The lies & deception are piling up like FAM boxes as Cody dedicates himself yet again to the holy church of Obie.
It was announced last week that On Becoming a God in Central Florida has been renewed for a second season, which leaves me wondering more than ever how exactly they’re going to end this season. Its plot seems suited for a single limited series season, climaxing with the collapse of FAM and Krystal’s need for revenge satisfied, although likely leaving her alone and more cynical in the end. Continuing to stretch it out over potentially ten more episodes seems unwise, but on the other hand, this show has already taken so many weird twists and turns that maybe it’ll end up making perfect sense.
The episode opens with Krystal (Kirsten Dunst) pawning the gem from Cody’s engagement ring and replacing it with a fake stone (the “flint glass” of the episode title). This sets the stage for an episode heavy in deception and dishonesty, where various characters’ motivations are murkier than ever, in a way that’s both frustrating and deeply compelling. Considering how Judd abruptly turned to the dark side in episode five (and surely that couldn’t have been the last we’ve seen of him, right?), and just the general weirdness of Obie (Ted Levine) and Roger (Kevin J. O’Connor), literally anything could happen between now and the end of the season, and that’s exhilarating.
Krystal uses the money from the pawned diamond to try to set up the Splashercise classes herself, much to Cody’s dismay. Cody (Theodore Pellerin) still believes, with a childlike devotion that would be touching, if not for the fact that he’s such an insufferable weenie, that a life in service to Obie is still the path to wealth and success. It doesn’t matter that he has yet to receive a paycheck for all his hard work, or that Obie pulls the classic passive-aggressive power move of pretending he doesn’t know who Krystal is, despite having already met her twice.
It doesn’t even matter that Cody has to humiliate himself by sneaking into his own mother’s house to take some family heirlooms he can sell because he’s desperate for cash. As far as he’s concerned, this is what a good businessman must do if he wants to succeed, if he wants to win (win what in this case remains unclear) — lie, hustle, throw your weight around (what little weight Cody has), and push your nose so far up your boss’s ass you can smell what he had for dinner last night.
Krystal has her meeting with Mirta Herrera (Melissa De Sousa), who initially doesn’t think there’s much of a story to be found in FAM, until she gets Krystal to agree to record Cody’s meetings with Obie. Mirta, like almost everyone else in the episode, is resorting to deception to get what she wants — in this case by not telling Krystal that she’s been fired from the television station. The show doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with Mirta as a character yet, beyond making her a stock flawed, hard living reporter, and it’s not quite clear if she’s interested in Krystal’s story because she wants to expose FAM, or use it as a way to get her job back, or both.
She’s not a very good reporter, as we’ll find out when she attempts to follow Cody to a secret meeting with Obie, and she doesn’t seem to be a very nice person, as we’ve seen from encounters with her teenage daughter. Nevertheless, in revenge stories sometimes redemption can be found, and maybe she’s the character that receives it. Or she could be secretly working for Obie, who knows, my point is that this show is excellent in keeping things oblique and puzzling in a way that leaves you dying to know more.
Whereas Ernie’s guileless enthusiasm for FAM, and the idea that he thinks he’s doing God’s work with it, was initially touching, now it’s becoming something a little toxic and creepy.
Speaking of deception…sigh…oh, Ernie. He hasn’t told Bets (Beth Ditto) that he quit his job at the water park, and she’s already frustrated enough at his insistence that they replace all their usual household items with FAM branded merchandise. Bets is sweetly naïve, but even she knows that the idea of “the more you buy, the more you earn” makes no sense, nor does the idea that pilfering your child’s college fund to buy more FAM products, as a member of Ernie’s downline does, is actually a good thing.
Ernie (Mel Rodriguez), in just a matter of a few weeks, has become such a FAM fanatic that he thinks a special date is taking Bets to a meeting where some of his downline become their own CEOs (an event that, in reality, means nothing if your business isn’t earning a plug nickel). Whereas Ernie’s guileless enthusiasm for FAM, and the idea that he thinks he’s doing God’s work with it, was initially touching, now it’s becoming something a little toxic and creepy. One wonders how their son, who seems to be enjoying helping Ernie with FAM-related events, will play into this. Baby Destinee was simply too young to choose sides.
After an encounter with his lookalike/soundalike rival from episode 2, Cody learns that a rally is going to be held in Obie’s territory by a competing pyramid scheme. Trying once again to get into Obie’s good graces, Cody tells him about the rally, but Roger undercuts him by revealing that Cody’s father is in prison for money laundering. Complicating matters further, Cody allegedly turned his father into the FBI and testified against him. Like Mirta, Roger’s motives remain unclear. Is he genuinely concerned for the safety and so-called integrity of FAM, or is he simply jealous of the attention Cody is getting? At any rate, Cody is invited to what he believes is a secret security meeting, but turns out to be a bizarre sweatshop ritual in which Obie gets him to admit that he turned his father in, and forces him yet again to pledge undying loyalty not just to FAM, but to Obie himself.
Mirta manages to get some of the meeting on tape, though she stumbles around in the woods like it’s her first day on the job and leaves her car where Roger can find it. The real gold is found in the tape recorder Krystal hid in Cody’s briefcase, which captures a chilling conversation in which Obie tells Cody that he plans to buy Rebel Rapids and turn it into FAM’s version of Disney World. Despite Cody’s best efforts, there’s no room for Krystal in this plan. “Krystal won’t be anything!” Obie snarls. “That girl–”
The tape cuts off there, but considering that only just five minutes earlier Cody pledged to both give his life, and someone else’s life to Obie if he demanded it, Obie probably didn’t finish that sentence with “–is going to get paid for her trouble and allowed to live out the rest of her life in peace.”
- We get a good reminder in this episode of how comically large electronics used to be, like Cody’s cordless phone, which is longer than his head, and the video camera Mirta lugs around like a suitcase.
- “No audience is going to be interested in this, they only want serial killers or cannibals. Is this Obie guy a cannibal?” “Maybe.”
- Cody’s sterile, almost empty apartment, which looks like a room at the La Quinta Inn, is the bleakest thing you’ll ever see.
- Ernie sticking a “hazardous material” label on everything in his house that isn’t FAM branded is a stark turning point, both for Bets and the audience, when his enthusiasm for FAM goes from oddly charming to unpleasant and aggressive. This is why no one buys your shit, MLM people.
- Music cue this episode: Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” when Mirta trails Cody in her car.
- Surprising absolutely no one, we learn that Obie wears a hairpiece.
- “Painting With John” is an unlikely balm to the soul - January 20, 2021
- 10 films we can’t wait to see at Sundance 2021 - January 19, 2021
- “Servant” spins its wheels in a messy season 2 - January 13, 2021