This isn't the first time Glover got philosophical about the Biebs. Back in 2011, when performing a stand-up set, the touring Community actor riffed on Bieber's documentary Never Say Never, questioning the validity of a title card in the trailer that says, "They said it would never happen." "Who the fuck is they?" asked Glover onstage. "Who the fuck saw a baby playing the drums and was like, 'Oh, that will never work out. Good-looking talented white kids? People hate those. Never works out. Justin Timberlake. All the presidents except for one. Never works out.'"
Clearly, the question of Bieber and race has been on his mind for a while, but what's so impressive about "Nobody Beats the Biebs," which was penned by Glover's brother Stephen, is that it frames a provocative premise in such an efficient, smooth, and almost old-fashioned sitcom package. From a structural standpoint, the plotting resembles a strong episode of 30 Rock, a show Glover used to write for. In its story about Earn getting mistaken for a high-powered agent and its brief C-plot, which found Keith Stanfield's Darius getting in an argument about shooting a drawing of a dog at a gun range, the show resists the urge to hit its broader social points too hard. Instead, it lets questions simmer, like a smart friend relaxing after a couple beers. What if Justin Bieber were black? Isn't it weird that people use drawings of humans for targets at gun ranges? What if your identity is totally made up?
"The No. 1 thing we kept coming back to is that it needs to be funny first and foremost," said Glover in an interview with New York Magazine back in August. "I never wanted this shit to be important. I never wanted this show to be about diversity; all that shit is wack to me." More than any other episode, "Nobody Beats the Biebs" shows the benefit of that approach. It's not that Atlanta doesn't have "important" things to say. It just consistently chooses to say those things in its own idiosyncratic voice. Even when it comes to an easy target like Bieber, it chooses curiosity over condemnation.