American Gods shakes up the format a little, while teaching Shadow Moon that anyone can make it rain–he can make it snow.
This week’s episode of American Gods shook up the format of the first two, and did not start with a “Coming to America” immigration tale for a God we will meet this week (or in a few weeks time). Instead we opened by meeting a God Shadow will get to know soon enough, Anubis, a different way. “Somewhere in America” (Queens, actually) a nice grandmotherly type stands on a stool to try to reach the ingredient she needs. Her stool wobbles dangerously. She steps down, and keeps cooking, but soon enough, we see that this is a lie. That’s her spirit that stepped down. Her body lies upon the floor, having fallen to never again get up.
Mrs. Fadil: “This is not Queens.”
The deaths in American Gods have, up until this point, been bloody, angry, grotesque. Over the top in a way that feels like STARZ is openly challenging HBO to keep up. Not here. This is, instead, the most beautiful vision of the afterlife. Mrs. Fadil, as she is called, sees the god Anubis outside her window. He comforts her that her body will be found soon, and her relatives will treat it with care. She is allowed to smooth the skirt on her body, adjust the apron so when she is found, she will look ok. And then she follows Anubis up, in a right of passage given to one who still believed. Not for believing in her Muslim faith, but in the tales her grandmother told her, of the old gods of her home country of Egypt. Up, up into the heavens. There, her heart is weighed against a feather, and her life is found to be good. Her doorway to the afterlife chosen. I was a little weirded out by the digitalized cat, but someone had to push her through. Good kitty.
Shadow: How many colors does Jesus come in?
Though I called this a change in format, since it wasn’t treated like a proper prologue, it seems that, three episodes in, the pattern is to have two digressions per episode per hour from our main tale. Like last week, these digressions will not come in chapter order, nor will they always touch the main plot. Anubis, like Mr Nancy, will probably be showing up to directly affect the plot in the next episode, if we stay on track. (At worse, it’ll be the one after.) Our second diversion on the other hand, does tie in to action we’ve seen in the main plot. Rather that wait until the point in the novel went he does turn up, the Jinn we met last week got his big “Somewhere In America” cameo in this one.
It would be good if, eventually, these mid-episode “Somewhere in America” diversions weren’t all “excuse to insert sex scene”. I know that’s not true–after all, the afterlife scene is a “Somewhere in America” diversion. But after two weeks of Bilquis as the mid card, and now one of the Jinn, it’s starting to come off that way–no pun intended. Like Bilquis’ original scene in the first episode, this scene is ripped directly from the page so that anyone who complains can have themselves directed to the source material. Unlike, say Game of Thrones, which made up sex scenes in order to insert plot exposition (hence sexposition), Neil Gaiman’s books are filled with sex, affording the show to be as over the top with these as they have been, all while insisting they’re just adapting the book faithfully.
Jinn: They know nothing about my people here. They think all we do is grant wishes. If i could grant a wish, do you think I would be driving a cab?
Meanwhile, back on our regularly scheduled road trip, last week’s cliffhanger of a checkers game was resolved….with another checkers game. Inspired by a moonlight meeting with Zorya Polunochnaya, Shadow wakes Czernobog and tricks him into a rematch–double or nothing. Czernobog starts to refuse, until Shadow negs him and his fears of weakness into agreeing. Turns out, like a Blitzkrieg chess player, Czernobog is a one trick pony–and now that Shadow’s played him once, he knows the moves and beats him. Our Slavic god is now on board with the roadtrip, with a promise that, when this is all over, he still gets a blow at Shadow’s head.
While Shadow is tricking the Slavic god into coming with, Zorya Vechernyaya is being seduced by Mr. Wednesday so she can’t stop it. It’s a delightful can’t miss scene between Ian McShane and Cloris Leachman, gods no longer in their prime. Of course, Mr. Wednesday would not settle for just a cuddle though, There’s war to wage. But first they need money.
And that’s when Mr. Wednesday decides it’s time to rob a bank.
Mr. Wednesday: At the moment, my body is going to the bank. It’s not robbing it. C’mon learn. It’ll be fun.
For those who haven’t read, or don’t remember the book, I hope that the reveal of how Wednesday robs banks is as hilariously enjoyable as it was the first time I read the novel. As it is, with the concern off the table that they’ll get caught, it meant I could lean back and enjoy watching Ricky Whittle’s total incredulousness at the idea that his time with these gods is rubbing off, and that, he, just by thinking, could make it snow.
Shadow may have agreed to have a little faith in Wednesday now that they’ve robbed a bank and gotten away with it (and that in fact, robbing the bank was easily when what you’re doing is having those who do the night deposits hand their money directly to you and sign off, thinking it’s all official). but his real faith is stemming from the slowly dawning realization that he might have really made it snow.
One minor quibble with the bank robbing scene–in some places the show has updated from 1995, with iPhones and flatscreens and whatnot. But instead of getting Shadow a burner phone and have him somewhere hiding in a car far away, the show here sticks to the “hanging out by the payphone” routine from the book. I know this is minor, but if you’re going to update, update.
Mr Wednesday: What a beautiful, beautiful thing, to be able to dream when you’re not asleep.
Same with the car from the Mad Sweeney scene on his way to Wisconsin when he realizes he’s lost his lucky coin. That’s the car from the book–the long mid-1970s gas guzzlers were still a relatively regular staple on the roads in 1995. It’s one thing to leave Mr. Wednesday’s car as is, after all, he’s a god and a weirdo. But having the Alcoholic Anonymous guy still drive one, instead of upgrading him to the much more likely Toyota Camry, felt out of place.
Speaking of Mad Sweeney and his lucky coin, by episode’s end, he’s dug Laura Moon’s grave up to find it. Except it turns out the coin, and her body, are gone. Meanwhile, on the road, in their hotel, Shadow’s going to have to start believing in more than just his ability to make snow. He’s accidentally brought his dead wife back to life.
Next week’s trailer doesn’t give us much on the progression of the road trip–instead it looks like we’ll be flashing back to experience the life, and death, of Laura Moon.