Note: Spoilers to follow for “A Murder of Gods,” the latest episode of American Gods. I have read the book, but I will not mention any spoilers from that.
There were two big “surprises” this episode. One was the death of Mexican Jesus at the hands of racist Christians after he had saved people that had faith in him, a death that seemed parodic with the crown of “thorns” and didn’t hit with nearly the emotional punch the episode wanted. The second was Mr. Wednesday swinging a big ass sword and decapitating Vulcan.
A word on Vulcan and his city. Vulcan was the minor Roman god of fire, the forge and volcanoes; the English word for volcano is derived from his name. His closest Greek analogue would be Hephaestus, who was certainly a weapon maker. Vulcan has a few myths about making metalwork weapons, but he was usually described as a more generic guy of the forge.
I do think the reinterpretation of Vulcan as a maker of guns is an inspired one; they are the modern metalwork weapons and certainly have a real sort of religion surrounding them. But although the language of the episode (and interviews with the writers) implies a muddled, unclear morality, there was a pretty obvious Nazi aesthetic choice, from the red armbands to the gun salute with a single arm in the air. Not unclear to me.
Plus, there was the ever present horror music whenever Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen, playing it up) said anything. Honestly, I found it a bit too much. The themes of sacrifice, fear, and faith permeating the episode, and the concept that instead of gods being great, “life is great.” That’s a counterpoint like we saw last episode with the idea that humanity is greater than gods.
There were all sorts of hints and tricks about potential future plot points, foreshadowing and shadowing forward. That’s beyond the scope of spoilers, so I’ll keep mum. Suffice it to say although I thought it was decent, ultimately the Vulcan bit seemed a bit pointless. I did like some of the other points Wednesday had with Shadow, like how the ravens clearly warned him about Laura coming after them and how he kept trying to get Shadow to let her go.
A point that’s not a spoiler is that Vulcan referenced Wednesday sacrificing himself and that Wednesday mentioned knowing charms, both connected to the same myth of Odin, who sacrificed himself to himself to gain wisdom of magical charms.
The nature of the weird tree last week was sort of explained, with a reference to a new take on a god of the Tree. It was bit too obfuscated even for this show.
The other plotline worked a bit better, even if Salim seemed a bit too coincidentally to meet up with Laura and Mad Sweeney. Thus is the nature of stories I suppose, although every single moment in this episode is brand new, never mentioned in the book at all. The rapport between these three was quite interesting, as they all are so different and interact so differently with each other. It’s just unfortunate that the primary storyline wasn’t quite as effective.
So overall, a weaker episode in a pretty strong season, but I’m willing to cut some slack here to see what they do next.
What are your thoughts about American Gods? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.