Atlanta is a weird show. From Black Justin Bieber to an invisible car to unsanctioned Chet Hanks and Kevin Samuels appearances, Donald Glover’s brainchild is one of the most unpredictable series on television. And yet, if this fan theory circulating Reddit has any legitimacy, the FX comedy-drama might be even stranger than you think.
Back in April, Reddit user Litboy35 took a deep dive into the possibility that the entirety of Atlanta’s storyline is actually just a dream. Darius Epps’ dream, to be exact. And the hypothesis hinges on seeds planted in the very first episode, “Big Bang.”
In it, our heroes Earnest "Earn" Marks (Donald Glover), Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Bryan Tyree Henry), and Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) find themselves in the midst of a heated altercation. Tensions are high. Egos are activated. Violence is imminent. But Darius has been here before. Or rather, he thinks he has. Soaking in the moment in all his perpetual daze, Darius tells everyone within earshot he’s experiencing déjà vu, directing his gaze at a “dog with the Texas on him.” “There he is,” Darius says. “That’s a trip.”
Of course, without confirmation from the writer’s room, this is all just speculation.
By itself, the scene is just an isolated instance of Darius' weirdness. But it begins to look a lot more trippy by the Season 3 premiere (“Three Slaps”). The episode begins with a White man and a Black man seated in a boat on Lake Lanier, the infamous Georgia body of water that flooded a flourishing Black community decades ago. The White man tells a chilling story about the lake being haunted before a sudden horror movie twist—all of which, it is soon revealed, is merely the nightmare of a child named Loquareeous. The remainder of the episode follows Loquareeous in an adaptation of the real-life tragedy of Devonte Hart. That tale comes to an abrupt end when Earn wakes up in a European hotel, revealing that the story of the boy and the fisherman were actually his own dream.
As Litboy35 notes, this establishes the idea that, in Atlanta, it’s possible that crucial moments can actually come from layers of subconsciousness, a la Inception. And that baseline makes the idea of Atlanta being an elaborately lucid dream all the more feasible. Especially since, back in 2016, before the show debuted, Glover claimed he wanted his show to be “Twin Peaks with rappers.” That show, which premiered in 1990, dabbled heavily in the idea of dreams within a dream.
Litboy35 also points out other evidence that suggests the show may be a dream. There’s Darius’ belief in simulation theory (as revealed in Season 2’s “Champagne Papi”). There's the Season 3 encounter with a woman named MK, which could be an allusion to MKUltra, a CIA program that saw scientists explore the power of mind control. And there's the suggestion that Season 1’s “B.A.N.”—a parody of BET programming, complete with bizarre commercials—could be the product of falling asleep with the TV playing in the background.
Of course, without confirmation from the writer’s room, this is all just speculation. Honestly, Darius’ eccentricity could be all the explanation we need. While Season 3 has left more stones unturned than not, hopefully the final episodes provide the resolutions we’ve all been craving—and a confirmation on whether the narrative we’ve come to love has all been an odd and delightful dream.
Head over to Reddit to get into this mindfuck of a theory for yourself. It’s a wild ride.