Thursday, June 20, 2024

American Gods presents us with hope

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Well that was quite something. I’m not going to say the last two episodes were depressing or anything but they were certainly on the bleak side. What I really loved about this latest one was not only the change in tone—as many shows can fall victim to getting lost in their own singular emotion—instead we are treated to a more hopeful set of events, and above all the conning and talk of death, a sense of contentment fills the screen as the beauty of the ancient world shows its face. We do get introduced to some new characters early, but entirely out of context from the novels, who are really interesting to watch and very well written. Certain characters, of course, are released a little earlier than expected and some who are expected have not made an appearance yet, which makes me slightly uneasy but, I have hope with how the show has presented the ones shown so far.

My issue with the show is still pacing, they’re simply covering way too much ground in each episode that I don’t know how the supposed finale of the season will end up at the House on the Rock meeting.  Where the book currently mirrors the show, that’s barely one hundred pages away which means they will have to improvise a lot. If the rumors can be believed, the next episode will be Laura centered and will re-cover the events of the first three episodes from her point of view. This, of course, will buy them a whole episodes but that’s another three that they’ll need to show how creative they can be, and how well their creativity and originality can compare to Neil Gaiman’s masterful storytelling.

Somewhere in America

In this episode we were treated to two vignettes, one taken directly from the novel and another a completely original scene. A character is revealed early in this instance but, as I said earlier, it is out of context to how Shadow meets him later, similar to the intro of the previous episode with Mr. Nancy/Anansi. In the first vignette we see an Egyptian woman (I’m assuming based on her beliefs) named Mrs. Fadil struggling to reach some cooking materials on a high cabinet while trying to balance on a very unstable stool. Soon after she is greeted at her door by who book readers will immediately recognize by reputation as Mr. Jacquel or as the Egyptian God he portrays, Anubis. Upon their meeting she thinks he is mistakenly at her home but he very gently convinces her that she has died. It is here that we see the true power of belief and how it gives these remaining Gods their power when she states that she is Muslim, so why would Anubis be here to claim her soul?

Honestly the look on his face is heart breaking

The power of belief is what brought him to her passing, because as a child she believed the tales and myths of her ancestors that her Tita told her, they have claim over her death. This is one of pivotal scenes in my opinion that changes the series’ tone into a much more emotional and human approach. Mr. Jacquel not only shows his caring side by comforting the woman with what happens immediately after her passing, how her children and their children will remember her and how they will find happiness after a time. He gives her final moments in her home, going as far as to even be kind and taste her food. It’s a very heartfelt scene as he brings her to the scales. For those not familiar with Anubis’ role in Egyptian mythology, he is the Jackal faced God associated with the Afterlife and mummification. When a soul passes he weighs their heart to a feather to determine whether they lived a good and just life, if they have their heart will weigh no more than the feather.

As for the other scene…. well, everyone who reads the books saw this coming as well. Considerably it was probably spoken about just as much as the first scene with Bilquis in the first episode. Of course it would turn more heads because not only was it a gay sex scene but it also involved a Muslim man. The man’s religion, of course, should not affect the controversy of the scene but that’s another rant for another day. Compared to the books version the scene was pretty solid in terms of how well it was adapted. For effect they decided to wait until towards the end of the sequence to show how bad of a day Salim was having. Even still it wasn’t as bad as the book version; including his marital problems and his brother’s betrayal.

While waiting an entire day for a promised job the poor man grabs a taxi home to the sad existence that is having no luck in the land of opportunity and learns that his taxi driver knows of where he is from. They talk about the country and it’s legends, such as the lost city of Ubar or as it’s known historically as The Lost City of Towers, or if you’re an Uncharted or Lawrence of Arabia fan: the Atlantis of the Sands. Anywho, the two share a connection based on this discussion and that of what America was truly meant to represent to foreigners. By the end of the scene he realizes what the Djinn truly is, yet doesn’t ask him what one would of his kind. Instead the two sleep with each other in a scene just as raunchy as the Bilquis segment. In a touching ending, after Salim leaves the hotel he sees that the Djinn has given him his taxi and identity. Maybe he really does grant wishes.

