Sunday, June 24, 2007

John From Cincy: He is risen

Spoilers for "John From Cincinnati" coming up just as soon as I find a good pea soup restaurant...

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.
What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I actually warmed to Mitch a bit in this episode, particularily the scene where he talks about the current state of the sport and all the dipshits. Granted, he was back to his self-centered self by the time he returned to the house, but it was a nice moment. I'm really looking forward to the Dr. Smith character because this show needed someone to acknowledge just how unusual and significant all these events were.

This episode relieved many of my worries about the show, and I'm in it until the end, even if it's most likely going to get canned at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

I think Freddy feels an attachment and a desire to protect Butchie from himself. I believe it goes back to what he said last episode about watching Butchie surf and carry Shaunie on his back. Butchie isn't his typical customer.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what to feel about Mitch and Cissy. I don't feel invested enough in (or informed enough about) their marriage to care that it is falling apart, so their scenes near the end fell flat for me. It'd be nice if we were given a history of their relationship in a few brushstrokes -- kind of like how last week's episode vividly showcased Mitch and Cissy's differing attitudes towards parenting and hospitals/doctors.

I also wish someone would point out to Mitch that Cass works for Linc, since everyone but Mitch seems to recognize it.

I would also suggest that everyone is a little wiser than you seem to suggest. I think they all know John has some connection to what's happening -- Butchie muttered something to that effect on the pier last week and, based on his conversation with Dillahunt this week, obviously picked up on John's mysterious pockets. Mitch seems to come to that conclusion next week, based on previews. Kai asks John what's going on at the end of this episode, and I think Bill and Shaunie both know something's up. I think that's why all of these characters (even suspicious Bill) have so far hung on to John, letting him tag along everywhere. It's not that these people don't see (or choose to reject) what's before their eyes -- they just don't know how to address it. They don't know exactly what questions to ask. (And on the subject of questions, I'm not sure how much patience I have for "I don't know Butchie instead" as a running gag.)

This episode certainly forces the issue more, and Dillahunt's Dr. Smith almost acts as an audience surrogate, completely accepting that what he's seen is a miracle ("I'm so happy") and pushing Butchie and Cissy to accept it too. I thought the final scene, with Butchie and Dr. Smith watching Shaunie, was one of two men wondering "Where do we go from here?" I think Butchie knows the answer to that question involves John in some way, and I hope we get to explore what that might mean (and gain some more narrative momentum) soon.

I was also interested that, when Kai saw god, so did Butchie and Ramon. Of all the characters on the show Ramon's the only one who hasn't yet revealed a) a painful personal history with a Yost; and/or b) a fond surf memory about a Yost. And yet we know from John's comments in the premiere that where Ramon comes from they would worship Butchie as a god, and now Ramon seems sensitive enough to pick up on someone "seeing God" in his general vicinity. While I enjoy our holy fools wandering around with their pea soup, I hope this foreshadows a more significant role for Luis Guzman.


Anonymous said...

This show just keeps on getting more and more weird... but I've got to admit, I'm starting to get hooked.

BTW, P B-V will always be Steven Ronald Richards to me.

Ty Keenan said...

I'm definitely hooked on this show, and I agree about everything starting to cohere around the "reaction to miracles" angle.

I was feeling the Farnum/Merrick kick on the motel crew from the moment they came on (mostly because of Dickstein), but I really hope they start to interact with the other characters more, because as of now that Room 24 stuff feels divorced from everything else on the show. I like it, but I wish it had more to do with the other scenes.

Looking at his IMDB profile, I've only seen Dillahunt on this show and Deadwood, but I'm shocked that people aren't knocking down his door. Do you know if he's really bizarre and picky, Alan, or am I just projecting Mr. W onto the person?

Starting to get Mitch and Cissy more, but de Mornay shouldn't be allowed to scream anymore--that just sounded weird instead of emotional.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Butchie, instead.

dark tyler said...

Dillahunt just doesn't seem to be all that picky, what with him having a recurring role on "The 4,400" in the past. He should be, though, because he is awesome.

Regarding the show, I have this feeling that what we're seeing is essentially the Second Coming. That, or Milch re-imagining the original story in today's society. Either way, I'm hooked. (Or any other way, really.)

