On Becoming a God in Central Florida Recap: “Birthday Party”

On Becoming a God

The road to success (whatever that means) suddenly gets a little more convoluted as Krystal receives some unexpected career counseling.

One thing that On Becoming a God in Central Florida doesn’t get enough credit for is its accurate portrayal of how much the decks are constantly stacked against poor people. On Becoming a God may take place in 1992, but little has changed in that regard: the rich continue to get richer while the poor, even those who break their backs in multiple minimum wage jobs, stay poor. Wealthy and middle class individuals pass smug judgment on the poor for putting out money they can hardly afford on either simple, inexpensive pleasures like iced coffee, or inarguable necessities like a cell phone. 

Saving money is a futile pursuit for the poor — sooner or later it’ll get eaten up for something, a medical bill or a car repair, and you’re still treading with your head barely above water, while people in better situations than you tsk and tell you you’re just not working hard enough. And that’s if you even have enough left over after all the other bills to save in the first place.

Sure, Krystal (Kirsten Dunst) was able to save her house, and even get a new car, but she still can’t afford daycare for Destinee. She’s still begging her condescending creep of a boss to pay her a livable wage. For all the time and effort she’s put into both her actual day job and gaming FAM to her advantage, she’s still just barely making it. Faced with the prospect of losing her only reliable source of income thanks, yet again, to Obie Garbeau II (Ted Levine), Krystal lets her defenses down and considers help from a most unlikely source: Louise Garbeau (Sharon Lawrence), Obie’s wife.

Rebel Rapids is now purchased to be turned into another FAM property, and no one will give Krystal a straight answer as to whether she still has a job there (though the smirk on Obie’s face says it all). At the suggestion of Louise, Krystal returns to Paradise Cay, where she believes she’ll be expected to grovel for her job, and we assume she’ll receive more smug “FAM wife” counseling, like Carol used to give her. Instead, Louise is a new age therapist specializing in “rebirthing,” guiding her clients through a recreation of their own birth. Believing that it’s the answer to Krystal’s anger and distrust, she talks her into sitting in what looks like a grown-up ball pit (a “vagina tub,” Krystal calls it) in the middle of her house.

Krystal grudgingly goes along with it, because that’s what you do when you need something from a rich person, you jump through their hoops, and yet once she’s in the tub she experiences some of what Louise is talking about. She doesn’t relive her own birth, however, but rather Destinee’s birth, which allows her to openly express the anger she feels at Travis for not being there because he was off on FAM-related business. Louise is neither surprised or offended at Krystal’s anger, and symbolically burns it. Given Krystal’s weary relief afterward, it seems to have worked.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that he seems to be getting dumber every minute, Cody (Theodore Pellerin) is sent on a “training run” with the endlessly disgusted Roger (Kevin J. O’Connor). First they break into Mirta’s (Melissa De Sousa) apartment while she’s passed out in the bathroom, where Cody finds a folder full of FAM-related materials Mirta’s collected for her story. Just when you think Cody might not be a complete nincompoop, he also leaves his engraved-with-his-name gun unattended long enough for Roger to steal and plant it later, after violently attacking an employee of Bud Bridges, Obie’s primary business rival.

She might not really care for Cody all that much, and FAM destroyed the life she once had, but maybe it’s time she just bit the bullet and did what was best to give Destinee the life she deserves.

While I’m still not sure how I feel about On Becoming a God carrying over into a second season, if it would mean learning more about Roger, where he came from, how he ended up with Obie, and how he feels about FAM in general then I’m for it. A fascinating mix of Renfield and Darth Vader, Roger isn’t just annoyed at Obie’s insistence that Cody be part of his inner circle, he’s perplexed and maybe even a little threatened. It’s hard to believe that such a transparently phony egomaniac like Obie could compel so many people to sacrifice their very dignity in order to win (and keep) his favor, but of course, look at the world we live in. Read a current newspaper. The subjects On Becoming a God touches upon — economic anxiety, the vast difference between rich and poor, how “success” is often equated with dishonesty and aggressive competitiveness — are, regrettably, evergreen.

