It’s the final episode of the first season, and what a ride Come to Jesus is!
The opening scene is a little creepy with all those little spiders crawling all over the place, but it signifies that Anansi is in the vicinity which is only a good thing. He as always is one who adores theatricality and through boredom decides to tell Shadow and Mr Wednesday a story. The subject of this story is Bilquis, and we are taken back to 864 B.C.E to the temple of Bar’an (which was also known as the Moon Temple). The visuals are stunning, Bilquis is dressed in gold finery, the pillars and walls of the temple are covered in the Himyaritic script and the night sky is a perfect midnight black that is speckled with stars. In the temple, a slo-mo orgy unfolds and a king grows a crown out of his head (that is just bizarre!). Bilquis soon consumes the sacrifices and Mr Nancy moves the story along to the 70’s with the help of an awesome visual transition. The story then details how Bilquis came to America due to violence and oppression, and 2013 comes around and we see her as a shadow of her former self, living on the streets where a chance encounter with Technical Boy offers her a new way to be worshipped, all in all, I think this may be the most fully realised and detailed Coming to America story yet. The events of the episode briefly return to Bilquis and she is once again visiting museums about her society, it’s almost as if she is pinning for her glory days and it’s reasonable to suggest this as now she has to answer to Technical Boy. And he most definitely has something nefarious up his sleeve.
Easter is finally introduced and Kristin Chenoweth is certainly the best choice to play her (if you’ve seen Bryan Fullers Pushing Daisies then you know what I mean). The first hints that we are going to meet her come in the form of very cute and speedy rabbits following Shadow and Wednesday in the car and when we venture into her lovely home it’s filled with candy of all different shapes, sizes and colours to which Wednesday remarks “All that fucking sugar, Huh?”. Easter is technically Ostara a pagan goddess but the way she has been celebrated has changed due to the popularisation of the Easter Holiday due to Christianity. On the subject of Christianity in this episode, seeing as it is called Come To Jesus, we see more of the Jesus’ that have previously been eluded to in earlier episodes in a funny moment where Shadow is looking around the room in bewilderment. Mr Wednesday is rude as usual and it’s rather amusing to see him basically telling a group of Jesus’ to fuck off.
The seemingly perfect Easter party slowly starts to fall apart with surprise visits from Mad Sweeney and Laura who hope that Ostara can resurrect the “dead wife”, in a little nod to Pushing Daisies Easter says “I don’t resurrect, I relife” which reminded me of something Ned says in Pushing Daisies. The second of the surprise visits comes in the form of Media who proclaims that she has helped Easter make a name for herself in the modern world. Media is becoming more and more interesting with each episode, apparently, she offered the same deal to St Nick! So the new God’s are offering out deals to the old gods so that they can become new again, Media goes on to explain that “it’s Religious Darwinism. Adapt and Survive”. A showdown between Media, Technical Boy and Mr World occurs but Wednesday proves that the Old gods still have what it takes to form a defence and offence, he brings a storm and reveals his identity to the ever confused Shadow and Easter steals back spring. This final scene is all very weird and visually awesome that it keeps the viewer hungry for more of the story which we will sadly have to wait a year for now!
Interestingly this episode essentially deals with Female power, Bilquis and Easter are at the heart of this episode’s narrative which tells of the different ways men have overthrown Powerful Women. Bilquis answers to Technical Boy so that she can still survive in modern times and Easter’s worship is no longer truly just hers as she has to now share it with many different Jesus’ who are arguably more powerful than she is due to their followers. Also, the closing scene with Bilquis hints that the second season will potentially open with the scene at the House on the Rock, to put this in perspective this scene appears in chapter 5! The fact that the book has 20 chapters means that the pacing of this show and all the little tangents its gone off on guarantees that there will be plenty of content for many more seasons to come, Hurray!!
A Prayer for Mad Sweeney is the penultimate episode of American Gods’ first season (my goodness the past seven weeks have flown by) and in this episode, we follow the Leprechauns story through his dealings with lookalike characters Laura Moon and Essie MacGowan (A coming to America character from the book, although called Essie Tregowan).
