Paper Boi Is Canceled In Atlanta Season 3 Episode 8, 'New Jazz'

It's time to get high. Or at least that's what Darius and Al decide in the latest episode of "Atlanta," entitled "New Jazz." In it, the two embark on an adventure through Amsterdam while under the effects of hallucinogenic honey. Notably, Darius is depending on Al to pay for everything along the way, including the drug.

The person they purchase the honey from can tell Darius has tripped hard before, but he's worried about Al's ability to handle whatever the honey has in store. If this wasn't a surefire sign of chaos to come, Darius tells Al that he loves him very much before they consume the sticky psychedelic substance. As the two traverse Amsterdam, allowing the effects of the psychedelic honey to have its way with their minds, Al seems a bit confused and put off by the people around him — save for the one Black girl they see, to whom he offers a smile — and especially unnerved by a twitching rat laying on the sidewalk. Eventually, it seems as though they've made their way to the red light district, and one of the lingerie-clad sex workers in a brothel window takes a picture of Al with her cell phone. Immediately afterward, a gang of young European ruffians recognizes him as Paper Boi, much to his dismay. He ducks into a nearby building to escape them, which obviously spells trouble considering everything he and the rest of the "Atlanta" crew have been through on their adventure abroad thus far.

Museum musings

Inside the building, he sees a weeping white woman on the floor, bathed in a pale spotlight set against the otherwise dark room. At this point, it's important to remember that Al is probably high as a kite, so we have no way of knowing if what he sees is real or some sort of honey-fueled hallucination. When he tries to ask the woman what's wrong with her, she gestures for him to keep quiet and move along. It turns out he's in a museum, and she's engaged in a sort of performance art.

He makes his way into the brightly lit portion of the museum and meets an insanely annoying woman who is decked out in festival makeup and filled with all sorts of insults and judgments concerning Al's status as a rapper and taste in hats. She gives him a goofy hat ... literally, a hat that's shaped like Goofy the Disney character — interestingly, he saw two tourists wearing the same hats earlier in the episode — and leads him to an underground club.

Cancel Club

Inside, there's a man dressed like a dalmatian and more annoying hipsters who make weird comments about facesitting. They also assume Al and Lorraine are f***ing, despite his claims to the contrary, and after, they mention that Lorraine targets rappers to sleep with even though she made a point to tell him how much she hates rappers. This news appears to be more than enough reason for Al to leave their company, so he wanders off to the bar and discovers Liam Neeson sitting there. A napkin reveals the incredibly on the nose name of the club: "Cancel Club." This name kind of represents what's wrong with season three of "Atlanta." It has gone from being this very imperfect but equally very humorous and creative show, to this pretentious rehashing of pop culture headlines and Twitter talking points.

For example, after Al and Liam introduce themselves to one another, the "Taken" actor directly addresses his past comments about how he went around hoping to incite physical violence with any "Black bastard" he saw after learning about the brutal assault of his friend when he was younger. He also says he's sorry if his actions hurt anyone. Al tells him he's glad he doesn't hate Black people, and that he still enjoys "Taken." To this, Neeson replies that he actually does hate Black people, but that he didn't until they, in his words, tried to ruin his career over his controversial comments. Then he says maybe he'll get over it one day, and that the best and worst part of being white is that he never has to learn anything — including how to reflect on past actions to grow as a person or think before you speak. I guess we're supposed to think this is poignant or witty, but it just kind of falls flat due to the aforementioned problems with the season. Maybe the show's target audience will enjoy the moment more than I did. 

A curious confrontation

After Al and Lorraine emerge from the club, they have a tense confrontation in which Al expresses his frustration with Lorraine's constant insults. Lorraine says that she's telling him what he needs to hear because he's clueless, and that this cluelessness basically makes him white. I can appreciate the show's effort to try and make some sort of statement about white privilege and its impact on individuals, but it feels a bit toothless, undermined by needless Chet Hanks cameos, misogynoir dog-whistling, and flubbed storylines about dead Caribbean nannies. But I digress, you're here for the recap. So after being told off by Lorraine, Al's body tenses up and he collapses, trembling on the pavement. Luckily, Earn found him and returned him to safety. While talking to Earn, he asks "Where's Lorraine?" and it turns out that Lorraine is the name of his deceased mother.

Drugs and delusions

One of the things Lorraine points out to Al upon meeting him is that he doesn't know who owns the masters of his music. She also says that everyone around him is fake, using him for their own gain, and that it's foolish for him to have a family member controlling his financial future. This causes Al to ask Earn who owns his masters, to which his cousin and manager replies "You do," before the credits roll. Clearly, Earn's obvious concern and care for Al contradict Lorraine's criticism of his life and career choices. This, along with the fact that the bedazzled hipster and his mother share a first name, leads me to believe that Lorraine was a hallucination. 

For one thing, she wouldn't have known all these intimate details about Al's career and friendships if she was actually a stranger he'd only just met. Additionally, his conversation with Liam Neeson also hinted at the entire bar scene being the product of a very anxious, very high individual. After Al comments on how strange the club is, Liam Neeson replies, "It's unreal, alright" with a mysterious little laugh. These, along with the fact that Al is probably having the worst and most intense trip in his life, all strongly suggest that his personal "Alice in Wonderland" adventure is actually just in his head.

So what does this mean? Perhaps this was all a manifestation of Al's anxiety and apprehension surrounding his fame as a rapper. Lorraine's putdowns could have been his hidden fears about the people closest to him and his ignorance about who owns the rights to his music. Maybe he was recently involved in controversy that had him feeling "canceled," which would explain the presence of an unrepentant Liam Neeson as well as the name of the club. Whatever reality may be, all of these events prompt Al to confront his fears in the end.

New episodes of "Atlanta" are airing Thursday on FX and Hulu.