Now that the first season of John from Cincinnati is over, it’s time to look back and try to understand any of it. Viewers who stuck with HBO’s latest drama series were understandably confused by the enigmatic dialogue and imagery that often left fans scratching their heads.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers, or even any. I doubt anyone, creator David Milch included, fully understands everything this show has done. However, I will propose three possible theories to explain what this show means. Either one is correct, none are correct, or the truth is cobbled together in several parts.
Theory 1: John is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ
This is the most obvious theory. His name, John from Cincinnati, contains the “J.C.” initials that instantly draw viewers to this conclusion. Also, the show’s recurring theme of resurrection (with John, Shaun and Zippy) strongly implies a connection to the Christ story. Also, he’s always talking about his father (or Father), and when John talks about his father’s many powers and his ability to create “big and huge,” it’s hard not to think he’s talking about God.
Much like Jesus Christ, John possesses the ability to unite people, to become a leader of men, trying to bring peace and harmony to a chaotic world. Christ died for our sins, and similarly, John attempts to absolve many people of their own crimes. He lets Vietnam Joe know what happened in the war is OK, he frees Cissy of the pain from molesting her son, he gets Barry to confront what happened to him in the motel, he lets Bill get closure with his dead wife, etc. As jimmy, one of BuddyTV’s readers, pointed out, the numbers John repeats could refer to Hebrews 9:11-14, about “The Blood of Christ” and Jesus’ sacrifices for our salvation.
The primary argument against this theory is that it’s too obvious, and we expect David Milch to have more in store. Perhaps, but it’s hard to ignore the obvious, as Occam’s Razor would tell us.
Theory 2: John is an Alien
It’s hard for me to get behind this idea, mainly because, as crazy as this show is, introducing extraterrestrials would just be too trippy. However, a decent case can be made for this notion.
First, there are John’s numerous powers and abilities. Yes, Jesus could turn water into wine and walk on water, but John’s powers seem way beyond that. He can pull anything out of his magic pants, from a platinum credit card to $15,000 for an El Camino. He also may or may not have something to do with Mitch’s levitation, which seems less spiritual and more like something out of the comic books. John can also teleport or use astral projection that may or may not make himself visible to the people he visits.
Then you have the language barrier. For the most part, John is completely unable to communicate, as he is seemingly devoid of language. If man were made in God’s image, then, theoretically, Jesus Christ would be able to understand and speak the language. An alien, however, would only be able to mimic certain sounds and speech patterns. As for the phrases he does know, those could have been pulled from a Bible located in one of those capsules we launched into the universe.
The final evidence for this theory lies in the symbol John draws. Some on the Internet have postulated that it’s a symbol for the circularly disposed antenna array (CDAA), the giant metal cage scene in many episodes of the show, and in one of the final scenes as the Chemist stares off at it and smiles. It was part of the military base in Imperial Beach and is used to triangulate radio signals. It’s not a far leap from radio waves to alien’s receiving the message and making contact, or teleporting down. Drawing the overhead view of the array and pointing up to indicate where he came from may be hints that John arrived via flying saucer.
Theory 3: John is Everything
As the name suggests, this theory is sort of all encompassing. I lean towards this notion, that John is a human representation of God, the Earth, mankind, and everything else in existence. According to Merriam-Webster, John’s last name, Monad, means “an elementary individual substance which reflects the order of the world and from which material properties are derived.” This seems like a pretty good description of who he is. John Monad is the Big Bang, the thing from which everything else gets its energy.
Think about it: the magic pants he wears are just proof that he is everything, and that whatever he wants is suddenly there. He can channel Bill’s dead wife and can repeat the Stinkweed owner’s conversations, because John is everyone and everywhere. When he gets punched in the second episode, it’s followed by the earthquake that breaks Shaun’s neck. John is connected to the Earth.
This theory is probably the best because it incorporates the other possible theories. John isn’t just Jesus or an alien, he is both and so much more. As he said in the final episode, his mother is his father, and his father’s father is the same as his father, because it’s all connected, it’s all the same, it’s all a part of him. Linc determined that John was “the end,” and that he was near, but John is also the beginning and the middle.
Or not. These are just three possible theories, though there is undoubtedly a whole lot more to figure out. How did the image from Cass’ camera get onto Dwayne’s computer? Alien technology? Jesus magic? John is the waves that sent the signal? I suppose it’s unfair to have a theory that John is everything, because it can be used to answer any question. What’s your theory? Together, maybe, we can figure this show out.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of HBO)