American Gods makes the war more explicit but keeps things muddled

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Note: Spoilers to follow for “Lemon Scented You”, the latest episode of American Gods. I have read the book, but I will not mention any spoilers from that.

Far be it from me to pretend I haven’t argued about adaptations, but I’ve found it quite interesting to see how American Gods has changed things up as it’s gone forward. There are pieces, aspects, of this episode similar to the book, but for the most part, it’s almost entirely new material. And yet, nothing really seems out of place.

The opening segment was fascinating for a few reasons; I noticed immediately we didn’t see the “Coming to America” text scrawl in the opening vignette, but that became a bit clearer. The style was very well done, a sort of stop motion aesthetic to the animation about a tribe traveling across the Bering land bridge. A bit different, a bit shorter than the book, but the points were similar.

We saw the death of the old mammoth god Nunyunnini by simple fact of being forgotten, as people are described as greater than gods, because they can create and destroy their own gods. Interestingly, we also saw a great buffalo, similar to the one Shadow saw in his dream. So the entire tale seems to be about the fear of the gods not to be forgotten. The story of this ancient mammoth skull god is so forgotten, we don’t even see them as live action actors.

It’s a style choice to be animated, but why is this the first one? I think, like I said, it’s because it’s about a story forgotten by everyone. This directly ties into the fears of Mr. Wednesday that were attempted to be allayed by the new gods. The show made it pretty explicit about his identity, calling the missiles part of an “Odin” system. In an obvious, unsubtle way, this seems to be a way to get his name back in vogue.

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But at this point we don’t know Wednesday’s true plans at all. Gillian Anderson has quite a fervent admirer in showrunner Bryan Fuller, given that he gave her David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe. I do think she did a good job, but it was a bit … showboating. Particularly the David Bowie part, because why did she need to impress the Technical kid?

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Now Crispin Glover, the creepiest actor in Hollywood (intentionally), was fantastic as the bizarre, mysterious Mister World, whose domain is unclear and powers uncertain. It does make me wonder about the next steps for the character, who isn’t revealed in person until much, much later in the book. The show hasn’t been afraid to make a few tweaks, but I do wonder if this character will be a significant one.

The interactions between Laura and Shadow had a heartbreaking resonance, as Shadow slowly realized he wasn’t able to forgive his wife despite her being dead. Laura had some interesting stuff to do this episode, including a pretty funny interaction with Mad Sweeney, who kept hilariously calling her “dead wife.” But Sweeney revealed a few key things, like it was “Grimnir” (one of many names for Odin, specifically one that means the Masked or Hooded One — quite apropos in this case) that hired him to pick a fight with Shadow.

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The show also made it explicit that not only have the ravens been spying on people, but Wednesday can actually communicate with them. I did like the scene in general between the various characters as they animated a unicorn starting World War Three, pushing things forward while continuing to obfuscate plenty. It’s weird because although I liked quite a bit of this episode, in a lot of ways it felt almost like very little happened.

It’s hard to know how these things will build up, but it does seem like the show is taking the slow burn approach. I suppose I don’t have a problem with that, but I just don’t want the show to fall into self-pleasuring, circular, endless nonsense. It’s been strong so far, I’m just worried about the potential to fall apart. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts about American Gods? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

 

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