We begin the episode in the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor, and I don’t know about you but I could totally watch a tv show just about these two characters. The premise of the show would be that each episode they get a new body to fix up and prepare for a funeral, but while they do that Thoth tells the deceased person’s life story. I mean the prose that he spills is amazing “Malice draped in pretty can get away with murder” is just one example of the poetic narratives Thoth narrates. Make it happen.
Essie MacGowan is also played by Emily Browning which works quite well as it hints at ancestral ties that are in repetition. Essie was a thief and a liar and in equal measures so is Laura. Also, it’s interesting to see that both characters have a connection with Mad Sweeney who is the namesake of the episode. Here we explore his connection to these two women that is nothing short of intriguing.
Essie steals and whores herself around so that she can get what she wants in life but the lesson to be learned is that “The more abundant the blessings, the more we forget to pray”, essentially she became too used to a life of getting what she wanted she forgot to make the time to be thankful. This causes another sentence and she, therefore, resumes her thankfulness in the form of offerings to the leprechauns. Essie lives to a ripe old age but the America she now calls home has no need for magic and stories of Fae, and in her last moments she is visited by Mad Sweeney who is also rather forlorn that he has ended up in a land without the need for him. Mad Sweeney also expresses that he is someone that offers ‘good and ill’ so for each good deed he balances it out with a bad one which then reveals that he was the cause of Laura Moon’s death as he stands over her dead body. Back in the present Mad Sweeney has his coin back as it has literally fallen out of Laura once again dead body, he curses in his ancient mother tongue and surprisingly puts the coin back into her body, which proves that under all the layers of his ‘Arsehole’ persona he has a heart of gold.
The very title A Murder of Gods feels a little foreboding are we talking Murder as in Murder…or is it a clever spin on the name of a group of Crows (which themselves are linked to Mr Wednesday)…in actuality, it’s a double entendre. Does this mean we are finally getting the Old God’s all in one place, and who among them will die???
This week’s, Coming to America story drew on something that Wednesday mentioned a few episodes back “You’ve got your White, Jesuit-style Jesus, your Black African Jesus, your Mexican Jesus, and your swarthy Greek Jesus.”. The Mexican incarnation of Jesus was the focus of this scene, a group of Christians attempt to cross the Mexican border into America and on the way happen across their version of Jesus. He saves a man but is ultimately killed by an identifiable firing squad. The way in which he is shot is rather clever and acts as an allegory to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion using bullets instead of nails to pierce his flesh.
Laura Moon and Mad Sweeny is perhaps the most unexpected team-up of the show but it really bloody works. They squabble and call each other insulting names such as “Dead Wife” or “Ginger Minge” and every single sentence is laced with expletives. It’s just so fun to watch these two characters interact with each other. Add Salim who is on the look for his Jinn and this little sideline road trip just got a little crazier and more interesting.
Vulcan, a totally new character to the American God’s TV Series and who is inspired by a disturbing real-life story that Neil Gaiman happened upon. In the show, Vulcan is the Roman god of Fire which includes Volcanoes, Metalworks and forging. He is a rather intriguing addition to the Old Gods Pantheon as so far he seems to be the only one thriving in the modern world (aside from Bilquis that is). And the very reason for his invigoration is Guns, a modern metalwork that is found everywhere. Vulcan is, therefore, a representation of the ever growing gun culture in America, for every gun that is welded or fired he is worshipped. Naturally, he leans towards the opposing faction as his resurgence is down to modern man’s fixation with weaponry which makes for an interesting showdown with Mr Wednesday.
In Conclusion, my prediction about the Old God’s gathering was proved false but we did have a murder. Wednesday is proving with each episode that he is very much a formidable man which was demonstrated by his swift execution of Vulcan. With only two more episodes to go of season one, I am wondering what other events from the book we may be graced with, surely the House on the Rock with it’s “world’s largest carousel” is coming soon. Maybe, it’s just that I want some more of Anansi who has only been in the show for the briefest of moments albeit one of the best moments of the show thus far.
Lemon Scented You is at once the best and most bizarre episode of American Gods yet. An awful lot happens in this episode but it’s all been leading up to this point where many of the questions that you’ve probably been asking yourself since the first episode are finally answered.
