A closer look…
…at the Gods
(and Shadow Moon)
I’ve had a chance to watch the first 3 episodes and it’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’m going to organize this by major characters that we have been introduced to and their scenes.
This was possibly my favourite part of the episode; from the dude that really chooses the wrong spot to stop, to the shirts and skins battle that marks the end of their American experiment. I loved the line when describing the depth of their misery, “even a salad would do”, just before one unfortunate soul gets pin-cushioned by hundreds of arrows.
The Vikings assume it is the gods of the new world and decide that they should return to their homeland, but the wind isn’t cooperating, so they appeal to their god with some pretty brutal acts offerings. Each time an offering doesn’t work, they go bigger. Kicking off with self-mutilation, they quickly escalate to human sacrifice, and finally war. Yet they kept their faith.
Did the wind finally blow because of their deeds or was it just the end of summer? They left for home so quickly that they left their dead unburied and they left behind the idol of their god, Odin.
In the book, it is Odin, Thor, and Tyr that are waiting when Eric the Red returns to the land.
Tyr is the one-armed god, which makes this shot particularly amusing
At the beginning we know very little about Shadow except that he is in prison for aggravated assault and he has served almost half of a 6 year sentence. He is married to Laura and has a job lined up at the gym owned by his best friend. He’s due to be released at the end of the week, he’s got a plane ticket (an e-ticket) ready to bring him home. All sorted.
Shadow has been cut off from the world in prison. He’s had no access to technology or media, no money of his own. Even the coins he used for his magic tricks were blank metal discs he made himself in prison. The only thing he believes in is Laura.
Shadow had read a lot in prison. He has book knowledge, but no use for it. He has no context.
Shadow gets the news that Laura has died and he will be released early. More on Shadow as we meet the others.
We first meet Shadow with his cellmate, Low Key Lyesmith. Low Key is a talker, which is good because Shadow is not. It seems like Shadow doesn’t pay much attention to him, but as we see later at the airport, some of Low-Key’s stories seem to have stuck. After all, aside from books, Low-Key was Shadow’s biggest source of information. In the book, we learn early that Low Key had loaned Shadow a copy of Herodotus’ Histories, the prologue of which sets the tone for the rest of the book:
This is the showing-forth of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that neither what has come to be from man in time might become faded, nor that great and wondrous deeds, those shown forth by Greeks and those by barbarians, might be without their glory; and together with all this, also through what cause they warred with each other.
When Shadow is telling him that he feels like there is an axe hanging over his head that he can’t see, but he believes it’s there, Low Key responds by saying “I can see it just fine”.
We see Low Key again when Shadow is at the airport. He imagines Low Key there, but then slips back into a flashback where he hears the story of Johnnie Larch.
When they are building the birdhouses,
Low Key doesn’t bother with the screws. He’s above rules and shortcuts are just fine when the stakes are low.
Low Key is played by Jonathan Tucker (Kingdom, Justified) and I think he smashed it. He looked and behaved exactly as I had imagined and I really hope to see more of him, though we may have to wait til next season for that.
Laura has always confused me. Her relationship with Shadow seems at once both loving and superficial. She calls him “puppy”, which implies a relationship of controlled affection. Shadow is loyal. He needs love and validation. He only believes in the tangible.
When we first see Laura appear in Shadow’s dream, it would have been just about the time of her death, as we know she died “in the early hours of Wednesday”.
She is shown with imagery that evokes the Virgin Mary; in shades of blue. At this point, Shadow knows nothing of how she died. He remembers her as perfect and he has so much faith in their love. Also, there is a strong crucifixion vibe here. Was Laura sacrificed to open Shadow’s mind? Or to leave him vulnerable to Wednesday’s charms, possibly.
Not only did she die, but with such a stain on her memory. At once, it breaks his faith
completely and now he is completely empty.
In the second dream we see a woman, who we assume is Laura in the accident.
We see her with the 7 of clubs. This card connects the spiritual to the mundane and it is often paired with its Karma card: the Jack of Spades, the one-eyed jack.
Also important to note that her mouth is empty 😲
I love Emily Browning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Suckerpunch) and I think she will give the perfect blend of maiden and vixen to pull it off.
