How ‘Atlanta’ and ‘The Good Fight’ Chose Chaos

Diane, for her part, is back on drugs. After getting a referral during a visit to a virtual-reality environment (from a friendly stranger who turns out to have been an advertising bot), she begins a hallucinogen-based anxiety treatment under the care of the hunky Dr. Lyle Bettencourt (John Slattery).

If the psychedelic story line feels like “The Good Fight” repeating itself, this time it plays differently. Now Diane’s feel-good treatment — which leaves her blissfully smelling the flowers as Chicago explodes — feels like a metaphor for the impulse among the privileged to tune out as things fall apart, to retreat into “self-care,” to use their own heads as escape pods.

But as the finale approaches, the good fight has been re-engaged. The street fascists are being fought most effectively not by the police but by the Collective, an underground justice group that runs its own faux prison. Diane, having ended her treatment, is weighing an offer to take over the Democratic National Committee, bankrolled by a tech mogul with a $680 billion war chest who wants to buy Fox News, use his internet company’s data to blackmail senators and kick off the 2024 presidential campaign of the action hero Dwayne Johnson.

Whether democracy can be saved by vigilantes, a deus ex machina mogul and the Rock is a question for the finale. But however it plays out, what’s remarkable is the way that a very institutionalist series about the law and neoliberal politics has concluded that we cannot depend on institutions anymore. Strange days, “The Good Fight” has decided, call for stranger measures.

On “Atlanta,” meanwhile, surrealism is less an adaptation to troubled times than it is a way of life. The star and creator, Donald Glover, has said that the show’s driving thesis is, “How do we make people feel Black?” Over four seasons, its answer has been that being Black in America (and occasionally outside America) is complex, nuanced, sometimes scary and often deeply weird.

“Atlanta” is both timely and timeless, interested in both the influencer culture of the moment and in racial absurdities that go back generations. The first season set us down in a world where it was matter-of-fact reality that Justin Bieber was Black (a twist that tweaked the different expectations toward white and Black artists) and that a famous rapper might pose on social media with his invisible car (a kind of emperor’s-new-ride sendup of music-biz materialism).

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