How Atlanta's Season 3 Finale Came To Focus On Zazie Beetz's Character Van

With "Atlanta" nearing the end of its final season with only a few more episodes left to air, now is as good a time as any to look back at the unconventional third season of the show. Taking place in Europe, "Atlanta" went international for season 3, and its episodes are filled with unexpected story points, including seemingly random and disconnected anthology stories that aired between episodes that featured the main cast. It should have come to the surprise of no one, then, that the season 3 finale would follow the patterns of previous episodes in its disconnection from the rest of the series. The finale focuses entirely on Van (Zazie Beetz) as she runs into an old group of friends from Atlanta while they're visiting France. 

The absurdity of the episode is used to delve deeper into Van's mindset throughout the season, as the episodes that she's been featured in up to that point seemed to indicate she was not exactly in the right state of mind. Viewer's suspicions are confirmed with the season 3 finale, entirely focusing on Van and her disassociated identity as a French woman with all sorts of "errands" to run. Carefully crafting this episode to address topical and sensitive issues was essential to Stefani Robinson, the episode's writer.

'A solo mission in Paris'

In an interview with The Playlist, Stefani Robinson spoke in detail about her work on "Atlanta" and how she came to be the one writing the season 3 finale:

"It was assigned to me, and I think, while I was shooting "What We Do in the Shadows" season two. So, I got the call from Donald [Glover], and he was like, 'Hey.' I had been away for a bit from the writer's room because I was now spending my time in Toronto to produce [What We Do in the Shadows]. So, he was like, 'Rita, we found this episode for Van, and we're thinking about her on the solo mission in Paris.' And I wrote it, but that episode, in particular, went through tons of revisions and tons of re-breaking and tons of reworking."

The finale, titled "Tarrare," features Van going through Paris running cannibal-related errands with friends from Atlanta that she did not expect to run into and who eventually help her face the problems she's been running away from — that being her responsibilities as a parent. The episode is morbidly hilarious, with an unexpected celebrity cameo from one Alexander Skarsgård, playing himself. More importantly, the episode features a surprisingly grounded-in-reality moment towards the end, with Van acknowledging her fears and insecurities, seemingly snapping out of her odd French persona. With everything that happened in the finale, it's unsurprising that the script went through so many revisions.

Emotionally charged surrealism

The episode went through so many rewrites partly because Robinson was still looking for the emotional hook to drive the absurd and surreal moments in the finale. As funny and entertaining as the plotline for the episode was, if it didn't resolve or address why Van had been acting out the entire season, it would have been pointless.

"And my question had been the entire time, I think, while I was writing it, re-breaking the episode, and sort of restructuring it was, 'What is the emotional hook in this episode?' 'Why is Van here?' And obviously, 'Why is she in Europe? What bearing does that have on the entire season as a whole? Can we start dropping hints as to why she's here? And build this bigger moment where you actually learn that she is having some mental breakdown?' And so it was quite a long process from what I remember, in this episode in particular."

"Atlanta" has always been a series that's played into surrealism with a purpose. As disjointed as some scenes or episodes may feel at times, more often than not, Glover and the team behind the series have strong emotional story beats that help to ground the absurd events of the series. In the case of "Tarrare," Van's emotional moment at the end of the episode justifies the chaos and, according to Robinson, is indicative of the tone and themes of the entire season.

A chaotic finale for a chaotic season

In a different interview with AV Club, Robinson explained her belief that the chaotic nature of Van's arc in the season 3 finale is a reflection of the season as a whole, making Van's journey and the finale that much more poignant:

"I think it's a very chaotic episode. Chaos is a good thing sometimes. And Van's experience is just kind of reflective of the season as a whole... At the end of the episode, she talks about what's going on with her and the darkness she's been struggling with, and that was really important to me—young mothers, young Black mothers, Black women, people, in general, do that. These are real feelings people go through. The whole journey is very chaotic and funny, sort of whimsical at times, but it's also part of that bigger darkness. Van trying to figure out who she is, is a beautiful thing, but it's a scary, unsettling thing."

Looking at "Tarrare" on the surface, it's easy to be confused by the lack of main characters or a greater connection to the story of Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) and his rap career. However, taking a closer look at the chaos and Van's mental state, you can see a finale that reinforces the themes and surreal nature of all the other episodes in the season. "Atlanta" season 3 may not have been what fans expected, but it manages to tell a compelling story while addressing real-world issues viewers can empathize with.