There are a lot of dead animals on this show. In the first couple of episodes, Krystal shoots and butchers two gators, a serious crime that puts her further in debt. Last episode, a man trying to expose FAM accidentally crushes his pet bird trying to escape his burning houseboat. And now “Manifest Destinee” begins with Stan lifting two limp bodies of drowned flamingoes out of his park’s lazy river. Stan eyes the sky suspiciously, a movement mimicked throughout the episode as people look up for some possible explanation of the horrors below.
Roger Penland—revealed to be the FAM henchman with a penchant for arson and an aversion toward shoes—cryptically suggests that Krystal’s deviation from the Garbeau System is disrupting the natural order of things. Sure enough, a virus overtakes baby Destinee and Krystal, leading to a surreal distortion of reality for the latter. FAM’s success at being a highly manipulative company-cult hybrid relies on pointing the finger anywhere else. Penland quite literally positions the Garbeau System as the natural order of things. In reality, FAM—and more broadly, capitalism—is the threat. Animals keep dying, and it’s humans’ fault.
“Manifest Destinee” continues to ramp up the stakes of FAM’s grip on this community, and the over-the-top elements of the episode work well. To keep the Weird Breaking Bad thread going, Penland is a slightly more cartoonish version of Mike Ehrmantraut. We don’t know much about him as an individual, but he represents the strength and carefully curated mystery of FAM. He’s a harbinger, and his scene in the car with Krystal is one of the first times she’s exposed to just how south things could go if she upsets the FAM order.
The episode spirals into horror territory as Krystal’s health deteriorates. Determined to recruit 50 new people for her downline, she picks up Travis’ old plans and heads into a desolate new stretch of town where the people seem like ghosts. Up until now, the horrors of On Becoming A God In Central Florida have been pretty subtle, but they all come bursting to the surface in Krystal’s parched delirium. She navigates through an eerie ghost town—no doubt another product of the greed and disparity perpetuated by capitalism. She doesn’t find scores of new families to pull into FAM. She finds a young boy shooting a nail gun at nothing in particular. She finds a man spraying a naked man with some sort of chemical substance for protection from something. She finds a man who makes music for people to listen to as they’re dying.
In short, it’s weird. It unsettles. I’m less into some of the direction choices that exaggerate Krystal’s mental state—the wobbling camerawork feels a little cheap. It’s just not needed, because the rest of the imagery is doing the work. Krystal has found herself in an uncanny suburb development that seemingly never took off. A man literally hands her a cassette tape that she’s supposed to die to. It’s over-the-top, but it works. This show hits its themes most sharply in its weirdest moments.
The episode’s best scene, though, comes at the very end. We’ve seen Krystal verbally dominate the men in her life before. She walks all over Stan. Her last words to Travis were an ultimatum. It’s cute that Cody ever thinks he has any power over her. He might technically be her upline when it comes to the Garbeau System, but to borrow Krystal’s own words “fuck the Garbeau System.” In life, she’s his upline, and she makes it known by knocking him around...as foreplay. The shift that happens between Krystal slapping him out of genuine frustration and then slapping him because they both want it to keep happening is so good. You can see it on both of their faces, in Krystal’s smile, in the way Cody leans in instead of pulling away from her hands. This is already a show about power dynamics, and now that’s spilling over into the bedroom. Krystal is finding new ways to harness her power and quite literally put a chokehold on the men getting in her way.
- Kevin J. O’Connor is well cast as Roger, but does anyone else find themselves wishing it were Zeljko Ivanek in the role?
- As someone who was in their church handbell choir, I feel very connected to Ernie.
- I’m glad to see Krystal is now fully friends with Rhonda (mainly because we don’t really see Krystal ever hanging out with friends?) but I do wish there had been like one or two more scenes to develop this dynamic before we’re just dropped into them being besties sharing Coronas on the couch.
- Cody’s daddy issues are once again on full display. He has a child-like reverie for Garbeau, as evidenced by his elated reaction the voicemail...even though it’s literally a scripted, pre-recorded message that probably went out to dozens of people. And the whole point of the message is just to get him to work more.
- As Ernie learns, there isn’t a damn person in this stretch of the Orlando area who hasn’t already heard the FAM pitch. The fact that he ends up tapping into a particularly vulnerable demographic is heartbreaking and will surely have ramifications down the line, especially since Ernie has been positioned as the show’s only “good guy.”