First things first: I think we can scratch "extraterrestrial" from the list of possible John origin stories after tonight. Whether he's actually Jesus or just a herald, we're clearly being pointed in a Heavenly direction, first with the "See God, Kai" scene, and especially with the bit at the end where Linc says "Jesus Christ" and the shot immediately refocuses onto John and Kai. I may not understand a lot of what's going on in this show, but it doesn't take a genius to decipher that clue.
That's not the only part of the show that's providing me with more clarity. Three episodes in, I'm starting to sniff out a unifying theme, in the way that all these characters respond -- or, more often, don't -- to the miracles happening around them.
Mitch levitates and thinks it's brain cancer. Butchie shakes his addiction and is puzzled at best, annoyed at worst by it. John gives Kai some kind of psychic vision ability and she rejects it. Zippy's kiss brings Shaun back to life, and the only person (other than maybe Bill, who I believe is supposed to have mental health problems) who seems amazed by it is Dr. Smith (wonderfully played by Garret Dillahunt, who as far as I'm concerned can play 50 different roles on this show, maybe even in the same episode).
There's some larger purpose to John's presence, to Mitch's flying and Zippy and Shaun swapping resurrections and the like, and I hope Milch intends to get around to explaining his grand design in the not-too-distant future, but this episode at least felt cohesive in a way the first two didn't. Maybe that's because Milch borrowed much of the template from "The Whores Can Come," the "Deadwood" season 2 episode set in the aftermath of William Bullock's death. Again, we have our central family confined largely to their home as various friends, enemies and acquaintances gather outside, wondering how they can help (or how they can use the tragedy to their advantage). The only major differences: the boy here is mystically brought back from the dead, and the media level has exploded from just A.W. Merrick and his hand-cranked printing press to a wall of faceless TV and newspaper reporters.
The show still has a number of problems, not least of which are that I really dislike both Mitch and Cissy, who are in theory our main characters -- though with Mitch and Butchie's role reversal meeting at the fences, that may not be the case for much longer -- but I'm feeling much more patient and generous now than I was an episode or two ago.
Some other thoughts on "His Visit: Day Two, Continued":
- One area where the episode fell down was in giving us a good establishing shot to make clear the geography of the Yost home, and the various onlookers, so it would be more apparent how everyone could see Shaun's miraculous return to the half-pipe.
- I usually pride myself on my ability to decipher Milchspeak, but I'm struggling with all the scenes between Steady Freddy and his new "monkey in a tree" assistant (played by Paul Ben-Victor, who played one of my least favorite "NYPD Blue" characters, the overly-mannered Steve the Snitch, but who also was amazing as Spiros on "The Wire" season 2). Specifically, is Freddy supposed to be a drug dealer with a heart of gold, who gave Butchie the burn bag just to save Butchie's life, or is he working an angle, and spared Butchie merely so he wouldn't lose a steady customer?
- I still have absolutely zero interest in the contents or lack thereof of Room 24, but the motel guys are starting to become amusing comic relief in the E.B. Farnum style. I especially liked the "Animate or inanimate?" "Inanimate" exchange.