‘Atlanta’ Review: ‘Teddy Perkins’ Is More Nightmarish Than ‘Get Out,’ and We Still Haven’t Recovered (2023)

The episode references Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning film, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and more to build moments of disquieting horror.

[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “Atlanta” Season 2, Episode 6 titled “Teddy Perkins.”]

We are shook and yet in awe. “Atlanta” made good on the promise of violence and danger that was laid out in the opening moments of the season with Thursday night’s installment “Teddy Perkins.” The fact that FX announced the episode would air without commercial interruption (and – to the horror of TV critics – without an advance screener) should have been the first indication that something extra special was in the offing. This would turn out to be one of the most disquieting episodes of horror to ever grace a comedy series.

In the Darius-centric episode, “Atlanta’s” mumbling dilettante (Lakeith Stanfield) arrives at a stately but careworn mansion to pick up a special piano with colored keys from Teddy Perkins and Benny Hope, two brothers who shared a musical past and, as viewers soon learn, an abusive father. As the episode wears on, Teddy’s odd hosting style begins to creep out the usually unflappable Darius. Through a series of terrifying and twisted events, Darius is left shackled to a chair as an injured Benny shoots Teddy with a rifle and then kills himself.


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In the span of 41 minutes, “Teddy Perkins” manages to build a perfect psychological horror movie in miniature. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most disquieting elements and themes:

Teddy Perkins’ Michael Jackson-esque Whiteness

Teddy Perkins is the stuff of nightmares, and to preserve the power of his disturbing looks and mannerisms, the credits only list Teddy as being performed by “himself.” Much of the online chatter, however, believes that series creator and star Donald Glover is, in fact, playing Teddy under heavy makeup and prosthetics. Whoever it is did as brilliant a job as Stanfield did playing the straight man for the first time on the show.

Teddy’s unnatural looks are the leading reason why he’s so frightening. Not only does his face make him appear to be a long-lost gelfling from “The Dark Crystal,” but it also enters the Uncanny Valley, where it falls just short of looking fully alive.

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‘Atlanta’ Review: ‘Teddy Perkins’ Is More Nightmarish Than ‘Get Out,’ and We Still Haven’t Recovered (1)

Teddy Perkins himself, “Atlanta”


Teddy’s looks are also disturbing in that there’s no explanation given to why he once appeared to be a dark-skinned black man (via photos, located in the house, of him from earlier decades) but now has almost bleached-looking skin. While this is an obvious nod to Michael Jackson (some online have suggested that Teddy and the bandaged-up Benny represent the two sides of the late King of Pop and his own psychological and physical struggles), who had the skin condition known as vitiligo, the episode doubles down on the idea of a black man under light skin, when Darius urges his friends to Google image search “Sammy Sosa hat.” Their reaction to seeing the much lighter Sosa elicits shock and then mockery with jokes comparing the Dominican ballplayer to the pale skin underneath a scab and speculating that he faded after being put in the dryer.

Echoes of “Get Out”

Both Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning “Get Out” and this episode follow the same pattern as well, with an unsuspecting black man driving to a large estate for what should be a positive experience (meeting the folks; picking up a piano). The initial friendliness he encounters turns out to be a sham, and the encounter ends with violence in which the man barely escapes with his life.

Of course, “Get Out” almost does the reverse of the aforementioned skin issue, literally wrapping black skins around white people. Stanfield played one such character who begins to glitch from that surgical procedure when his photo is taken. Later in the episode when Teddy snaps a Polaroid of him, Darius shies away from the camera, explaining that he’s “not a big photo person.”

‘Atlanta’ Review: ‘Teddy Perkins’ Is More Nightmarish Than ‘Get Out,’ and We Still Haven’t Recovered (2)

Lakeith Stanfield, “Atlanta”

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Going to Egg-stremes

In what is probably the most hilarious, bizarre, and nauseating sequence, Teddy eats a giant, soft-boiled ostrich egg, which he claims to also be known by the macabre name, “an owl’s casket.” Even before Darius shows signs of queasiness, viewers have already started to gag while watching the watery albumen slosh over the shell and Teddy’s fingers dig around in the flesh.