Back at the Gomes household, Ernie (Mel Rodriguez) has finally told Bets (Beth Ditto) that he quit his job at the water park. Bets takes the news about as well as can be expected (and, frankly, better than Ernie deserves, because quitting your job without discussing it with your spouse first is a big fucking deal), but she barely has any time to process it before finding out that he was also hiding the pizza restaurant incident from her. A babbling, protesting Ernie refuses to talk about it, then flees for a “FAM emergency.” It’s chilling to see FAM work its insidious way into a relationship from the beginning, whereas with Krystal and Travis it had already done much of its damage. Bets is undoubtedly meeker and more patient than Krystal, but it’s clear that resentment is already starting to set in, not just for FAM, but for Ernie, who’s willfully dragging his whole family down for a stranger’s vague promises of wealth and success.

Following her “rebirthing” experience, Krystal is offered an unexpected opportunity: Louise wants her to work for her to expand the therapy business. Surprisingly, Krystal doesn’t turn her down outright. Or maybe not so surprisingly. On Becoming a God has yet to specify how old Krystal is, and other than one brief, bleak flashback in an earlier episode, we know almost nothing about her life before Travis. One thing that’s clear though is that she’s always struggled to get even her most basic needs met, and she’s exhausted. She also knows that poverty, that constantly scraping to get by, is generational. Louise, regardless of how sincere she might be, doesn’t tempt Krystal with the idea of her own success, but Destinee’s, and the possibility of her having the life that Krystal didn’t.

It gets enough under Krystal’s skin that when Cody returns home that night, he finds her weeping with Destinee in her arms, listening to one of Louise’s motivational tapes. She reaches her hand out to Cody, as if resigning herself to her fate. She might not really care for Cody all that much, and FAM destroyed the life she once had, but maybe it’s time she just bit the bullet and did what was best to give Destinee the life she deserves.

There’s just one problem: Cody now knows that she’s Mirta’s inside connection to FAM. What Cody will do with that information will likely be completely stupid and make things worse for everyone, including himself, but still. He knows.

Random Thoughts:

  • It’s pretty remarkable that a blithering ninny like Cody should so quickly have the upper hand on both Krystal and Obie. The show seems to be leading up to Cody having to decide whether his heart belongs to Daddy Obie, or Mommy Krystal (and the fact that his relationship with both of them has an undeniable master/slave dynamic should not escape the viewer), and it doesn’t seem possible that he’ll betray Obie. On the other hand, Cody is very, very dumb.
  • That being said, it also doesn’t seem possible that Krystal will give in to the glib promises of the Garbeau System, merely dressed up in a more attractive package. But, if there’s one thing On Becoming a God emphasizes over and over is that the desire for money sometimes overrides rational thought. If it didn’t, maybe Travis would still be alive, and none of this would have happened in the first place.
  • In a perfect world, On Becoming a God would be popular enough that Krystal’s airbrushed KRYSTAL t-shirt would be sold in stores.
  • For your consideration: Roger’s frown of distaste whenever Cody speaks for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy.
  • Man, I really want Louise to at least have slightly more integrity than Obie. She almost certainly doesn’t, but it’d be nice to see someone offer Krystal help and actually mean it for once. I’d settle for the name of the show to change from On Becoming a God to On Becoming a Decent Person in Central Florida.
  • So Mirta gets high on painkillers and carries a gallon of milk around her apartment? Sure, why not.
  • Anyone heard from Carol and Carroll? How are they doing?
  • Note that someone, presumably Mirta or Krystal, wrote the word “CHUMP” on a picture of Cody, which he promptly replaces with “CHAMPION BUSINESSMAN.”

Gena Radcliffe

Gena Radcliffe is the co-host of the award-winning (not really) horror podcast Kill by Kill, and has also written for F This Movie, Anatomy of a Scream, and Grim magazine (although the Spool is her pride and joy). Her pitch graveyard and "pieces that don't really belong anywhere else" can be found at genaradcliffe.com, and you can see her slowly losing her mind at Twitter under @porcelain72.

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