This weeks Coming to America segment was a little different, instead of being live action the story of Nunyunnini is entirely animated which adds to it’s appeal and seeing as this is the oldest of the God’s to be presented it was perhaps wise to use animation for the sake of not getting it wrong with CGI. Nunyunnini is essentially a forgotten god which in the realms of American Gods means that Nunyunnini is also dead, as being forgotten is fatal. To present Nunyunnini’s story at this stage of the series is a wise decision as the stakes are also rising in the present timeline, this revelation that a forgotten God is a dead God stresses the importance of Mr Wednesday’s mission. On another note, these Coming to America Segments are like a little bedtime story (albeit disturbing bedtime stories) and I feel like Demore Barnes’ exceptional narration is just perfect, I feel like if he hasn’t done the narration for an audiobook before that totally needs to happen!
Since the cliffhanger on the end of episode three, we have been waiting to watch Shadow and Laura’s reunion and heart to heart. Laura explains what happened to her to shadow very loosely and as the raw conversation awkwardly progresses you can feel the tension between the characters. This tense and emotional scene is expertly complimented by Brian Reitzell’s score which is filled with erratic percussion, a sad tinkling piano and eerie pauses. I must say that if Reitzell wasn’t the composer for American God’s then this show wouldn’t be anywhere as near damn magical.
Lemon Scented You brings back Gillian Andersons’ Media who once again shines as one of the best parts of the episodes she has appeared in so far. This time around she has moved on from ‘I Love Lucy’ to David Bowie and Marylin Monroe. Anderson as Bowie is brilliant and these weird impersonations of famous ‘mass media’ icons really let Anderson shine as an actor and proves why Media is such a compelling character as she doesn’t just come in one package. Later in the show, she appears as Marylin Monroe, but this is the airheaded pop culture Monroe who the media consumers (her worshipers) have crafted through their conspiracy theories and idolisation of her as a sex symbol.
Shadow and Wednesday are kidnapped by the new gods under the ruse of it being a police investigation, this scene pretty much was a near perfect translation from page to screen. And through this scene, we are finally introduced to Mr World. Crispin Glover plays Mr World pitch perfect, he’s at once creepy but kind, omniscient yet utterly clueless and it’s a compelling mixture of contradictions that will become more meaningfully obvious as the story progresses (if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I mean).
In conclusion, Lemon Scented You was a great episode that at once answered many queries but also posed so many more questions at the same time. I think what makes American Gods such a compelling book and show is that it’s all a clever meditation of societies past and present, it’s a critique of the Information age which is beautifully realised with Wednesdays brief summation that “That’s all you do, Occupy their time, we gave back, we gave them meaning’, which I guess is exactly right, technology offers distraction whereas tradition and beliefs in higher powers gave people courage and purpose to continue with life in the darkest of days.
Git Gone comes at the halfway point through American God’s first season, and here we finally get to know a little more about Laura Moon, the woman Shadow loved and was looking forward to being reunited with until her untimely death and his discovery of what caused it. Laura Moon for me is a rather important and interesting character as she is a flawed woman who is at once dislikable and sympathetic, essentially she is real.
The opening scene finds Laura working a dead end job at a trashy Egyptian themed casino. The clever camera work at the beginning of the episode made me think we were getting a Coming to America story about Thoth, but the quick reveal of a casino was a rather clever one and set the scene perfectly. She lives an absolutely ordinary and mundane life and the highlight of her day is killing a fly with Git Gone bug spray and then potentially using the aptly named spray to try and kill herself with or get high on. Soon after she meets Shadow, albeit while he’s trying to cheat at her blackjack table. Amusingly Shadow’s cocky con-man tricks are quickly foiled by Laura’s observations which is something he is rather surprised by. This moment piques his interest and the rest is pretty much history.
The relationship that she shares with Shadow feels very one-sided as she is almost never truly present especially as routine kicks in. It’s clear that Laura wants more, which is something she declares to Shadow when she suggests that they rob the Casino that she works at. This dissatisfaction with mundanity is ultimately what lead her to her grave, as when Shadow was put in prison she was alone again and the temptation of his best friend was too easy to give into. Through this exploration of Laura before her death we get to see just how broken and fragile she is, she drinks too much and she likes teetering on the precipice of destruction. This also fleshes her out much better than she was in the book which is one thing I think could have been done better.
