This article contains spoilers through the fifth episodes of On Becoming a God in Central Florida and The Righteous Gemstones.
The Showtime series On Becoming a God in Central Florida is a curio of a television show. Set in 1992 in an Orlando suburb, the pitch-black comedy about desperation, anxiety, and self-delusion is not afraid to be deeply weird: Its heroine, Krystal (Kirsten Dunst), is a scrappy single mom and water-park employee who begrudgingly joins FAM, a cultlike multilevel-marketing company, after her late FAM-following husband leaves her in massive debt.
Since the show began airing in August, Krystal has struggled to balance her distaste for the pyramid scheme and her need to pay her bills, while remaining optimistic that if she directly appeals to the system’s leaders, she’ll be able to succeed. During last night’s episode, she finally realizes how trapped she is within FAM when she meets with the company’s mastermind, the enigmatic Obie Garbeau II (Ted Levine).
Garbeau prefers to be heard, not seen: He communicates with FAM members by recording “advice” onto cassette tapes, available for mandatory purchase. In the episode’s thoroughly unsettling opening scene, he is recording one of those tapes. With his Colonel Sanders–like mustache brushing against the microphone, he muses about his vision of success: “Oftentimes at night, I dream about America,” he begins. “I dream about a land so rich in opportunity it geysers up from the ground like oil bursting to touch the heavens.” As he speaks, a montage plays with shots of cowboys and rocky mountains, accompanied by the cry of a bald eagle.