Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Boning doesn't necessarily ring a bell.": John from Cincinnati

(My apologies for the lateness of this and the sparsity of posting in June. I've had a huge number of deadlines for a variety of things, and SDD got the short shrift. We'll be back in full force in July, though! For now, I've gotta head out to a wedding, so posting may be sporadic if it exists at all. See you again sometime after Independence Day! -- ed.)

John from Cincinnati's third episode was my favorite of the three on the DVD screeners, and it remains my favorite after watching all of the episodes again in broadcast order. The episode seems to solidify the show as some sort of weird retelling of the New Testament in a modern world where people are skeptical of miracles. Only the doctor, the man of logic and science, can truly appreciate the wonders that are before the people of Imperial Beach. The others all shrug them off and try not to think about them.

There are a lot of complaints out there that you can't tell what this show is or where it's going. While both of those things are true (and I could see making this complaint as a detriment after the pilot), the way we're going there still seems so fascinating and so well-thought out that I'm willing to go along with it. Miracles pile upon miracles, and even the act of skateboarding and letting a smile cross your lips as you do it seems somehow hypnotic and beautiful.

My favorite sequences in the episode were the ones featuring music. David Milch always got a chance to throw a bluesy, rootsy tune on at the end of Deadwood, but the setting precluded him from doing much beyond that. Now, with a modern setting to work with, Milch is revealing himself to be nearly the equal of David Chase when picking songs to score scenes (not quite -- Chase's knowledge of music often seemed dauntingly encyclopedic, and I don't get the sense Milch is quite the same way in that regard).

The first sequence was set to a bit of Sarah Brightman and focused on Dayton Callie's drug dealer, listening to the song and pontificating on how wonderful he found it and Brightman's voice (in typical Milch fashion, the monologue revealed much about the dealer's view of the world without ever coming right out and expressing that). As the music reached a crescendo, the Yosts burst forth from the hospital, miraculously healed grandson in their arms and raced to their car, away from the watchful eye of the press. The moment was anchored by Callie's supremely amusing monologue, but the music somehow became affecting, even as banal and passionless as it was, simply because of the way the show first bumbled toward one of the main themes of all of Milch's work -- the way that humans come together as a community to help each other out, sometimes without even thinking about it.

The second sequence took place when Kai took John back to her trailer so they could "bone" (and it's still odd to me that very few of these characters seem at all affected by the fact that John is a complete tabula rasa -- though I suppose that says just as much about their self-absorption as anything). John commanded her to see God (Butchie having earlier told him to do so jokingly), her eyes rolled back into her head, and she saw a long series of other characters afflicted by a burning sensation in their legs. John looked on, compassionate, but sort of befuddled, and Kai came to, a bit disturbed, requesting that he never do that again. The whole time, an ominous bluesman rumbled from the soundtrack. Who is God in the JFC-verse? It certainly seems he could be an ominous presence.

Finally, the episode concluded with Muse's "Feelin' Good," as Shaun rode on the halfpipe out back to the astonishment and wonder of the other Imperial Beach residents. Sure this began with one of the least subtle cuts ever (Linc said "Jesus Christ" and we IMMEDIATELY cut to a shot of John), but it brimmed with the sort of hypnotic potential and mysticism any good story of the supernatural has.

(Anyone think that they're setting up the doctor to be John's first "disciple"? I kind of do.)

Anyway, I should say a few words about the hotel subplot, as I'm feeling more charitable toward it of late. It's still not my favorite plotline, but the dialogue in it is so crisp and amusingly delivered that I'm willing to cut it a lot of slack ("I'm half-deaf from the leaf blower"). And I like the idea of the hotel haunting these men with their greatest fears or deepest buried secrets or something. As comic relief, it's not a bad subplot. I'm just far more interested in John and his adventures with the Yosts.

I probably won't be around to blog this next week, so let me know what you're thinking.


Anonymous said...

Are the three men from the hotel subplot being set up as the Three Wise Men, bringing their gift (pea soup) to the re-birth of Sean?

Carrie said...

"I'm half-deaf from the leaf blower"

That totally cracked me up, as did the "animate or inanimate?" "inanimate" exchange.

This episode was pretty damn good. I just finished season two of Deadwood and Garrett Dillahunt sort of amazes me. He's a great actor. I really like Freddy the drug dealer and his idiot friend, too.

I'm only having trouble with two things: the actor that plays Shaun (he's terrible and takes me out of the scene every time) and the Dylan McKay/filmmaker subplot. I still don't know where they're going with that one and it feels strange. Otherwise, I am totally on board with JFC.

Paul Levinson said...

My favorite of the first three, too ... still has a ways to go ... John from Cincinnati - Episode 3