If there is still anyone who’s not realized how very incredible a series American Gods is, how inspired an adaptation Bryan Fuller, Michael Green and this brilliant cast have created, they need only watch nearly any Episode 5 scene to understand. From Studio Tendril‘s breathtakingly gorgeous opening animation to the magical police foreststation (possibly Yggdrasil, a world-connecting tree in Norse mythology, or Mr. Wood); from Gillian Anderson’s manifestations as David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe, to Laura Moon kicking Mad Sweeney’s sorry leprechaun ass, it’s clear Neil Gaiman’s story couldn’t be in better hands.
Snowflakes flutter, high priestess, Atsula (voiced by Yetide Badaki) leads her tribe — and their old god, Nunyunnini — across a land bridge from Siberia to the new world, only to find there is no food to sustain them. Seeking wisdom from Nunyunnini, Atsula sacrifices herself to bring the tribe prosperity and though her people survive, their god does not … in time he is forgotten. (“The gods are great, but people are greater, for it is in their hearts that gods are born, and to their hearts they return.”)
Having seen her way to Shadow’s door by the yellow, glowing light of his *Spoiler* aura, Laura surprises her once and always puppy, attempts to explain away her infidelity (I waited 13 months, a baker’s year; cat died.”). While Shadow fetches cigarettes that prove useless for nerves dead or alive, Wednesday gets a report from one of his pair of tattletale ravens (Huginn and Muninn), and for viewers who aren’t readers, the clues have piled high enough not to miss: Wednesday is Odin (“Grimnir”). Despite her newfound sincerity and his own feelings, Shadow’s not moved, even when his magic kiss breathes momentary life into her debited-to-Anubis heart.
Wednesday stops by for a nightcap, smells trouble behind Shadow’s door, but hadn’t foreseen the barrage of cops that suddenly arrive to arrest them for the bank job. Though Shadow’s in a panic and Wednesday, taken by surprise, it’s Technical Boy and Mad Sweeney who’re really in trouble. While the not-so-lucky leprechaun tries to charm his coin out of Laura … ‘s throat — “Give me my coin, cunt” — gets his outsmarted ass easily handed to him, and not a penny for his troubles, Technical Boy gets a taste of his own medicine. On the way to his limo, now commandeered by David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust, a boy’s VR device turns the tables. Spouting lyrics from Life on Mars, Rebel Rebel, Starman, Cat People, Space Oddity, Under Pressure and Oh You Pretty Things is Mr. World’s muscle, aka Gillian Anderson. Yes, you heard me right: Gillian Anderson is Mr. World’s muscle.
Speaking of Mr. World (Crispin Glover), after the cops reunite Wednesday and Shadow in the hopes they’ll agree to a story to tell (besides the actual truth which, in Wednesday’s defense, he tried …), and Wednesday’s little spider friend (Mr. Nancy/Anasi) relieves a god of his cuffs, the would-be god of Global Capitalization pops by the station with a merger proposition. Assisted by Media as Monroe — Marilyn, that is — Mr. World and Co. run through their spiel (“Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”, “This is the face you make when you’re masturbating, same as your mother who had 86 sexual partners.”), offer to launch an Odin guidance satellite over North Korea (“24.9 million people, they will know your name …”), wrench a more apologetic apology from Technical Boy (“I’m sorry for lynching you.”) — his teeth (“My gift to you, Shadow”) — and let single, irritating grain of sand, Wednesday go (again); Shadow and his boss make their way past blood, bodies and a deadly tree to an at least, temporary freedom.
Can we all just get down on our knees and hail our true American goddess: Gillian Anderson? She has nailed every single Media incarnation. speaking of, please tell me there will be a Dana Scully appearance later in the season?
Crispin Glover hit all the right notes as the one new god who may have inspired fear in Wednesday. Even Shadow noticed. (In the Starz afterword, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green described wanting to get an actor who could capture the oddness of the character — someone like Glover — and casting telling them they had a morning meeting with him. The next day, Crispin rode up on a bicycle and took off his velvet hat in the manner we see Mr. World introduce himself; the scene was modeled on that.)
Media’s asskicking aside, I can’t help but love seeing Laura mess up Mad Sweeney, and his utter shock at not being able to muscle her. Not only does this show give us nudity equality, it gives us ass-kicking equality, as well.
When Wednesday is being questioned at the police station, he recites from William Ernest Henley’s Madam Life’s a Piece in Bloom: “She’s the tenant in the room, he’s the ruffian on the stair.”
Wednesday’s expressions throughout the police station scenes were priceless; he often looked like a toddler caught doing something he knows he shouldn’t.
Loved Media as Marilyn’s comment about the CIA jabbing a needle in her eye so she wouldn’t tell tales about the Kennedy assassination.
I’m not at all fond of Technical Boy, but kudos to Bruce Langley for giving the character that sneering overconfidence that falls apart the minute he’s challenged (or put in his place by a gorgeous goddess).
Vincenzo Natali (Westworld, Luke Cage, Hannibal, Orphan Black) directed this hour, a visual feast in every way.
Really loved this shot when Shadow and Wednesday leave the back of the police station and the camera pans to its front, cops running in:
A couple of nifty tweets from Bryan Fuller, including a hint about Season 2:
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) May 29, 2017
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) May 29, 2017
The songs this hour were originals, created specifically for the soundtrack by Brian Reitzell.
Mad Sweeney, busting in on Laura: “You’re the wife. The dead wife. Give me the fucking coin, dead wife.”
Laura to Sweeney: “My lucky coin, ginger minge.”
Sweeney to Laura: “The dude he calls Wednesday. He’s a god. You don’t believe me.”
Laura to Sweeney: “No, no, just processing. What else did god say?”
Sweeney to Laura: “Meat’s gonna slide off you sooner or later, dead wife. You’ll find yourself cookin’ in a hot summer’s day. I’m gonna stick my hand right under your ribs and I’m gonna pluck that coin right out of you like a berry.”
Sweeney to Laura: “That’s the sort of coin you give to an American King.”
Mr. World to Technical Boy: “Like a Renaissance pope, I absolve you.”
Media Marilyn Monroe to Wednesday: “Wouldn’t you like an upgrade? A brand new lemon scented you?”
Wednesday to Mr. World: “An oyster. Inside every pearl there’s a single irritating grain of sand. That slimy thing just wants that scratchy thing out of there.”
Mr. World to the room: “We’re leaving on a good line.”