Anonymous said...

Among other the show's other problems, I'm having a really tough time with the boy who plays Shaun and the woman who plays Kai; they're both atrocious. I know they're real-life surfers, but in the end, so what? Their presence detracts from a show that needs all the help in can get.

Ty Keenan said...

Good point, tyler. Criminal that he's not getting more work.

Anonymous said...

yeah i'm officially hooked. the first two episodes went with 58 minutes of me saying "this sucks" and then kinda being intrigued enough to watch the next episode. this one has me salivating a bit more...although I'm still not sure how "good" the show is--whatever that means. i agree that i don't feel mitch & cissy, although i like the actors, and i'm not feeling shaun or kai as actors.

and i know i'm in the minority i'm not loving the bill character, although i appreciate ed o'neill's performance.

but i'll be back for the rest of the season for sure.

Anonymous said...

As my wife just pointed out to me, I forgot about Vietnam Joe "seeing God." Which means that everyone who responded had some metal plates or pins in their bodies -- Butchie mentioned a plate in his head, right? So maybe Ramon just broke his arms once or something.


Anonymous said...

ok having slept on this last episode I came to a potentially offensive realization. I'm ok with Shaun being our new messiah or whatever, and I'm ok with John being some kind of herald--I'm not so ok with John being our new messiah (ok so i'm not religious so this is all in theory). I mean if Jesus is going to come again I am hoping he is going to be--well, not having the social skills of a 4 year old. Shaun ain't exactly a communicator but I can chalk that up to him the messiah as teenager--I mean how chatty do we think Jesus was when he was 14, there's room for growth. Anyway, those are my sleep-induced thoughts.

rukrusher said...

I sort of thought the John the Babtist, John from Cincinatti was too obvious to be the direction Milch was going but that does seem to be the case. I still do not love it, and yes, Dr. Smith does finally get the Yosts to talk about the strange things happening, but I have to admit the acting with Shaun and anyone else is not good and it takes me out of the moment. I wonder if this is where the reshoots have been.

Toby O'B said...

So if we carry this Messiah imagery all the way, does that make Dickstein, Ramon, and Barry the Three Magi?

Carrying pea soup to the Yost family sealed the image for me....

Anonymous said...

This show is quickly taking Deadwood's place in my heart, and continues to be one of my favourite shows on television (it's the only thing on HBO at the moment I'd consider appointment viewing).

Dillahunt I loved, mainly because he has this frankness about him that suggests he wouldn't be easily swayed by tales about miracles and the like. Weird enough that he can pull it off, but normal enough so that he can take the symbolic position of the audience.

Though of everything, what got me pumped up was the "seeing God" thing, as it's so fun to see John show his power in some way.

K: I like to think of John as some perfect being, and while he seems retarded, it's only because of his limited repertoire. He'll never be Sorkin-esk in his dialogue, but you do need some sort of mystery with a messiah. For me, it would be almost offensive to have Shaun as the modern day Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Dillahunt just doesn't seem to be all that picky, what with him having a recurring role on "The 4,400" in the past. He should be, though, because he is awesome.

He was awesome on "The 4400," too! He's been awesome in every role I've seen him tackle(admittedly, a limited amount of roles, but still), including on "ER."

k, I think Jesus started preaching when he was 12, so I'd guess he was pretty chatty as a kid :-)

Anonymous said...

This may be a religion strech but... John from Cincy: initials J.C. John FROM Cincy - Jesus OF Nazareth. Just a thought....

About Me said...

I think Shawn is Jesus in this show and that John is a prophet or something. I'm not up on my Xtian theology.

Did anyone else notice the surfers at Calgary painting on the side of the surf shop? I think it was featured in the first episode. And then all those people gathered on their lawn in the third episode.

I didn't notice it until my husband pointed it out on my second but his first viewing.

also, Yost does rhyme with host but again - not up on the theology.

I don't think even HBO could get away with representing Jesus Christ as a simpleton (John from Cincinatti).

Also, the show has many more details and smarter than everyone thinks. Keep looking at the small details.

Three friends going to bring the Yosts food after their son was REBORN. Could they be the three wise men?