This scene appearing so early in the episode confirms to viewers that no, this is not a normal man nor household. It shifts the entire episode, thereafter, into the realm of campy grotesquerie where anything is possible and highly likely to be just as upsetting. Numerous other quirks that are just off include Teddy leaving unusual messages to himself on what initially looks like an intercom, and Teddy offering Darius a water bottle — but coming back with a a glass of what he said was a mix of different bottled waters.

A callback to the egg is made later when Teddy trots out cliches about sacrifice, which become increasingly disconcerting (not to mention, patently made up). “You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” he says and adds, “To build bridges, people have to fall.” He then follows this up with, “My father used to say great things come from great pain.”

Abuse and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”

‘Atlanta’ Review: ‘Teddy Perkins’ Is More Nightmarish Than ‘Get Out,’ and We Still Haven’t Recovered (3)

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Teddy Perkins himself, “Atlanta”


In fact, Teddy alludes to his father’s philosophy often, such as when it’s observed that Benny expresses hurt and pain well in his music because “he just played what he knew,” and that not living in easy conditions could perhaps lead to a great album or even a masterpiece. Teddy’s twisted devotion to his abusive father is so complete, he even dedicates a wing of the house to his father’s memory, alongside other great and demanding (read: abusive) dads, including Joe Jackson, the fathers of Marvin Gaye and Serena Williams, and “the dad who drops off Emilio Estevez in ‘The Breakfast Club’.”

Of course, rationalizing his father’s abuse as a necessity to create art has twisted Teddy’s perceptions of his own self-worth, and Teddy continues the cycle of abuse with his brother Benny. Here we see echoes of the themes of resentment, control, and imprisonment that’s seen in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”

Like the 1962 psychological thriller starring Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, “Teddy Perkins” also centers on two siblings who had a showbiz upbringing, live in a mansion, and one of whom is confined to a wheelchair. Similarly, their relationship has also turned to bitterness, backstabbing, abuse, and eventually murder.

From Bibby to Benny

In the middle of the episode, Darius and the viewers get a welcome respite when he calls his friend Alfred “Paper Boi” (Brian Tyree Henry), who is in the drive-thru with his friends Tracy (Khris Davis) and Earn (Donald Glover). The hilarious conversation reminds us of the comic relief provided by Lil Rel Howery’s character when he’s called on the phone in “Get Out.”

This oasis of normalcy and humor, however, only serves to make events that Darius is experiencing at the hands of Teddy all the scarier though. It lulls the viewer into a sense of complacency that is completely shattered by the violence at episode’s end. Some audience members couldn’t help to point out that the comedic contrast to last week’s episode “Barbershop” featuring Bibby (Robert Powell) created an even bigger whiplash.

The Evil That Men Do

‘Atlanta’ Review: ‘Teddy Perkins’ Is More Nightmarish Than ‘Get Out,’ and We Still Haven’t Recovered (4)

Lakeith Stanfield, “Atlanta”

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Underneath the horror-comedy elements is a yearning to get to the bottom of why people hate and hurt each other. Childhood abuse is offered up as an explanation of some of the trauma that Teddy is still working through, and this is the most perceptive and engaging that we’ve ever seen Darius.

When he tries to placate Teddy, who is holding him at gunpoint, Darius is every person who is trying to understand why he’s facing down the barrel of a gun, why hurt must lead to more hurt.

“Not all great things come from great pain,” he says. “Sometimes it’s love. Not everything is a sacrifice… Your dad should’ve said sorry… [but] it’s not an excuse to repeat the same shit over and over.”

In the end, it’s more violence and not Darius’ keen understanding that stops Teddy in his tracks. What may have been a moment of hope turns, and pessimism and fatalism win the day. Sadly, it’s an all too common occurrence these days, and as bizarre as this episode is, it’s not unrealistic or fantastical. That’s what makes it even more frightening than “Get Out.”

Stevie Wonder’s “Evil” closes out the episode, and it’s a fitting questioning of humanity:

Evil, why have you engulfed so many hearts, evil
Evil, why have you destroyed so many minds
Leaving room for darkness, where lost dreams can hide
Evil, why do you infest our purest thoughts, with hatred
Evil, why have you stolen so much love
Leaving everyone’s emotions lost and wandering free
Evil, why have you taken over God’s children’s eyes, evil
Evil, before they could really grow to see
That your way, is not the way, to make, life what it should be
Evil, why have you destroyed, you’ve destroyed so much of this doggone world evil
Evil, oh, why have you broken so many homes
Leaving sweet love alone and outcast of the world.

