'On Becoming a God in Central Florida' episode 3 review: Kirsten Dunst's Krystal takes a 180-degree turn and becomes the antihero
'On Becoming a God...' is steadily turning into a portrait of Krystal Stubbs's descent into a morally grey territory for survival
The third episode of this tragic comedy series, 'A Postive Spin!', hinges on Krystal Stubbs (Kirsten Dunst) becoming a spin doctor of her own increasingly dire situation. Last we saw her, on 'The Gloomy Zoomies', she was yanking out her braces, practicing her smile, her mouth still tinged with blood. The image was very close to a wild animal, cornered and hurt, baring its teeth.
In 'A Postive Spin!', that smile, which is a feral challenge to the world, is front and center. The smile is there when Krystal boasts about "enjoying hotel room service" in a play to draw Ernie into her "booming" FAM business. It is there when she tries to sell Stan on some advertising to boost the attendance at her splash-ercise class (her only real avenue for additional income). It is there when she is talking to fanatic FAM-ers at a rally organized by Cody Bonar, her upline.
The smile accompanies every spin she puts on her circumstances. Her house is not being renovated as she tells her neighbors (and her downline) who have come to pick up their FAM goods. Instead of a hotel room, she and her baby are holed up in the water park's stockroom after the bank forecloses her home. Her FAM business is not "booming" as she discovers, to her horror, mountains of FAM products worth thousands of dollars are stashed in Travis's old high school teacher's backyard - a graveyard for all FAM products that Travis could not move.
But the most significant of all the smiles she plasters on is the one on-stage at Cody Bonar's FAM rally. Till then Krystal is on the warpath she has been on since episode 2, shooting alligators, spearing a 'Sorry for your loss' cookie-cake and shoving a screwdriver in Buzz's face, after exposing his 'tiaras for tugjobs' pageant judge past. At the rally, after faux-seducing Cody and locking him in the supply closet, she is all set to give her speech about how FAM destroyed her family and her future in front of FAM-ers eager to hear from the "alligator-widow". There is a pause right after she sets up her tragic backstory for the audience. It is the moment you see her spin and shift course as she realizes that the crowd is hanging on to her every word. It is the moment, she slaps on the smile and goes all-in on FAM.
It is alarming to see this shift precisely because, till then, we see Krystal heroically pushing back against exploitation. But her 'positive' 180-degree spin means she becomes the exploiter. While Cody, Travis and then later in the episode, Ernie, buy into FAM because they are sad, lost or unfulfilled, Krystal is none of those things. She is clear-headed, knowing precisely the way the game is stacked and how to make it work for her. The 'Postive Spin' is her turn from being the hero to becoming the antihero in earnest unlike her half-hearted acceptance of Cody's deal in the last episode.
The episode also lays bare the desires and weaknesses of the other characters that Krystal ruthlessly takes advantage of. Cody who is a nervous wreck, after being rejected by his father in prison, seeks comfort in the Garbeau tapes. He is ecstatic when he realizes that he could be on a Garbeau tape himself, telling Krystal he is taking over her slot for his own speech. Krystal seduces him, asking him to trust her, just before she locks him up to go up on-stage in his absence.
Stan, anxious about "the happiest place on earth" stealing 'Rebel Rapid' business and the loss of affluent customers, sends Ernie out with half-off passes to lure in the "suburban crowd" aka white folks instead of the Spanish-speaking immigrants who throng to his water-park. Krystal while searching for the keys for the stockroom she has been locked out of, finds the little peephole Stan uses to spy on the ladies' locker room. She uses this information to get Stan to buy FAM products for the water park by the end of the episode. She also tells him that her network of FAM "suburbanites" is exactly what the park needs to sweeten what is essentially a blackmail 'under-the-table' deal.
Ernie, on his secret, depression-induced water-park visit blubbers about his family and his job to Krystal. She promptly relieves him of the half-off park coupons, that she later uses at the FAM rally to get more splash-ercise clients. In other scenes, we see how dangerous FAM can be when a man seeks to grab the TV spotlight to tell people that Obie Garbeau is responsible for making his family disappear. His boat, which he is living on, is torched by a bare-footed Garbeau henchman and he barely escapes with his life. Meanwhile, the TV reporter, Mirta Herrera, ignores his plight and instead gets interested in the "alligator widow", Krystal Stubbs. We will have to see how far down the rabbit hole Krystal will go in the next episode after she sold her soul for survival in this one.