The third season of Atlanta is seemingly full of more ghosts than Dan Aykroyd’s erotic nightmares. This week’s episode, the alarmingly-titled “Cancer Attack,” mostly concerns the interrogation of an obsessive fan who may or may not have stolen Al’s phone during a concert in Budapest. The young man, Wiley, is … well, creepy as hell. We’ve already gotten a number of phantom-like presences in the first four episodes, and it sure seems as though Wiley is yet another

Wiley’s age is inconsistent (is he 19 or 32?) and he claims not to have a phone, but later texts his uncle somehow. He also has weirdly personal information about Al, which becomes doubly surreal once it’s revealed that he didn’t actually have the phone – Socks, the annoying white guy from the party two weeks ago, who apparently has joined the crew for some reason, stole it and ultimately tosses it in the garbage. 

Wiley, not unlike how the ghostly character “E” shares his name with Earn, seems oddly connected to Al; they even share the same birthday, and Wiley claims to have had his heart broken by a girl named Rose as a teenager, which is what happened to Al. The episode also calls its supernatural shot early on; Darius remarks that the venue is “haunted” (sadly his planned adventure, searching for hidden rooms, never gets off the ground).  Al responds that he hopes it’s “not another Milwaukee” – which is seemingly a reference to a real, supposedly haunted venue: The Rave. So apparently the Atlanta gang encounters ghosts with Scooby Doo-like regularity.

FX

FX

Does the supposed haunting of The Rave hold any clues that might help us decipher Atlanta? Put on your tinfoil hat, and let’s find out. Multiple musicians have reported spooky goings on while performing at The Rave; some people believe the joint is haunted by the ghost of Jeffrey Dahmer’s first victim, since it’s located across the street from the Ambassador Hotel, where the notorious cannibal’s first killing occurred. Others believe The Rave is haunted by the ghost of Buddy Holly who kicked off his final (fatal) tour there in ‘59.

The latter may be the most relevant to this episode; if the unnerving events at the Budapest venue were inspired to some degree by the Milwaukee stories, Buddy Holly becomes an interesting thematic jumping point. So much of this season has manifested the ghosts of racial injustice that people accept as everyday parts of life (the flooded town beneath Lake Lanier, the Dutch tradition of Christmastime blackface). Music legend Buddy Holly inarguably took what was happening in the Black music scene and repackaged it for a white audience. In Atlanta, Al’s phone is taken, and importantly, it contains his new musical ideas, a literal embodiment of his creativity and artistry, stolen by a white associate. 

And our “ghost” Wiley is not entirely un-Buddy Holly-like. Sure, he’s not American, and he doesn’t wear thick glasses, but he’s still a scrawny guy with a similar haircut who also turns out to be a guitar player and singer.

Coral Records/FX

Or since Donald Glover has previously taken inspiration from Tiny Toons for the show, maybe Wiley is really a stand-in for a certain troublesome coyote. 

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Top Image: FX

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