After an ambitious, polarizing third season, Atlanta will return to its titular city for one final run of episodes. A surreal announcement trailer from FX revealed that Donald Glover and co. are indeed going full DMX and dropping two seasons in one year: season 4 will begin airing in September. The impressionistic teaser offers no advanced looks from the future episodes, or any clue as to what is to come: Instead, we get an eye-popping treasure hunt of references to previous series moments, big and small.
The minute-long teaser opens with Earn (Glover) and Van (Zazie Beetz) outside of a corner store, which is quickly engulfed in a slew of callbacks. First, we see a cascading torrent of Coconut Crunch-O’s, whose fake commercial in season 1 was a deadpan parody of police brutality. When a piano and ostrich egg tumble from the sky, it’s a pretty clear allusion to Season 2’s “Teddy Perkins.” (We encourage you not to revisit the egg scene if you’re snacking.) Then Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) shows up, and it appears he’s driving the invisible car from Season 1’s “The Club,”. We also get a quick glimpse of a selfie-snapping Zan, one of the writer’s room’s most bizarre creations, and he’s taking a picture with Coach, the alligator who belonged to Earn’s uncle (played in an Emmy-winning turn by Katt Williams, who simply must return for an encore). In classic Atlanta fashion, we don’t even see Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) until the last possible moment.
There’s a noticeable lack of callbacks to the third season, and that’s likely because these most recent installments were shot back-to-back, as FX chairman John Landgraf confirmed in August 2021. However, there is one: the titular large tree that Paper Boi took a chainsaw to in “The Old Man and the Tree” also makes an appearance.
Glover has worked hard to fuel the hype and anticipation for his show’s final two seasons, at one point proclaiming that the only series rivaling his is The Sopranos. In an Interview Magazine cover story, he said the closing season trumps what came before it, and compared it to “osso buco served with risotto, prepared by a chef who studied in New York City, spent five years on the road, worked at a Michelin star spot for three years, and used the money to buy a small farm.”
That tracks with what Glover’s brother and co-producer Stephen told GQ earlier this year, when he revealed that while he favors season 3, Glover and executive producer Hiro Murai are “have always said season 4 is going to be better. They’re really high on season 4.” As for what to expect from the season, in broad terms, the younger Glover said “Season 3 is the maximalist season. And then it’s like, all right, let’s go home to Atlanta now. Let’s go back to where we feel comfortable, or where we’re supposed to feel comfortable, anyway. So it’s this idea that you saw the world and your mind was expanded drastically. And now it’s time to come back [home].”
In a Deadline interview following the season three finale, Beetz shared, “The final season is really about homecoming and what that means.” She also shared her thoughts on the decision to end the show after this next batch of episodes.
“I think TV that drags on too long, it’s always tragic to me. It just dies,” she said. “I mean, who knows what people end up thinking about Season 4 or whatever, but I think, at least in the creators’ opinions, they finished it with power and moved on. I think that’s right, and I think that’s healthy.”
Atlanta is up for three Emmys this fall: Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series (for “New Jazz);” Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series for Glover; and Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series (for “Three Slaps”).