CR: Guy D’Alema/FX

Before we start this one, I’mma need a minute.

…..

…….

Alright. Inhale. Exhale. Let’s go.

For all of Atlanta’s complexities as a show, Darius has always been its most complex character. As Paper Boi’s confidante and the group’s pothead savant, he’s served as a moral sherpa for his friends and the audience alike. After the past couple of weeks, it was apparent that we’d be getting a solo Darius episode. And it was just as complex and mesmerizing as the character himself.

Darius is gassing up a U-Haul and headed in search of something. We don’t know exactly what. We just know that he arrives at a giant, secluded plantation house for a “pickup”. He knocks on the ornate wrought iron door. It opens and Darius cautiously walks in.

The place is dark. Quiet. Light streams in through partially-opened curtains. Y’know, basic first act horror movie shit. From the shadows behind Darius, we hear a voice. Emerging from the gloom is the creepiest looking white man one could ever wish (or fear) to see in person. He’s dressed in a smoking jacket with a full head of thick, black hair. He speaks softly and in a near-falsetto.

(This man reminds me of a famous pop star but I can’t put my finger on who it is. I’ll remember the time I could think of the name.)

The mysterious man asks if that was Stevie Wonder he heard playing from Darius’ truck. Why yes, it was “Mr. Wonder” playing in the car. Darius likes listening to him on long drives. And your name is…?

Theodore Perkins. But you can call him Teddy.

Teddy is an affable sort, if not more than a little creepy in nearly every way possible. Take your pick as to what unsettles you the most — his overly re-constructed face with the way-too-high cheekbones or the stretched-too-tight bleached white skin. Maybe it’s the large, eerily quiet old house that’s gathering dust in far too many places.

Or maybe it’s watching Teddy crack into and eat a comically-large, runny, soft-boiled ostrich egg. Darius should earn a medal for not visibly gagging and vomiting all over the room.

But we finally get to the crux of why Darius has entered this dusty, living wax museum. A piano! It’s being given away by its owner. That owner is a former musician named Benny Hope, who is also Teddy’s brother. Nowadays, Benny is in poor health due to a rare skin condition that forces him to live hidden away in the house with no sunlight whatsoever.

In his heyday, Benny played with ‘em all. Darius comes across photos of Benny with a number of popular artists like Al Jarreau and, of course, Stevie Wonder. That moment creates a bit of connection between Darius and Teddy. It also offers some foreshadowing when Teddy reminisces that he was once told that his brother “plays pain better than anyone else.”

“He just played what he knew,” says Teddy. We have no idea yet what that means.

Before long, Teddy wanders off to fetch Darius a glass of water. Instead of waiting awkwardly in the parlor, Darius decides to explore the house. Eventually, he’s drawn by the sound of piano music. It takes him upstairs, down a corridor and to a closed door near the end of the hallway. Along the way, he sees pictures of Benny along the stages of his life — including being wheelchair-bound as an old man.

As Darius reaches for the doorknob, the door opens and Teddy’s face pokes through the opening. The obviously flustered Teddy doesn’t acknowledge the piano music Darius says he heard and tries to shoo the younger man away, saying Benny isn’t feeling well and trying to sleep. Yet in the room is an empty wheelchair sitting in front of the piano.

Is Teddy actually Benny? Has Benny created the persona of Teddy to help him hide from the world? Einhorn is Finkle. Finkle is Einhorn!

This is the point of the horror flick when the protagonist has a chance to run. Alfred suggests the same when Darius calls with a progress report on the attempted piano acquisition. After what he’s gone through, no one would blame Darius if he bailed on this whole endeavor. But Darius has made a Two-Life-Regret-Limit Pact. If he ever goes beyond two regrets in his life, he’s given someone the authority to shoot and kill him. Giving up on this piano would be a strike against him.

Darius continues. So does the weirdness. Teddy has turned one room of the house into a gift shop with the endgame of making the whole house into a museum. He’s already applied to have it registered as an historical site. Not creeped out yet? It gets worse.

Teddy opens a set of double doors leading into a dark room, in the middle of which stands a faceless body form wearing a gray suit. This, Teddy says, is a statue of his father. Teddy and Benny’s father was a demanding man, forcing his kids to practice the piano for three hours daily. Any failures were met with physical punishment. He demanded sacrifice. A brutal, austere life for his prodigies.

It was for the best, Teddy proclaims. His father knew what was best for his boys. This was merely training for life. Life demands sacrifice. All of the best fathers instilled that into their children. That’s why this room would be a tribute to great fathers. Men like Joe Jackson, Marvin Gaye Sr., and Emilio Estevez’s dad in The Breakfast Club.

Darius finds a humanity in the damaged man. Teddy isn’t just the caricature of a rich eccentric. He was a damaged child who’s never dealt with the source of his pain. And he was trying to hold on to the piano just a little bit longer. Alas, Darius demands that they make the transaction. Teddy angrily signs the instrument over and storms out, leaving an ominous drop of blood on one of the keys.

Deciding it best to just take the piano and leave, Darius gets into the house’s elevator and pushes the button for the first floor. Which isn’t the basement. Which is where Darius ends up. Reluctantly, he takes a look around when he finds…

Yup. Benny.

Benny’s in the basement, sitting in a wheelchair, covered from head to toe in clothes and blankets. Yet armed with a chalkboard. And a warning. Teddy has malevolent ideas. The only way to stop him is to get the gun in the attic.

Darius would rather not. He’d rather take the piano to the truck and go home. That’s not happening though because his truck is being blocked by Teddy’s car. It’s a trap! Teddy’s blocked in Darius and retrieved the shotgun from the attic. He cuffs Darius with plans to kill him and Benny while making it look like a home invasion robbery.

Before any of that happens, Darius opens up to Teddy. He dives into his past with an abusive father and how he learned to face it and make peace with it. He tries to convince Teddy that what happened to him wasn’t right and he doesn’t have to be ashamed. Teddy’s too far gone.

Also gone is the shotgun. Teddy has set it on a chair. Benny has come up from the basement in the elevator. He quickly wheels to the shotgun and kills his brother before turning the gun on himself.

Allowed to leave as the cops clean up and remove the bodies, Darius looks back at the house with sadness. It feels like he left the house with a regret nonetheless. Just not the one he expected.

  • The instances of gunfire in Atlanta have always felt very raw, most notably the drive-thru robbery in the season opener. But this week’s final sequence with the murder-suicide stands as the most brutal moment in the show.
  • If Lakeith Stanfield isn’t your new favorite actor after this week’s episode, I don’t know if we can be friends.
  • How many of you googled Sammy Sosa? Even if you already knew.
  • It was Psycho meets Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? with a dash of Sunset Blvd topped with a heapin’ helping of The Jacksons: An American Dream. But creepier. Amazing.
  • It was Donald Glover.