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On Becoming A God In Central Florida warns of the dangers of insecure men

Image: On Becoming A God In Central Florida (Showtime)
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The penultimate episode of On Becoming A God In Central Florida’s first season hinges on the Wham Bam Thank You FAM telethon, a FAM-backed charity event raising money for orphans. It’s a perfect setting for the show, allowing for a lot of its signature weirdness and dark humor. It also throws its characters into an even more uncertain chaos, where everyone treads lightly lest they be trampled.

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Because darkness isn’t just looming at the edges of these characters lives; they’re fully in it now. Krystal is quite literally living in the belly of the beast, taking on a full-time job at Paradise Caye, which basically amounts to sucking up to Obie and doing Louisa’s bidding. Obie and Louisa are both master manipulators, unafraid to use blatantly nefarious means to get what they want, as we learn when Judd Waltrip stows away in Krystal’s car and tells her about how Obie banished him and even got Harmony to turn against him to the point where she won’t let him see her daughter Melody.

What Obie and Louisa don’t realize is that Krystal might be the first time someone isn’t falling for their bullshit. She flips Obie off when he can’t see. She rolls her eyes at Louisa’s micromanaging and snoops around Paradise Caye in search of the damning evidence against Obie that Buck Bridges (who we meet finally, played by David Paymer!) offers to pay her for. Krystal’s disobedience is electrifying, because she really does seem to be the only person in Obie and Louisa’s world defying them.

And Cody knows it. But he doesn’t know what to do about it. Théodore Pellerin continues to give a fantastic performance. Cody’s suspicious of Krystal, onto her schemes. But he’s also nervous for her. He does seemingly really care about her, and he doesn’t want anything to happen to her. He has seen the lengths Obie is willing to go to to squash his enemies. At the same time, he’s still totally under Obie’s spell, desperate for a father figure to the point where he is still willing to do his bidding. So Cody is doing a delicate dance right now, beholden to both Krystal and Obie. He isn’t smart enough to play both sides, and yet he might just be earnest enough. Pellerin has to do more subtle work than the role usually calls for here, but over the course of this series, he has proven he can do a lot more than just the overtly comedic Cody moments.

On this show, all of the men are insecure. That manifests in different ways: Cody has daddy issues and is wildly immature. Ernie doesn’t know how to be vulnerable, and it makes him hold everything in too much. Obie is so desperate to be seen as a god that he defies medical advice, creates a bronze cast of himself, spray tans to a point where he doesn’t even look real. Obie is so scared of mediocrity that he’ll do anything to eschew it, self-mythologizing to the point of madness. All of these men have an idea of how “real men” are “supposed” to act. Ernie puts so much pressure on himself as a husband and father that he ends up failing on both fronts. His PTSD continues to take ahold of him in this episode, and he continues to not address the issue head-on, convinced that he’s supposed to just push through it. Roger stokes the flames of Pat’s feelings of inadequacy to the point where Pat resorts to violence.

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Obie weaponizes the insecurities of other men by claiming to provide a path toward success and all the markers of masculinity that have been fed to them. FAM sells the idea of the perfect man, the perfect woman, the perfect family. And we already knew it’s a sham, but Wham Bam drives that home. Ernie literally poses with a family that isn’t his own, because his involvement with FAM has fractured his real family too much.

“Wham Bam Thank You FAM” lines up the pieces for a dramatic finale, and my only real concern is that there’s a lot going on at once. The show has been renewed for a second season, but that became official midseason, so there could still be pressure to wrap things up neatly. On Becoming A God In Central Florida revels in its own mess though. It’s a chaotic show, but it hasn’t lost itself in that chaos. A lot happens in its penultimate episode, but it’s all tightly around the show’s core themes. FAM is a persistent nightmare, and the telethon plays out like a disturbing dream sequence.

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Stray observations

  • The specific way in which Harold is acting up/unraveling as a result of the turmoil between his parents is very specific and visceral. Hearing a kid swear that much is usually funny, but in this case it’s disturbing.
  • Paymer is really so great in this role, especially during the musical number.
  • On that note, this episode also is my favorite performance from Ted Levine as Obie.
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