Sunday, July 15, 2007

"He doesn't have a vocabulary! He's a human parrot.": John from Cincinnati

OK. I still don't really give a crap about the Yosts (though that revelation about Cissy and Butchie was fairly interesting, given the character dynamics), but John from Cincinnati is settling in to something that I really can't wait to see each week. I've seen a lot of criticism of this episode (already!) out there, saying it was too cheesy, too self-consciously weird, too. . .whatever. But I thought it really nailed the feeling of religious harmony, the feeling of what it's like to come together with a band of disparate people and feel like you're approaching something higher than yourself. John's literal come to Jesus meeting at the end of the episode is the sort of thing I don't even want to try to bother finding a definite interpretation for (not that there necessarily is one) without having watched the episode 15 times or so, but the general feeling of warmth I got from seeing all of these fascinating players gathered together to listen to John speak to them and listen to an impromptu jazz duet was like nothing I've ever seen on television. This is still a frustrating, flawed series, but when it's on, it's well worth the time and effort I and its other fans put into it.

What's more, that closing scene was so monumental that it overshadowed the rest of the episode, even though the rest of the episode was probably the strongest of the series' run so far. I, in general, like the show more when it's focusing on the mysteries of who John is and what his mission on Earth is, and this episode was chock full of stuff like that. Heck, we even got to see Shaun and Tina fixing loaves and fishes. (This episode, in general, felt like the most "Biblical" of the series' run so far.)

What was probably the best scene prior to that final speech was the scene where John suddenly appeared to Cissy and tried to talk her out of killing herself, revealing her greatest secret (that she sexually abused her son when he was 13). I've ragged on Rebecca DeMornay more than most of the other actors over the course of watching this series, but this scene threw her whole character into another light. If there's one thing that's problematic about reviewing any TV series episode-by-episode, it's that later episodes reveal things about the characters that we just didn't know in previous episodes. This series, more than most, reveals the inherent limitations of that method. But the scene, in general, was vintage Milch. You're alive, dammit, the series seemed to say. And that's better than being dead. Chock-full of misery, but you're alive.

But the rest of the stuff before John's weird astral projection trip through Imperial Beach (which also, apparently, involved a zombie) was good too. I liked the scene where John visited Bill's home and spoke to him in the voice of his dead wife quite a bit, as well as the scenes where John, Bill and Joe waited to see if they could spot the men who knifed John. I'm still not as invested in the drama between Shaun, Cissy, Butchie and Tina, but I feel it's a little more connected now. And, apologies to Luke Perry, but he's just no Powers Boothe, making his scenes feel a little too disconnected, though his joining the gathering at the end was quite nice.

It's those scenes of communities gathering that Milch does so well, and the scenes at the hotel throughout were the best of the episode, as the various characters who seemed completely unlikely to come together in the pilot have grown into a functioning unit, cleaning up the place until it seemed like a gathering place. That final scene with John speaking to everyone was gorgeous both for how it incorporated all of the hotel's denizens (living and dead) and the way it was shot, frequently cutting away to see the fixed-up hotel. And the speech John delivered had all of the soothing quality of a litany or a sermon. I've seen the episode twice now, and John seems to be saying that bad things have a way of dominoing onto each other, but the higher being John serves can wipe away those bad things and let you start over. It's a deeply religious viewpoint for a series that uses a lot of cursing, the perfect antithesis to Seventh Heaven and so much "religious" art. Yes, there will be bad things, but with the help of God and each other, maybe we can push past that misery. We're alive after all, aren't we?

1 comment:

Edward Copeland said...

I agree that the John and Cissy scene was one of the best as for the first time we got to see John spelling things out clearly without any coding. Still, that whole ending scene was intriguing but bizarre. Sure didn't miss Mitch's absence this week as I did some of the other characters' last week. Since John has spoken to Luke Perry, telling him to get back into the game, does that put to rest any idea that he may be Satan?