Tuned In

JFC Watch: A Wizard Did It?

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HBO photo: John P. Johnson

With two episodes remaining in the season, I’m going to try to observe a moratorium on the overall question of whether John from Cincinnati is good or bad. Masterpiece or disaster, genius or folly, I’m into it too deep now; it’s either building toward something at the end of the season or it’s not, and we’ll see where it stands when the dust clears (or doesn’t). If you’re sick of the show, the Bookmarks menu is at the top of your screen, and no offense taken.

Last night, though, I was able to put my finger on something that’s been bothering me, which is that I have a hard time buying most of the characters’ reactions to John. As in: shouldn’t they be a bit more freaked out? Bill, for instance: the man believes in telepathic parrots and has heard John speak to him in the voice of his dead wife, a woman he has no conceivable reason to have known. And yet, when John begins delivering his “Sean will soon be gone” message, it hardly seems to enter into his mind that there could be some kind of paranormal forces at work through John; he goes into police mode and immediately treats it like a potential abduction. Likewise Freddy, though he’s experienced a vision about John–there’s a lot of that going around now–and previously recognized him as a “shapeshifter.”

The episode seemed to give some hints as to why; talking to Cass about events she doesn’t remember, John says, “We don’t remember my Father’s Word.” The characters seem to be in sort of a fugue state regarding John, forgetting some of his more remarkable appearances, in the flesh or in their minds, like his sermon of two episodes ago. It’s an interesting concept and would add to the dreamlike nature of the show, but to be charitable, it’s hard to dramatize; it’s hard to tell who knows or remembers exactly what about John, and so hard to judge whether their interactions with him are believeable. (And it’s not like they forget altogether, since even Butchie can dredge up from his smack-ravaged brain that John has some kind of extraordinary powers.) To be less charitable, it’s pretty close to “A wizard did it”–an easy way to explain the inexplicable.

But I’m getting close to violating my moratorium already. To end on a positive note, I continue to love the absurd comic scenes at the motel, like the squabble over the shuffleboard layout–”The bottom tier is ’10 Off.’ You don’t reward failure, Ramon”–and Barry’s scene with Phantom Sean in the motel bar was a beautiful moment. And if someone is marketing a T-shirt with John’s ASCII-art divine symbol…

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… I totally want to buy one.