Pop Culture

Atlanta Season 3 Is Finally Filming, So Let’s Speculate About the Plot

The acclaimed Donald Glover series resumed production last week. Here’s everything he and others have teased about the new episodes so far.
Lakeith Stanfield and Donald Glover in Atlanta 2018.
Lakeith Stanfield and Donald Glover in Atlanta, 2018.Courtesy of Guy D’Alema for FX

A three year hiatus is tough for any audience, but it’s especially difficult when that show is as good as Atlanta. The Donald Glover FX series aired its Season 2 finale back in May 2018 and the intervening wait has been nothing short of excruciating. Atlanta, which artfully and experimentally explores themes of family, race, relationships and more under a deceptively simple premise — Earn (Donald Glover) helps manage the ascendant career of his rapper cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) — is endlessly fascinating, provocative, and truly unlike anything on TV. Which is why the wait has felt so brutal.

Seasons 3 and 4 were initially planned to film back-to-back last spring until, of course, COVID delayed the start. That, combined with the increasingly busy schedules of Glover, Henry, LaKeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz, meant shifting the timeline until everyone could align. But finally, the wait is at least close to being over: Glover announced over the weekend that production is officially underway. Even though new episodes are still a long way away, let’s take a look at what we know so far.

Zazie Beetz and Donald Glover in Atlanta, 2018.Courtesy of Guy D’Alema for FX

When will Seasons 3 and 4 air?

Hopefully, not too much longer. Last year, FX head John Landgraf told reporters that production would likely resume in early 2021, with Season 3 and 4 shooting back-to-back. One of the good things about the delay is that it provided Glover and the writer’s room time to finish writing both seasons, making it much easier to film everything in one giant block. Season 3 will feature 10 episodes, while Season 4 will have 8, according to reports.

Landgraf also stated the show would premiere in 2021 with a “less than year break” between the two seasons. Given typical production timelines, Season 3 should debut later this year — most likely in the fall, like Season 1 did back in 2016. Season 4 would likely follow in the spring or summer of 2022.

Brian Tyree Henry in Atlanta, 2018.Courtesy of Curtis Bonds Baker for FX

Paper Boi is going global.

Atlanta’s greatest strength is its unpredictability. While the macro story is about Earn and Al, there are plenty of adventures in-between the lines of that manager-artist relationship. So don’t necessarily expect the show to stick to the plot so far.

With that said, Season 2 ended with Earn and Al headed to Europe with rapper Clark County (RJ Walker) for a tour. In the finale, Earn tried to sneak a gun into Clark County’s luggage, only for Clark County’s manager to take the fall for it instead. The production schedule offers a pretty good hint that Season 3 will pick up not long after that flight, with the gang hanging out in Europe — according to Deadline, shooting begins in London before moving on to Amsterdam and Paris and eventually concluding in Atlanta.

More Van stories are in the works.

It sounds like Zazie Beetz will have a more prominent role as well. In a Hollywood Reporter piece, one of the show’s chief writers (and Donald’s brother) Stephen Glover stated the show would feature “a very specific perspective from the Atlanta woman that I think we’re gonna explore in season three.” Van-centric episodes like season 2’s “Champagne Papi”—in which the specter of Drake hung over Van’s night out—were extremely well-received, and Beetz herself told THR, “There’s no lack of women on the set, but I think in terms of storytelling it is different just like bonding with a woman and playing with that energy in terms of Van’s character. So it is something I would like to continue exploring.” Van very pointedly did not join the Eurotrip, so maybe while the boys are gallivanting overseas we’ll check in on the series’ home turf via her character?

Season 3’s theme is [loosely] inspired by Kanye.

While Atlanta had some heavy moments in its first season, the second, subtitled Robbin’ Season, was decidedly darker. In a 2018 panel, Glover compared season 3 to a Kanye West album. “I align the seasons, I think, to me, like Kanye records,” Glover said. “I feel like this is our Graduation. This is probably our most accessible but also the realest — an honest version of it — and I feel like the most enjoyable, like the third album.” On Graduation, Kanye baldly focused on making “stadium-status” hits, sharpening his mainstream appeal while maintaining his core qualities.

With critical and commercial acclaim already in the bag, most would say Atlanta’s mainstream appeal is already solidified, but the storytelling in some episodes is more challenging than a casual viewer might expect. Then again, the Glover brothers compared Robbin Season to Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation as a way of explaining how the season would send the characters off on more solo stories, so maybe the Graduation reference will become clearer in due time. And does that mean season 4 is 808s and Heartbreak?

Whatever the theme, Glover is confident. In a now-deleted tweet from last November, he stated the show will be “some of the best television ever made” before going a step further: “[The] Sopranos only one who can touch us.” We can’t wait.

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