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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

On Becoming A God In Central Florida finds its voice in butchered gators and tear-soaked waterslides

Illustration for article titled iOn Becoming A God In Central Florida /ifinds its voice in butchered gators and tear-soaked waterslides
Image: On Becoming A God In Central Florida (Showtime)
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On Becoming A God In Central Florida’s pilot so thoroughly sets up the specific world of this show—namely the insidious nature of FAM, the multilevel marketing company that is indirectly responsible for Krystal’s husband’s death—as well as its central themes of greed, power, survival. It lays the groundwork, as any effective pilot does. With episode two, “The Gloomy-Zoomies,” On Becoming A God In Central Florida has the space to get a little weirder, to zoom in on the specific nuances of those overarching themes, and to sink its teeth into these characters. The pilot sets up the broad strokes, and this episode gets into exactly what kind of show On Becoming A God In Central Florida really is. It’s one where desperate risks take the form of poached animals and deep sadness lives on a lit-up waterslide in the middle of the night and a woman takes her life into her own hands by ripping off her own braces. On Becoming A God In Central Florida’s imagery is surprising, subtly foreboding, and deeply rooted in the economic anxieties of its characters.

I mean, it starts with Kirsten Dunst butchering a gator in a garage. The image alone—of a gator head draining while she slices into the meat of another’s body and her baby bounces idly nearby—packs a punch. But beneath the surface, there’s so much more there. Krystal is willing to get dirty. She’ll do whatever it takes to protect herself and her daughter, to make sure they stay afloat even as her belongings are suddenly repossessed by the bank and the overdue mortgage payments surface. She’ll butcher a damn gator; she doesn’t give a fuck.


Indeed, in “The Gloomy-Zoomies,” Krystal has her breaking bad moment. It comes at the end of the episode, when she calls Cody to accept his $3,000 “upline bonus” and assures him she’ll have Ernie signed up for FAM by the end of the week. Krystal doesn’t suddenly believe in the FAM way. She just sees it as a means to an end, and she’s willing to pull an actual friend into this world even if it causes him and his family harm.

As Cody explains, FAM is built on the principle of “community.” Yeah, right. It’s effective rhetoric, framing capitalist labor as something meaningful and collaborative. But “The Gloomy-Zoomies” makes it clear that people rarely help each other out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s usually transactional. Cody doesn’t care about Krystal (his “sorry for your loss” cookie cake is hilarious evidence of that). He just needs her to do what he wants so he can continue to prosper in the FAM framework. Buzz, the car dealer and beauty pageant judge who loans Krystal an ATV so she can commute to work, at first seems like a friend genuinely wanting to support Krystal. But that facade shatters later when he heartlessly haggles her down on the rate for coaching his daughter in pageantry. He turns this conversation into a glib lesson on the art of haggling for his daughter. Meanwhile, Krystal is literally telling him she could lose her house.

Cody and Buzz are both incredibly exploitative men whose exploitations are also steeped in sexism. Buzz has no real basis for why he thinks Krystal wouldn’t be able to close deals, and it’s clear that he just thinks a woman isn’t suited for the job. And Krystal’s “tiaras for tugjobs” line drives that all home. Buzz was never really looking out for her, just like Cody doesn’t actually have the best interests of the couples he tries to recruit in mind.

The scenes between Cody and a new-to-town MLM guy who ascribes to a different brand of bullshit get increasingly funny and weird, little choices like their blue-stained lips from endless rounds of slushies ramping up the farce. Speaking of Krystal’s breaking bad moment, I’m starting to think of this show a bit as Weird Breaking Bad. It’s steeped in similar themes and has that anti-hero framework that is, for some reason, deeply intoxicating. But On Becoming A God In Central Florida offers up bizarre perversions of the anti-hero journey. Gutting alligators, ripping braces off, sobbing on a waterslide—these are all powerful, slightly uncanny images. Florida gets a reputation for being “weird,” but this isn’t the cartoonish cliche of Florida Man, and On Becoming A God In Central Florida isn’t making fun of its setting or its characters. The humor is human and unexpected. Violence and humor interplay and interrupt each other. Krystal’s puppet dance is one of the funniest things I’ve watched in a while, but seconds later she has a screwdriver in a bad man’s face. Dunst plays both sides sharply.


It even seems like there might be more than just generosity under the acts of kindness Ernie supplies in the episode, though they’re more likely emotional than financial. He gives Krystal $200 for Travis’ belongings at the garage sale and decides to create a time capsule of them. But as his increasingly violent digging and, later, depressing waterslide ritual indicate, there’s something else going on here. I’m not sure if it’s as simple as him having feelings for Krystal, which seems like the most obvious answer. But the turn from the garage sale moment to the hole digging goes from sweet to somewhat disturbing. The only genuine act of kindness in the episode comes from the Rhonda the repo woman, who doesn’t even know Krystal but seems more attuned to the harsh reality of her situation than anyone else.

“The Gloomy-Zoomies” is an intense character study that makes On Becoming A God In Central Florida more immersive. It was smart of Showtime to release it alongside the pilot. The show has a distinct voice that’s fully on display here, zipping between its twisted humor and more meditative moments that peel back its characters’ layers, namely what it is that they want. Most of them want more power and control than they have.


Stray observations

  • I can’t believe there are two—TWO—cookie cake bits in this episode? I’m obsessed with this show’s weirdo sense of humor.
  • Dunst is so funny in Krystal’s most shit-talking moments.
  • Julie Benz once again shines even though she’s only really in one scene.

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