The Second Game

Before I get to the point that my sub header mentions, and I was very happy about it, we first see our missing Zorya sister. Even though there was change from the novel, this scene in the series was a dream rather than not. Zorya Polunochnyaya is found on the roof by Shadow, stargazing. While this scene was longer than the novel version we do get to see things that were previously unmentioned by the other sisters; such as their roles in their respective mythologies or how their fortunes differ based on the time of day they represent. Of course they kept the same what they needed to, such as Zorya plucking the moon from the sky and giving a silver coin to Shadow, telling him not to be so careless with it as he was with the coin Mad Sweeney gave him. What she failed to mention however, was how the power she was giving him was not as strong as the golden coin. Like I said this scene was good because it kept what was relevant to novel counterpart while adding things unseen from the earlier scenes that were omitted from the show.

Is the moon gone forever now tho?

Now the scene I was waiting for, and I’m so glad I called it, the second checkers game between Czernobog and Shadow. While in the novel the games are one after another the series decided to leave sometime between them. What was most disappointing about it however, was the fact that it wasn’t Shadow who initiated the deal. They do rectify that mistake in this episode with the way he confronts Czernobog for a second game. It gives him the chance to show his resourcefulness that was missing in the previous entry. He works on Czernobog’s pride as in the novel, making a new deal for a second hit because he thinks one won’t kill him. If Czernobog loses he still gets his hit but after he attends the meeting at the House on the Rock. The scene was incredibly well done as you could see frustration in Czernobog’s eyes.

What I also loved about this section of the episode was Wednesdays night visit to Zorya Vechernyaya. As Shadow does with his endeavor, he plays to her pride and her vanity. Making promises of past glories and comforts. Spoiler alert, but our elder Zorya gives a look into the future for Wednesday. It is plain for book readers but slightly vague for those only watching the show, “This time they will kill you”. This is obvious in reference to Wednesday’s assassination later in the book, but I have the feeling they’ll leave it for the following season.

The Bank Heist

This part was actually really fun in the novels. By this time Wednesday and Shadow were running low on cash, funds needed to make sure his plans with the meeting came to fruition. Of course Shadows reaction to hearing of this plan is met the same way in the novel as the series, does he really look like a man who wants to go back to prison? Wednesday assures him that he will not and has him write down a payphone number down as he begins to explain how they’ll get this money away and scot free. It’s actually pretty genius on his end. First of course, taken straight out of the book was the snow scene. Shadow is asked to suspend his belief of anything he knows and just to think about snow. Not much later snow begins to blanket Chicago and the two go for lunch at an Asian restaurant. Of course this is me being nitpicky but in the novel it was a greasy diner with food that’s not particularly good but had the proper aesthetic. The two argue over the power of belief at how Shadow reacts to the snow and the show offers us a pretty important discussion of what the power of belief can produce in the line between reality and fantasy.

The show’s aesthetic is amazing

Wednesday soon begins with his plan where the two disguise themselves as workers for A1 Security Services and the scene is literally identical to the novel. From the little monologue on the importance of sticking to fake stories in their made up names on their cards to Wednesdays slightly charming giant ear muffs the whole sequence is just as funny and just and clever as I thought in the book. My favorite part, of course, was the phone call Shadow receives from the officer who Wednesday encounters. His belief allows him to conjure up a whole new persona just for this job and it’s amazing how detail oriented and how real it comes out. Yet is it real because it seemed so or is it a fantasy because it was not real? Something the both the novel and the series imply for us to ponder. This is just as Shadow needs to ponder whether the Laura he sees at the episodes end is truly her or a fantasy.

The Crazy Irishman

I actually loved what they did here. In the novels we only see Mad Sweeney a couple of times and they’re never as entertaining as the first time, they’re mostly depressing because you know…alcoholism and then death. But the series decided to use him a little more than the novel and even make a new story of him hunting for the coin he accidentally gave to Shadow after their bar brawl. Yet, in the novel the coin being given to Shadow was no mistake, only him being careless with it. As we follow a drunken Sweeney after being shot at and getting into a pretty bad car wreck we notice that he’s been pretty unlucky…for a leprechaun. Turns out his source of luck was the coin he gave to shadow and now he wants it back. So we see him a few times in the episode on his hunt which inevitably ends with him digging into Laura’s grave only to find she’s not in there. I do hope we get more of these little snippets of Sweeney to get a little more personality before he does meet his demise.


Final Thoughts

This episode was probably the most faithful to the novels, though the debut was nearly tied. The tones were great and tried to give us a lighter look at the Gods who still remain, without showing us the murkiness of some like Czernobog and the anger of Anansi. While my favorite episode is still the second this one was much appreciated when in context to the novel. It seems that the writers are doing their best to stay true to the novel but also reminding us that this is an adaptation and as such certain things will change and so far, it’s for the better.

Images courtesy of Starz

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