Grade: A

”Atlanta” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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What does Teddy Perkins mean in Atlanta? ›

Then, Theodore Perkins emerges from the shadows and Darius should've fled the scene on sight. The creepy figure who goes by “Teddy” is an unapologetic spoof of pale, post-surgery Michael Jackson (judging by the voice, that seems to be Donald Glover beneath the unsettling prosthetic makeup and blue contact lenses).

What is the meaning behind Atlanta Season 2 episode 6? ›

The murder-suicide symbolizes the inherent fact that the past is just that. You can't eliminate the future, there will always be a next generation that leaves behind what came before it. Teddy Perkins couldn't come to grips with such an idea. Rap has always been the black sheep of music.

Are Benny and Teddy the same person? ›

Teddy's brother, Benny Hope, was played by Derrick Haywood, who had previously played a small role as a bartender in the first season of Atlanta. Haywood called playing the character "an amazing experience".

Who played Teddy Perkins in Atlanta? ›

Donald Glover plays Teddy. It is said that he remained in character during the entire filming process. Many on set found it creepy and others had little to no clue it was in fact Donald Glover; he was even addressed as "Teddy" by the director and crew.

What was the point of Teddy Perkins? ›

The story Teddy Perkins tells is centered on their father's abusive parenting skills and how that can figuratively rob a child of their adolescence.

Who was the guy in the picture at the end of Atlanta? ›

It's a photo of actor Tobias Segal, who played the white guy telling the story of the flood at the beginning of the Season Three opener "Three Slaps." In that unnerving opening scene, he more or less turned into a demon after delivering his monologue about whiteness.

Why did Atlanta take so long to come back? ›

Thanks to scheduling conflicts and COVID-19, Atlanta has been off the air for four years, an unusually long stretch of time even in an era in which television shows regularly take more time between seasons.

Who is the villain in Atlanta? ›

In the TV series Atlanta, the main antagonist is Teddy Perkins, played by Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino.

Who does Teddy choose? ›

Spencer wants Teddy to choose between him and Beau. Teddy tells Beau, who says he wants Teddy to be happy. At the end, Teddy chooses Beau.

Who is Teddy Perkins supposed to be? ›

Darius meets the eponymous Teddy Perkins, a Michael Jackson-esque figure who lives in a mansion supposedly supported by servants, although none of them are seen.

Who does Teddy like? ›

Teddy admits that she is in love with Owen, but he tells her that he loves Cristina.

Could Teddy Perkins be Michael Jackson? ›

But the “omelets” scene is also important because it establishes that Teddy isn't supposed to be Michael Jackson. Teddy lists his own father and Joe Jackson among the great show-business dads, which means their offspring co-existed in the same world.

Did Donald Glover do white face? ›

Donald Glover Stayed in Whiteface the Entire Time on Set During the Filming of Latest 'Atlanta' Episode. Actor Derrick Haywood, who played Benny Hope in 'Atlanta,' confirmed to 'Vulture' that the outlandish Teddy Perkins character from the latest episode was indeed portrayed in whiteface by Donald…

What is an owl casket? ›

Darius's initial meeting with Teddy has, as its centerpiece, an enormous ostrich egg that Teddy says is also called “an owl's casket.” Ostriches are native to Africa; the owl is a symbol of prophecy, learning, and higher wisdom in many cultures, and the pairing of that bird with the word “casket” implies a death of ...

Who dressed up as Teddy Perkins at the Emmys? ›

Some fans who spotted the character during the Emmys broadcast immediately believed it was Glover. Bro. Donald Glover came dressed as Teddy Perkins. Donald Glover really went to the Emmy's as Teddy Perkins.

Why did Donald Glover stop Atlanta? ›

He's choosing to end his Emmy- and Peabody-winning series simply because he's told the story he wanted to tell, and it's time for the show to end, Glover said during a virtual Television Critics Association session on Thursday..

How did Theodore become Teddy? ›

Since that time, stuffed toy bears have been called Teddy Bears. This children's icon was named because of a hunt President Theodore Roosevelt attended in the Mississippi Delta in 1902 where he refused to kill a black bear.

