American Gods Season 1 Recap: “Lemon Scented You”

Tonight’s episode gave the loud and clear reveal for the slow people in the back as to Mr. Wednesday’s true identity, as well as the first skirmish in the wars to come.

Was there anyone in the audience who didn’t know Mr. Wednesday’s true identity before this week’s episode? I’m asking this in all seriousness. One of the problems, as a fan, is judging how well the show is telegraphing to the audience, since I already know the coming twists. After all, one of his first lines is “It’s Wednesday…it’s my day”. According to Wikipedia: “The name is derived from Old English Wōdnesdæg and Middle English Wednesdei, “day of Woden”, Woden = Odin. Our boss god is a very fine god, and a very fine war god is he.

Shadow: There is a big storm rolling across the country right now and nothing feels ok.

Before we get to that ending, and the reveal, we should touch on our first “Coming to America” segment since Mr. Nancy’s arrival in “The Secret of Spoons”. Unlike the first two, this one, focusing on the arrival of the indigenous populations to the new world via the Bering Sea land bridge, was not done live action. At first I was a little put out at the choice instead to use CGI/animation to tell the tale–a perfect opportunity to use Native American actors, and instead we have a cartoon. But Fuller, in the post episode deep dive said the problem was budget–trying to recreate a believable looking live action world set that far back in history was proving cost prohibitive, which is why they went with this instead.

Screengrab pulled by EPs.

Then there was, for the third time in three weeks, Laura Moon, still sitting on the edge of the bed, saying “Hi Puppy” as Shadow walked in the door. Finally, we moved on through that moment and had the confrontation we’ve been waiting for. In the books, Laura is a far softer, far sweeter memory via Shadow’s eyes–but here, their scene proved surprisingly biting. Last week’s deep dive into her life before death showed her from a third person perspective, and it was not flattering in the slightest. This week continued that direction. This is a woman who is used to getting her way because she’s conventionally attractive, white and privileged. If anything, her attempts to smooth talk her way around the Robbie situation prove she’s as much of a hustler and a swindler as Wednesday. That line about “next to every cemetery there’s a motel” sounded like something Wednesday would say in a heartbeat. Apparently, Shadow has a type.

Shadow: “Yo we got some unresolved issue to discuss. You and Robbie?”
Laura: “Yes, yes there is that. There’s also the miracle of me sitting here posthumously.”

In last week’s recap, I had worried that the show, by putting so much emphasis on Laura, was planning on having her stick around the main plot, which would upend the Wednesday-Shadow dynamic. Though we did get a moment of what that three-way would be like, with Wednesday smelling right through Laura’s bullshit to the cat piss and oven cleaner, it turns out that won’t be the case. Laura is sticking around, but she’ll be doing it from a B-plot vantage point. One, it turns out, that gives the show a chance to give us more of Mad Sweeney while we’re at it.

American Gods Season 1 2017

But what stuck out to me, from the moment Mad Sweeney slammed into that hotel room after Shadow and Wednesday were carted down to the station, is how much better the chemistry between Emily Browning and Pablo Schreiber than it is between her and Ricky Whittle. Not that Whittle isn’t great–his slow burn as he sees through his dead wife’s ploys this week was a thing to behold, and some of the best work he’s done so far this season. But Browning and Schreiber are tornado meets a volcano, and the result is electric. Shadow may have given her a wedding ring, but she and Mad Sweeney are married via a lucky coin, and that’s far deeper a bond. That final scene between them when he’s pulled off her in the bathtub and she plays dead was pure dick move meets pure dick move. Mad Sweeney has found his match.

Mad Sweeney: You’re an asshole, dead wife!

But all this (and the ensuing escapes by the two of them from cop car and morgue) are merely a sideshow to this week’s main event. The New Gods are making their moves. Turns out “Mr. World”, the God of Globalization, has been keeping an eye on things via the security cameras. He’s decided to have Shadow and Wednesday brought down to the station, where he can try to head this war off at the pass. Media is clearly his Number 2, as she rounds up Technical Boy to come with them and apologize for his lynching antics earlier in the season. Gillian Anderson pulls double impersonation duty here. First she appears as David Bowie-as-Ziggy Stardust circa 1975, which was well hyped this week in the run up to the episode. I regret to inform you that her impersonation there is merely “very good.” It’s her follow-up, as Marilyn Monroe in the famous 7 Year Itch get up, that blows everything out of the water seven ways from Sunday, and in the process steals the entire episode.

Gillian Anderson as Media

Anderson’s stunning performance basically overshadows Crispin Glover’s arrival as Mr World. Not that he’s bad in the role, all oily menace. Though perhaps one might find his deference to an Old War God surprising. After all, Wednesday is crankily not inclined to consider his merger proposal, one that will put Odin’s name on the side of a few third-rate Nuclear warheads out of North Korea. But next to Media, who is showmanship personified, it’s hard to grab much of the spotlight. It’s no wonder they leave the sales pitch to her, even if Wednesday balks. They also leave to her the job of knocking out of a few of Technical Boy’s teeth when he doesn’t toe the line properly. Seal *that* with a kiss.

Media: Wouldn’t you like an upgrade? A brand new lemon scented you?

But make no mistake, for all their gussied up promises of new century make overs for moldy old gods, Media and World are the enemy. Their entrance to the station is accompanied by murders left and right, taking down everyone in the police station who were dumb enough to attempt to figure out what’s happening. As Wednesday points out to Shadow as they hurriedly beat a retreat after refusing World’s offers, they’ll explain how these murders happened any way they want–including finding ways to pin them on a couple of grifter fugitives.

American Gods Season 1 2017

Making Media the enemy in a climate where FOX News has spent the last two weeks hammering away at puffing up minor controversies and asking where the Clintons are now to an enormous audience who insist everything else is “fake news” is a happy accident. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods was put into production long before the events of November 9th. But that line is particularly biting in light of watching channels like CNN and MSNBC helplessly continue to ask why our government isn’t doing anything about the daily treason level scandals that are piling up in the White House. How do Media and the World spin it? Any way they want.

Technical Boy: I’m sorry. For lynching you. Hanging a dark skinned man. Ugh. Was in very poor taste. We’re in a weird tense place racially in America and I don’t want to add to that climate of hatred.

Next week: the further adventures of Mad Sweeney and Laura will continue on one track, while Shadow and Wednesday head out to round-up the next god on the list–and perhaps we’ll get a little more of Mr. Nancy, now that we know he’s already traveling with our heroes in Wednesday’s coat pocket.

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