Atlanta, "Teddy Perkins"
Airdate: April 5, 2018
What happens: Many of the best episodes of Atlanta, Donald Glover's surreal comedy centered around the mundane realities of low-level rap music stardom, have simple location-based hooks. "The Club" is mostly set at a club, "Barbershop" starts off at a barbershop, and "Woods" takes place in the woods. After a quick stop at a hardware store, season two stand-out "Teddy Perkins" begins with Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) arriving at a decadent home to pick up a rare piano that belongs to the aging musician Benny Hope. As a guest in this gothic hideaway, Darius meets with Teddy Perkins, an unnerving presence played by series creator Donald Glover in white make-up and prosthetics. (The look of the character, who presents himself as his brother's caretaker, is meant to call to mind Michael Jackson.) When Darius finally gets his hands on the piano, he attempts to unload it using the house's elevator, but he ends up finding a masked figure downstairs who warns him that Teddy will try to kill them both. "Great things come from great pain," says Teddy at one point, quoting his own abusive father and setting up the tortured psychological chaos to come. It all ends in a murder-suicide, with Benny shooting Teddy before turning the gun on himself. The events that play out in the house have a tinge of horror to them, which earned the episode plenty of Get Out and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? comparisons, but the episode is still laced with the dry wit the series is best known for, like when Darius describes Jay-Z to Teddy by saying, "He's like 65." Even at its most disturbing and outlandish, Atlanta never loses the voice that makes it so special.
Why we'll be talking about it forever: Packed with pop music allusions, showbiz trivia, and evocative symbols, like that creepy ostrich egg, "Teddy Perkins" is an episode of TV that resists simple readings but also encourages the viewer to search for meaning in each richly bizarre detail. -- DJ