Who is Teddy Perkins Michael Jackson? ›

The titular character is from the most talked about, most bizarre episode of the Donald Glover-created show. The actor played Perkins, a Michael Jackson-esque abused child all grown up who now spends his time locked up in his house.

How many seasons of Atlanta will there be? ›

The groundbreaking comedy series 'Atlanta' is ending after four seasons : NPR. The groundbreaking comedy series 'Atlanta' is ending after four seasons FX's comedy-drama series "Atlanta" is ending Thursday after four seasons.

Why is Van pretending to be French? ›

In “Atlanta,” that hunger belongs to Van (Zazie Beetz), who becomes so unsure of who she is that she has a nervous breakdown, engulfing herself in a French alter ego complete with an accent, a boyfriend, an apartment and a job in a butcher shop that serves human hands.

What was the meaning of Atlanta Season 3 Episode 10? ›

Most significantly, Episode 10 offered valuable insight into what Van (Zazie Beetz) has been going through during her impromptu trip to Europe. She's drifted in and out of earlier episodes, offering little explanation for her whereabouts or state of mind, but “Tarrare” finds her with a whole new identity.

Is Tracy in Atlanta Season 4? ›

Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) goes on a scavenger hunt run by a dead man. Tracy (Khris Davis) makes his triumphant return as a bossy receptionist (in what turns out to be a pretty impressive secret performance).

Why did Atlanta take 4 years off? ›

According to Variety, Glover originally wanted the show to end after season two, which may explain why it spent nearly four years off the air.

Why was there a 4 year gap in Atlanta? ›

There was a big gap between season two, which concluded in May 2018, and this season because of scheduling conflicts that delayed production, FX said previously. But the final two seasons have both been shot. On Thursday, Glover said he has no regrets about wrapping the series.

Why was Atlanta Cancelled? ›

Each of the actors have moved on to star in other major projects, but that hasn't been cited as a reason why the show is ending. The creator Glover spoke out on his reasons for ending Atlanta at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour earlier this year. "Death is natural," he said.

Is Darius in Atlanta autistic? ›

He's quite the eclectic person, but he does not necessarily come off as the most socially inclined person. Darius' heightened intellect and unusual humor can sometimes present as someone on the autism spectrum. With his sensory disorders and coping mechanisms, fidgeting, self medicating and existential outlook on life.

Why Darius is the best character on Atlanta? ›

Darius has an interesting mind and nothing but good intentions. He can be so oblivious in the best ways at times, and yet so self-aware when placed in the awkward situations he has found himself in. But no matter what is happening around him, he's always very much in his own world and completely unbothered.

Who is the First Lady of Atlanta? ›

First Lady of Georgia Marty Kemp is a devoted wife and mother, small business owner, and graduate of the University of Georgia. The First Lady began her career with her family's travel agency and later joined Governor Kemp at Kemp Development and Construction, which heads multiple projects statewide.

Do Beau and Teddy end up together? ›

Spencer wants Teddy to choose between him and Beau. Teddy tells Beau, who says he wants Teddy to be happy. In the end, Teddy chooses Beau.

Does Teddy cheat with? ›

The long-running medical drama begins its new season in the US tonight (November 12) and it opens with Teddy and her fiancé Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) in a bad place, after season 16 ended with Owen finding out that Teddy had cheated on him with Thomas Koracick (Greg Germann).

Does Teddy get pregnant? ›

Just when Amelia and Owen seemed to be back on good terms, Grey's Anatomy threw a wrench in their reconciliation -- in the form of Teddy's surprise pregnancy.

What is the point of the show Atlanta? ›

Atlanta is an American comedy-drama television series created by Donald Glover. The series follows college dropout and music manager Earnest "Earn" Marks (Glover) and rapper Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) as they navigate a strange, seemingly otherworldly, Atlanta hip hop scene.

Is Teddy obsessed with Linda? ›

Teddy is also is shown to have a crush on Linda in several episodes spanning all current seasons, including Aquaticism, Dawn of the Peck, and Beefsquatch.

Who is the love of Teddy's life? ›

Allison Robin Brown was Teddy Altman's best friend and girlfriend who died on 9/11.

What happened to Teddy's girlfriend Allison? ›

Allison started having an affair with Teddy while she was still dating Claire. The two hooked up until the unfortunate death of Allison on September 11, 2001. Allison met her untimely death in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, where she was working. Before her death, she tried to call Teddy numerous times.

