time, even by the dude who later made Logan

While Loquareeous ultimately escapes and makes his way home after freeing the other children, the real-life story ended in tragedy, with the Harts killing themselves, Devonte, and five other children – although Devonte’s body was never found. In addition to this sickening story, even the inciting incident, the titular “three slaps” were seemingly inspired by real-life; a semi-viral YouTube video called “Grandpa Slap” which plays out exactly the same as in the show, right down to the wardrobe of the grandpa.

When we get into the so-called “real world,” Atlanta becomes a mix of familiar surreal diversions (Tupac is alive and being euthanized by a Dutch cult?) and infuriating racist absurdities (Black Pete is still a thing). But going full Inception in the way that it did, the shape of Atlanta’s storytelling seems to be making a bold statement; these nightmares, and nightmares within nightmares, are horrifically real, and not to be ignored. As is the movie Foodfight, the movie featuring supermarket brand mascots and a doggy detective voiced by Charlie Sheen, which got a shout-out on the second episode.

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Top Image: FX

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