One could even argue that John is merely one agent of the larger force that is also acting to cause Mitch’s levitation, Shaun’s resurrection, and Barry’s visions. Taking that approach, Barry owning the hotel in the first place is just another aspect of the larger plan, and you could even argue that all the characters are merely pawns of the force, like John is, though in a less obvious way.
However, that posits this force as a negative one, and despite the skepticism in this episode, I don’t think that’s the case. John is going through a crucifixion experience in this episode, the people in authority are turning on him, and his apostles, Butchie and Kai are questioning him. Last week, John received wounds that parallel what Jesus went through, perhaps fulfilling his claim that he would be killed twice. So, is this episode Saturday, the day before his return? He certainly returns next week, though it’s unclear with what message. Certainly the great skepticism about his aims and powers parallels how the Romans viewed Jesus. I’ve thought about doing a story exploring what it would be like for Jesus to turn up in the modern world, I think Milch might have beat me to it. This blend of skepticism and open hostility is likely how most people would view someone with these kind of powers, and this kind of cryptic way of speaking.
Anyway, the reason I doubt that this force is a negative one has to do with the other central concept that crystallized this week. Ever since the first episode, I’ve speculated that John’s purpose was to rehabilitate the Yost family and return them to glory. However, as the cast grew with an increasing number of social rejects and failures, it became clear that John’s purpose in gathering these characters together was to give them a new community, a warmth and connection they were otherwise missing. Bill and Freddie are the most obvious examples, each unwilling to admit how important these people are to them openly, but constantly showing it in their own gruff way. Both those actors are amazing, and if there’s any justice will get some love from the Emmys next year.
At one point in the episode, we see Barry in the bar and Dr. Smith in his new clinic. Each of them has to confront their fear of failure in these broken down surroundings. The rundown spaces are a physical representation of where all these characters are mentally. They are nearly falling apart, but with some care and love could become something wonderful. We saw that in Barry’s experience last week; seeing a theater in the bar, he was able to imagine his dreams fulfilled. But the demons of his past came on the radio, the darkness of this world invading the possibility of his dreams. I’d argue that the force behind John, arguably God, is what spoke to Dr. Smith in the clinic and what sent Barry that vision. The force empowers Smith, but the real challenge is going on without it; he loses his confidence when the voices stop speaking and the real challenge is keeping the faith when God isn’t actually there. Now, that could be faith in God, or it could just be faith in your ability to do something.