Is Michael Jackson's hair a wig? ›

Jackson was also reportedly badly asides from patches of 'peach fuzz' on his scarred scalp as his wavy, shoulder-length hair was found to be a wig that had been glued onto his head.

Who was Michael Jackson infatuated with? ›

Michael's love for Diana started off as a childhood crush but developed into a teenage infatuation. His brother, Jermaine, mentioned in his book: 'They only became close when Michael came of age.

How old would Michael Jackson be this year? ›

Michael Jackson would have turned 64 on August 29, 2022.

Is Donald Glover a genius? ›

Glover is no stranger to being hailed as a genius, though it mostly has been for his work on his FX series “Atlanta.” “This Is America,” however, represents Glover's maturation as a recording artist.

Did Donald Glover retiring Childish Gambino? ›

Donald Glover has revealed that he is not retiring his musical alias Childish Gambino as he had previously suggested. When asked by E!'s Laverne Cox at the Golden Globes if he was still making music, the Atlanta television show creator replied: “I'm making music right now, I love it.

Who is the Michael Jackson looking guy in Atlanta? ›

'Atlanta' Shock: Donald Glover Plays Michael Jackson-Like Character in Whiteface.

Why do caskets have pillows? ›

A rather large overstuffed pillow is included in the interior package of a finished casket. This pillow helps to hold the decedent in an inclined position. This position helps present a naturally comforting presentation to the survivors.

Why do they close the bottom half of a casket? ›

It is always easier to light up the upper half of the body and present the face under the best light. By covering the legs, funeral directors save time by spending lesser time lighting the lower portion of the body.

Is there a difference between a coffin and a casket? ›

a coffin and a casket? The difference is basically one of design. Coffins are tapered at the head and foot and are wide at the shoulders. Caskets are rectangular in shape and are usually constructed of better quality timbers and feature higher standards of workmanship.

Was Jay Pharoah Teddy Perkins? ›

A bunch of people assumed that Glover was able to quickly change out of his costume midway through the night, but it turns out, this Teddy Perkins was an entirely different person. Sources confirmed to Entertainment Tonight that comedian Jay Pharoah was the man dressed as Teddy Perkins throughout the Emmy Awards.

What is paper boy's name on Atlanta? ›

Brian Tyree Henry (born March 31, 1982) is an American actor. He rose to prominence for his role as Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles in the FX comedy-drama series Atlanta (2016–2022), for which he received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Who was Teddy Perkins at the award show? ›

There was a joke at Monday night's Emmy Awards that you only would have been in on if you are an “Atlanta” fan. Teddy Perkins, the Michael Jackson-esque character played by star Donald Glover on the FX comedy last season, was in the audience at the ceremony, much to the delight of fans.

What is Atlanta unofficial nickname? ›

According to the video, what is Atlanta's "unofficial nickname"? "The City Too Busy To Hate"

Who is the white guy in the picture at the end of Atlanta? ›

It's a photo of actor Tobias Segal, who played the white guy telling the story of the flood at the beginning of the Season Three opener "Three Slaps." In that unnerving opening scene, he more or less turned into a demon after delivering his monologue about whiteness.

Are Earn and Alfred cousins? ›

Alfred grew up with his cousin Earn in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite being close friends since childhood, the two have not seen each other since Alfred's mother passed away.

What happened to paper boys? ›

Today, they are mainly used by weekly community newspapers and free shopper papers, which still tend to be delivered in the afternoons. Alternatively, sometimes paperboys are only employed once a week to deliver the paper on Sunday. Many deliveries these days are by adults in cars, known as newspaper carriers.

Did Teddy Perkins win any awards? ›

An Investigation. Viewers were thrilled and/or horrified to see Donald Glover's eerie Atlanta character Teddy Perkins in the audience at the 2018 Emmys. People were quick to applaud Glover for committing to stiflingly hot prosthetics, especially because he sadly did not win any of the three awards he was nominated for.

What award did the ranch win? ›

You Won't Believe This Netflix Show Won An Emmy

"I'm surprised, and really excited, and, yeah, a little emotional," Bledel told Entertainment Tonight of her win. "It's all the feelings."


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