Review by RCRs Henry Abrams, entertainment reporter, follow him on Twitter @Seven16
Following the multitude of bombshells in last week’s episode, you’d think that American Gods might take another break after dumping a mountain of story on us. For better, and for worse, this week, it manages to ride the line.
The opening segment follows a group of Latin American immigrants as they attempt to enter the United States at a river crossing. As they forge across it, one man trails behind because he cannot swim. In vain, he tries to hold on, but finds himself at the mercy of the current. About to accept the cold embrace of death, he is pulled up by a man, and manages to make it to the shoreline. This is not just any man; he’s a Latin American Jesus who can walk on water. Unfortunately, the group is cornered by a vigilante border patrol, who bear crosses of their own in the form of firearms. The immigrants are almost entirely slaughtered, including Jesus, who is shot in his hand, and in his heart. Bleeding out, a tumbleweed crosses his head, giving him a crown of thorns. This not so subtle symbolism presents us with the theme of this episode: Faith.
Wednesday and Shadow make their way across a dilapidated highway, as the latter berates the former for his lack of disclosure. Wednesday tells him in so many words that the fact he doesn’t believe in anything is why he hasn’t explained anything. But Shadow retorts, admitting that he believes in something, as Laura appearing to him from beyond the grave was what made him start. Arriving back at the motel, the two find the aftermath of her confrontation with Sweeney, yet no Laura, so they beat a hasty exit, probably hoping to skip out on an expensive bill.
Turns out, Laura was on her way back to the room, and sees the car leave. She chases after, but can’t catch up on foot, so she goes to retrieve her car. Chatting with the manager, she finds out the Police have towed the car. Sweeney shows up, explains that the police are dead, and says that he has a car, which turns out to be a lie, as he attempts to steal a Taxi Cab from the parking lot. Laura questions why she should even trust him, but he convinces her that she can be resurrected by other means than just a lucky coin, so she decides to have faith, and take advantage of the situation. Without warning, the two are confronted by the cab driver; the man who slept with the Djinn a few episodes prior, Salim. He’s been searching for the nameless Djinn the past few days, but hasn’t had any luck. Sweeney does some more sweet-talking, this time convincing Salim they can find the Djinn, and the three hop on the road to Kentucky, each with a separate goal, yet headed in the same direction. I really enjoyed the reveal here, because I assumed that we wouldn’t see Salim again, and that his story had concluded in the larger narrative, but this show always seems to have a reason for presenting subplots to us, and like many good shows, harkens back to them when it calls for it.
Back with our protagonists, Shadow’s wound from the police station becomes too much for him to handle, so Wednesday has to use some ‘magic’ in order to pull out a branch that’s starting to infect his wound. There’s not really much to the scene at first glance, but what Wednesday says to Shadow about mother nature while he’s writhing in pain, is both ironic and truthful in the weirdest possible way. It’s moments like these, with the Wednesday and Shadow dynamic, that I’ve mentioned many times before (and will continue to mention), that has been the core strength of this show, giving it a backbone of reality but allowing a heavy dose of the absurd all in the same sequence.
Laura, Salim, and Sweeney try to deal with each other accordingly as they travel to their destination, with the first two chatting about existence, and how their lives are completely different than they were before due to their change in faith. Sweeney’s color commentary and cynicism fit nicely as a voice of reason, at least until Laura tells him that if he calls her another derogatory word again, she’ll pull his lips off. As Sweeney passes out in the back, Laura has the group make a detour to Indiana.
In small town Virginia, a man falls into a vat of molten steel that’s then cast into bullet casings for a company called Vulcan, in the town of Vulcan, named after the Roman God of Fire and the Forge. Wednesday introduces Shadow to this community as they drive down the street, where the interpretation of America is derived from the love of firearms, and their right to bear them. The Nazi-esque imagery, in combination with the reality that there are places within our society like these that truly exist, terrifies me. It’s an all too real scenario that tends to be hidden from many of us due to our proximity from it, both in short and in length, and I applaud the show for not shying away from it.
After an especially creepy scene with the God of Fire, wherein Wednesday requests he forges a blade, the lead into ending with such a verve, that the boomerang hits harder on its return than when it is first thrown at us. It turns out that Vulcan has sold Wednesday out to appear neutral to the New Gods, so that he may keep his twisted kingdom alive and prosperous. Wednesday is having none of it, so he lobs off Vulcan’s head with the newly forged claymore, and curses the operation all in one fell swoop. It all builds up quickly, and pays off quickly, which comes off a little rushed. I would have liked it to have spent a touch more to make it that much more shocking when it all goes down.
The idea of faith and what it means to each of us is a heavy subject matter, and this week’s episode generally did an excellent job of showing the reality of what that means in greater context, and how it can warp our sensibilities just so that it can suit our own ends, or be a source of comfort when we’re not sure where else to turn. The main issue I had was when we were with Laura and her group, the pace of the episode slowed to a crawl, regardless of the stellar dialogue. It was too much of an interruption after the second time, and not totally necessary to developing the characters further, and felt like the writers were trying to hammer the theme home without realizing it had already had been ten times over. That said, heading into the penultimate episode of the season, I’m only that much more curious as to what Wednesday’s overall plan will be, now that he’s got enemies on all sides, and whether or not Shadow can Laura can find their faith in each other to reconcile their differences.
A Murder of Gods: 8.6/10
About Episode 6 of American Gods on Starz
On the run after the New Gods’ show of force, Shadow and Mr. Wednesday seek safe haven with one of Mr. Wednesday’s oldest friends, Vulcan, God of the Fire and the Forge. Coming to America: Mexican Jesus travels with immigrants across the border.
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When Shadow Moon is released from prison, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday and a storm begins to brew. Little does Shadow know, this storm will change the course of his entire life. Left adrift by the recent, tragic death of his wife, and suddenly hired as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard, Shadow finds himself in the center of a world that he struggles to understand. It’s a world where magic is real, where the Old Gods fear both irrelevance and the growing power of the New Gods, like Technology and Media. Mr. Wednesday seeks to build a coalition of Old Gods to defend their existence in this new America, and reclaim some of the influence that they’ve lost. As Shadow travels across the country with Mr. Wednesday, he struggles to accept this new reality, and his place in it.