Here is a review of Atlanta‘s Robbin’ Season‘s seventh episode titled Champagne Papi, directed by Amy Seimetz and written by Ibra Ake.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The episode starts with Vanessa “Van” Keefer with her girlfriends preparing for a party in which rapper Drake will be at. She is watching an Instagram story by username “bodomting119” which shows a woman playing with Earnest “Earn” Marks’s hair. Van tells her friends that her Instagram profile needs a boost by having a picture with the rapper because all she has are pictures of her daughter Lottie, chicken, and one picture of Earn.
Van and her friends are approached by a supposed pizza delivery guy. They ignore him, and they walk over to get picked up in a vehicle heading to the party. In the vehicle, Van sits next to a woman who is happy-crying to be coming along.
Upon arrival at the party, the woman is taken away by security for being falsely invited. Inside the mansion that the party will be at, they are offered edible gummies. They then come to a room with a bull-riding machine. When one of her friends, Nadine, sees that Van does not look too happy, she asks if she is okay, to which Van says, “Earn is out there living his life, and I’m out here living mine. I’m just trying to get this photo with Drake.”
When Nadine starts to feel unwell, Van sets her aside to relax, but when Van comes back with a bottle of water, she has disappeared. Needing to charge her phone, Van is then lured downstairs to Drake’s supposed recording studio by a strange man. She goes to the bathroom and has him fetch marijuana, food, and water. She leaves the bathroom to check if he is gone.
Van wanders off into another room in the mansion. She leaves her phone to charge and stumbles upon Drake’s wardrobe closet.
Nadine–now in the pool area–is conversing with Darius about whether this could all be a simulation.
One of Van’s other friends Terry–now drunk–complains that a Caucasian woman (to her face) about her relationship with a black man.
Van wanders into another room and finds a Spanish-speaking man trying to watch television. The man claims to be Drake’s Abuelo (or grandfather). She looks at the calendar in the room and discovers that Drake is not in the mansion. As she is about to leave, she sees cardboard cutouts of Drake used for the women to pay to take selfies with as a means to get more Instagram followers.
Van goes out to the pool area and finds Darius and Nadine just as Darius tells Nadine, “The stars are just a projection but it’s actually already inside the mind.” Darius says he is at the party because he knows Drake’s personal chef.
As Van, Darius, Nadine, and another friend walk back home, Van comes to the realization that Drake could most likely be Mexican. The episode ends with a Spanish remix of Drake’s song “Hotline Bling.”
This week’s episode of Atlanta pokes fun at the Canadian (and now–as some may suspect–Mexican) rapper, but it also delves much deeper than that. Champagne Papi also touches briefly upon the negative effects of social media, as we can see with Zazie Beetz’s character Van. We see this woman being so worked up on her status on social media that she wants to try to prove to her ex Earn that she is better off without him, and she spends all of her time at the party trying to do this by tracking down Drake and taking a picture of him. Throughout the night, she sees selfies with Drake at the party on Instagram, but later she discovers that these selfies are–as it turns out–just women paying to pose with cardboard cutouts of the rapper.
The show continues to bend our perception of the world around us (as it had with Marcus Miles’s invisible car in Episode 108’s The Club or with Justin Bieber portrayed by an African American man in Episode 105’s Nobody Beats the Biebs) by showing us things that most people would see as normal. One of Van’s friends Terry gets angry over a Caucasian woman dating an African American celebrity, and she comes to find that the woman has actually been really supportive of him as a girlfriend even before he got famous. The whole mind-bending concept is also played out so well in another FX show, Legion. (If you have not seen it yet, you should do so as soon as possible.)
The deepest theme of this episode is the concept of simulations, and Darius–our fun-loving albeit chill and hilarious stoner character–elaborates on this by explaining reality, that it and life may very much be a simulation. At the poolside conversation with Nadine, he mentions the Bostrom simulation argument, which states that “future civilizations must have [an] immense computing power and that even if a fraction of this were to run an ancestral simulation, there’s a high probability that it would be indistinguishable from reality to the simulated ancestor, i.e. us.” In layman’s terms, we are the simulation like the video game Sims; “there is someone controlling your every movement.” Darius eats an apple at the pool area but says he does not even like apples. He later says, that “the stars are just a projection, but it’s actually already inside the mind.” When Van arrives at the pool area, Nadine–now enlightened–says that we are all nothing, we are the simulation, and everything we have ever come to know is fake.
This concept of simulations likens itself to an episode of Black Mirror titled Hang the DJ in which a man and woman fall in love and run a simulation on an app to prove that this is as real as they believe it to be. The dating app shows that maybe these simulations should not be seen as false but rather as a way to get closer to the truth. Atlanta is just a simulation of getting closer to the truth of the world around us.
If we are the simulation, are we programmed to make our own choices or are we made to do the same thing over and over again? A friend of mine helped add onto this with his knowledge and understanding of postmodernism that he learned by reading Thomas Pynchon works:
“Do we exist? Are we just a vivid “scenario” occurring in [another person]’s head? [Could being] a simulation make us sentient [and] individuals in our own right, able to make simulations of our own? Then those simulations becoming sentient creating their own little universes and so on and so on? We’re the projectors in the planetarium and the universe made only of what we can perceive?”
If we can create our own scenarios, does that deem us gods, and if so, can gods be created by gods?
But that doesn’t make it true, right? Does it? Knowledge is derived from experience? Or are do we have innate, inborn knowledge encoded in us? A secret predestination that we’ll never know about, never control? Gods are only as powerful as they are believed to be.
So we’re powerful in our own right albeit limited.
Because we believe we’re limited [and] we have an idea that there are people or things more powerful than us.
Maybe [this is] a hierarchy.
A hierarchy we created and subscribed to. It’s human nature…if we can’t dominate something, then we must serve it.
Thus the laborers and the late capitalists. They [believe themselves to be] gods in their own rights.
Too bad they don’t realize it. In some ways, we don’t want to realize it.
Thus the simulation. It’s all just an illusion.
I don’t know if it’s a simulation anymore. Maybe we’re the simulators?
Perhaps Donald Glover himself is a reader of Pynchon.
You see, this concept sounds entertaining, however, when you actually look into it, the notion can lead to a very depressing and fatalistic view of the world, but who is to say that the show does not explain it so well?
The recurring theme of this season–Robbin’ Season, that is–is robbery, and in this episode, Van and her friends are robbed of an enjoyable night out.
What did you think? What was your favorite part of the episode? Let me know! For more Donald Glover and Atlanta–related news and reviews, stay tuned for more articles. If you like my writing, check out my works with Geek Motivation. They’re pretty dope. You can find also them on Twitter (@GeekMotivation) and Instagram (@geekmotivation).