"Friends, have I got a TV show for you," Hank Stuever says of Dunst's new Showtime series. "True, it has a sort of lame and unnecessarily pretentious title — On Becoming a God in Central Florida — but I’m here to tell you it will clean your floors, shine your shoes, organize your closets, brighten your kitchen and, most importantly, enrich your life beyond your wildest dreams. Or it won’t. Still, as darkly comedic dramas about the sorry state of the human condition go, On Becoming a God in Central Florida (premiering Sunday on Showtime) is a delectably weird and compellingly realized misadventure tale that makes a spot-on point about the inescapable degree of fraud that infests American-style capitalism and promises shortcuts to making millions. Although it is set in an 'Orlando adjacent' town in 1992, On Becoming a God is very much of a piece with all the snake oil being sold to us in 2019: the robocalls asking for your Social Security number; the relentless me-first entrepreneurism that boasts disruption as its primary virtue; the predatory lending; the cultish, $45 spin-cycle classes; and even a flimflam president who is deathly afraid of sharing his tax returns. This show, which shares both the outre mood of AMC’s superb Lodge 49 (currently in its second season) and the criminal lure of FX’s Fargo, is drenched in the idea that life is one big sham. Amid so much TV escapism, I adore its steadfast and believable cynicism."
There’s something uniquely satisfying about watching Kirsten Dunst snarl: "Dunst and her on-screen personae appear to relish the opportunity to take advantage of people’s tendency to underestimate them; when a Dunst character taps into her latent anger, the actor brings it to the boiling surface with startling ferocity," says Caroline Framke. "Her otherwise cherubic face breaks into a downright ugly fury that’s as shocking to witness as it is vicariously cathartic. It’s a powerful weapon when deployed right — and Dunst has hardly had a firmer grasp on it than she does in On Becoming a God in Central Florida." Framke adds: "Dunst’s performance is so magnetic that the show could’ve focused on her alone, but it wouldn’t have been half as effective. While Krystal is its undeniable hellion heroine, the series is as much about egocentric scam artists and the widespread devastation they can wreak as it is about Krystal’s struggle to overcome it all."
On Becoming a God is as good as Danny McBride at capturing the South: "On Becoming a God in Central Florida is comforting in its familiarity in tone and vibe but exciting in its story and approach," says LaToya Ferguson. "Throughout all 10 episodes, my mind went through various works to compare the series to, with the most obviously being Danny McBride’s HBO series, Eastbound & Down, Vice Principals, and ... The Righteous Gemstones. As someone from the South—from central Florida, even—I can confirm it’s really not as easy to capture the culture and general feeling of the region as certain shows would like to pretend it is. McBride’s series however, make it seem effortless, and On Becoming a God in Central Florida surprisingly follows the same path."
On Becoming a God finds a way of surprising you without exactly wowing you: "There are a lot of things to like in On Becoming a God in Central Florida, although I doubt any two people are going to like exactly the same things about it," says Ned Lannamann. "In its best moments, On Becoming a God hits upon a worthy blend of comedy, humanism, and bug-nuts surreality that’s unlike anything else on TV. Unfortunately, it also has qualities that are like a lot of things on TV—namely, that it burns through the promise of its early episodes too quickly, and becomes a repetitive churn without enough of a build."
On Becoming a God is an incredibly strange and off-kilter show: "Krystal Stubbs is trashy," says Jeva Lange. "She is called as much in her first scene in Showtime's On Becoming a God in Central Florida, when her purple eye shadow is wiped off her face in reprimand. But we don't really need to be told. She wears denim-on-denim, errs on the side of showing too much cleavage, bedazzles her bras, and looks at home straddling a bright pink ATV. She lives in Florida, is married to an insurance salesman, and works at a water park. The world has already made up its mind about women like Krystal. Yet Kirsten Dunst, who plays Krystal and serves as an executive producer for On Becoming a God, will assure you that you don't."