Just over the half way point of Git Gone Laura dies exactly how the rumours told it, and she is then transported to the galactic desert scape of Anubis. Interestingly the thoughtform idea extends to death and afterlife for humans as well as the existence of gods. Anubis explains that because Laura believed in nothing (as was demonstrated in an earlier conversation between her and Shadow) and the non-existence of an afterlife that is exactly what she would receive. Clearly disappointed by this and annoyed at the prospect of dying Laura refuses to ‘go into the darkness’ with a simple ‘Fuck You’ which coincides with Shadow fliping Mad Sweeney’s coin onto her grave, thus resurrecting her and causing her to literally fly out of the desert scape and back into her corpse. This made for quite the amusing moment as Anubis was being all serious and waxing poetic about his sacred duty for her to suddenly fly away backwards.
Her resurrection is just plain weird, disturbing and comical at the same time. We find out that Laura was the cause of all that blood after Shadows showdown with technical boy’s goons and that she was home when Shadow visited home and packed up his belongings. Shortly after Laura is discovered by her scorned friend as she has broken into her house to try and reattach her severed arm. Audrey’s reaction to one armed ‘zombie’ Laura has the be the funniest moment in the episode which helped relieve us from the darker material that was in the episode up to that point. Then a drive in the direction of Shadows literal ‘beacon’ of light Anubis and Thoth appear and take Laura away to their Funeral business where she gets a makeover by the very god that promises her that when she’s done ‘I will complete my task’. That is a promise I can believe will be made, and I must say that I am loving Chris Obi as Anubis, as he brings a brilliant gravitas to the character which is proving to be really great to watch on screen.
In Conclusion, Git Gone takes us back to the beginning of Laura and Shadow and gives Emily Browning a much more fleshed out version of the character to play as in the book she was, for the most part, just a plot device. As a result of this episode, I am more excited to see what else they do with Laura in this season and the next and see if she does truly become more than what the book made her.
Head Full of Snow is the third episode of the first season (We’re getting a season 2 🎉) of American Gods and follows on with the events of the book with perfect timing and replication.
This week the Coming to America segment was ethereally stunning and entailed a beautiful symbolic passing on to the afterlife of Ancient Egyptian tradition. This is naturally where we meet Anubis/Mr. Jacquel (Played by Chris Obi) who pays a visit to a woman who dies in Queens, he leads her up to the heavens which look absolutely breathtaking due to the brilliant CGI. The weighing of the heart was a cool moment especially with the juxtaposition of the feather being delicately placed on the scales and Anubis ripping the woman’s bloody heart out. Obi’s Anubis feels neither good nor bad, and his aloof but gentle manner is rather striking to watch and a great way to start the episode, especially due to what closes the episode.
As one of my favourite passages in the book I was so excited to see how Zorya Polunochnaya would be brought to the screen, needless to say, the moment was perfect in my eyes. I loved how dreamy it was and how the colour palette was very blue and purple to reflect this. Also, Erika Kaar played the innocently fascinating sister of the night just how I imagined she would be when I was reading it. And just like with the book I wish we could see a little more of her.
Another diversion from the main story comes in the form of another Somewhere in America storyline, this week was Salim and the Jinn. Salim is a down on his luck salesman but his life changes on one fateful cab ride wherein the driver is an Ifrit (A powerful Jinn in Islamic tradition). They have a conversation in Arabic after the Jinn amusingly curses at a dangerous driver in front of him, and as the words are translated on screen we also see the Arabic script itself written in bold yellow text which I think was a charming touch as the Arabic language is a very beautiful script. Salim and the Jinn share a connection which ultimately leads to a sexual encounter, and like with Bilquis sex becomes a sort of worship for the Jinn.
Mr Wednesday and Shadow Moon’s scenes together are just brilliant in this episode, from thinking of snow and marshmallows to a rather amusing conversation about the colours Jesus comes in, the chemistry between the two is just wonderful which is essentially the backbone of what made the main plot line in American Gods such good reading material and is then, in turn, another reason why the show is so freaking brilliant so far.
In conclusion, Head Full of Snow starts with death and ends with resurrection and is in between filled with musings on life and existence and the consequences of being forgotten. Filled with brilliant imagery, interesting plot lines and compelling characters American Gods is doing perfect justice to its source material thus far.
The Second instalment of American Gods is called The Secret of the Spoons after an eerie little song sung right at the end of the episode.
Orlando Jones’s Anansi/Mr Nancy is perfect! At the beginning of the episode, he is introduced in another Coming to America segment (this time it’s the 17th century), here he is summoned by the desperation of a slave on his way to America. Mr Nancy’s speech about the prospects of black men in America is a rather powerful moment because it’s all, unfortunately, true, this and the fact that his delivery is brilliantly theatrical and laced with profanity.
Shadow returning to his home was one of the most heartbreaking scenes. The decorations declaring ‘Welcome Home Shadow’ and half blown up balloons are made sadder due to the fact that his wife was cheating on him. With lingering shots and close ups of both Shadow and the imagined Laura, this scene is rather poetic especially with the slow melodic music, I felt really quite sorrowful. This moment is then immediately juxtaposed by Shadow packing everything up, close ups of sellotape loudly seeling their belongings away and hangers being stuffed into portable wardrobes is quite cold and emotionless, perhaps numb even.
Later on, in The Secret of the Spoons we are introduced to another New God, Media played by Gillian Anderson. Unlike Technical Boy who Shadow met in the premier episode, Anderson’s Media is alluring and patient, she gives shadow a proposition to consider. Her small speech is rather interesting too, it’s much more understated than Mr Nancy’s but it’s just as relevant. She says ‘The screen’s the altar, I’m the one they sacrifice to…’ and ‘Time and attention: better than lamb’s blood’, this scene is essentially exposition and is used to the same effect as it was in the book, revealing tidbits that make much more sense when you consider that these gods exist through thoughtform.
The second episode closes with Mr Wednesday and Shadow visiting Czernobog and the Zoraya Sisters residence in Chicago. What unfolds is ultimately an unsettling encounter especially after the gruff and moody Czernobog arrives home and starts a conversation about murder at the dinner table. Czernobogs talk of murder is about his job slaughtering cattle but it may as well be about humans as his words and explanations of his methods are nothing short of creepy. I have to say that this scene plays out wonderfully, all the elements are just right, the food is disgusting but Wednesday is applauding it for the sake of charming his host and Shadow is coerced into a fateful game of checkers.
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a seemingly impossible work to adapt for TV has finally arrived on our screens with the first episode entitled The Bone Orchard. This first episode roughly covered the first couple of chapters of the novel, which seems like a good pace as The Bone Orchard felt like it was flowing along at a comfortable speed, not covering too much ground but not lingering too long either.
By Jove, this show looks damn beautiful! It’s clear to see that the brains behind this show were also behind Hannibal which is one of my all-time favourite shows as there are many similar elements (slo-mo, distinguishable colour palettes, so much blood, disturbing dreams etc) which I am so happy about. From the epic Viking prologue to the iconic crocodile bar everything has been perfectly realised on screen which is a dream come true for anyone who loved the book. Another parallel that can be found between Hannibal and American Gods is composer Brian Reitzell, and suffice to say it’s another thing that proves to be what makes both shows so awesome. There is a creepy and uneasy undertone to compositions that just flow so well with what is happening on screen.
Like I mentioned earlier, in this first epsiode we are only 2 or 3 chapters into the book yet some fucked up shit has already gone down. Yes you know what I’m talking about. Bilquis. When I read her small excerpt in the book I had to pause for a moment before continung to read so that I could fully come to terms with the craziness that had just happened. On screen I think it’s a little more disturbing that on page which says something really. And the Bilquis of the show seems more dangerous somehow, more of a predator as in the book the man she consumes is an arsehole whereas in the show the man is somewhat sympathetic as he is kind to her and found her through an online dating site.
The main players of the show Shadow Moon and Mr Wednesday are bought to life by Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane respectively. And right from their initial meeting on the airplane you can tell that there is a undeniable connection which is pretty much essential to the backbone of the American Gods story. And while I have read the book I am still intruiged to see where this relationship will go as it is possible that some things will be changed from the book. But for the moment I will say that I love the way in which these two characters are being portrayed which is a relief, but I kind of knew that they would be awesome especially Ian McShane as Mr Wednesday.
In conclusion, American Gods is off to a great start with The Bone Orchard. And if the episodes to come follow on in a similar fashion then American Gods could well be the best tv show of 2017.
The trailer for Thor Ragnarok has finally been released! And it looks like it may be the Asgardian’s best solo outing yet!