Ian McShane IS Mr. Wednesday. He totally embodies this character that has the wisdom of the ages and the wear and tear that comes with it. He has “charm”, which is a euphemism for the ability to make things happen. His charms are just a bit more special, just enough to keep Shadow under his control, but not so much as to give away his identity just yet.
Shadow takes up employment with Wednesday, after some gentle manipulation and a bit of magic, and Shadow goes from being Laura’s puppy to Wednesday’s dog.
It’s nice to see that his reveal is slow. It starts off with a cheesy con at the airport and then gradually building up to the bank heist. There is still nothing overtly supernatural about him, but he has skills. And some offbeat friends.
It seems like the difference between shocking someone into believing and allowing someone to gradually build up faith.
We know that Wednesday has just one eye, so it’s an instant connection back to the vikings, and with the name Wednesday, we know it’s Odin, the god of war, the gallows god. Father to Thor, Baldr, and Vali.
After Shadow meets Wednesday, his dream shows him emerging from the darkness. He is reborn.
Then he gets bullied into believing. More about Wednesday soon.
Bilquis is associated with the Queen of Sheba. We haven’t been given her “Coming to America” story yet, so we only know that she gets her power through desire. It’s interesting that she uses the internet to find her conquests, thereby bowing to the Technical Boy to attain greater power, maybe?
In the first episode, we see her take her consume her first conquest. The scene was lovely, but the CGI was a bit silly. I would rather have just have some artistic scene-cutting to make the point. The second episode shows a blissful man spinning into the cosmos, so cheesy, but not a bad way to go. Not my choice, but ok.
This was followed by a string of sexual conquests all of which serve to rejuvenate Bilquis, yet we see her crying at the end. For me, this indicated a sorrow that she was once adored by all who would willingly prostrate themselves in front of her. Now she needs to pillage the desperation of lonely people she finds on the internet, and she still not strong enough as we see at the museum.
What I am still missing from the Bilquis scenes is anything remotely sexy. I wanted to feel more of the seduction and the desperation from the people that need her. The way it’s depicted is very predatory.
Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun. Pablo Schreiber is not Irish.
Yet, that’s kinda the point. Break stereotypes, put Shadow off guard. Shadow makes a point about the fact that he’s too tall to be a leprechaun and he gets chastised for his narrow view of the world and then when he asked if Sweeney was from Ireland, Shadow was met with confusion to an ignorant question. It was perfect. We’ve all been there.
Then Sweeney goes on to pull gold coins from thin air.
Mad Sweeney has the luck of the Irish. He wouldn’t lose a fight to Shadow. So the fight was more of a Brad Pitt thing…. down to the line, “I’ll fight ‘ya for it” (Fight Club intentions, Snatch delivery)
But he manages to get a rise and Shadow wakes up in the back of Wednesday’s car (let’s call her Betty) with Sweeney’s coin and our dear leprechaun encounters some pretty bad luck.
and also, I love Pablo Schreiber.
Please try to look past the duck-faced ugly crying, for a moment, and understand the pain of Audrey. This poor woman didn’t even know her hubby was having an affair. She found out in the worst possible way. In a small town, without her best friend or her husband, planning a funeral and being asked by the coroner what to do with body parts. Stress.
I really loved seeing her in the back of Shadow’s deep moment. She’s coming up over the hill pulling her knickers up. Classic.
I even bought into her propositioning Shadow and saying she was trying to get her dignity back while climbing on top of him. I felt her pain and desperation in this scene. His reaction, on the other hand… Shadow should have been more supportive of her, shown some affection to her. Help her regain some dignity by showing compassion. I’m not saying he should have taken her up on her offer, but he is the only one who could possibly empathize with her at this moment. He chooses not to.
OK, now back to the duck-face.
We know nothing about Robbie at this point except the following:
- Shadows best friend
- Owned the “Muscle Farm” and promised Shadow a job on return
- Married to Audrey
- Likes to send dick pics
He and Laura Died under mysterious circumstances:
- Automobile accident where driver of the other vehicle seems to have fled the scene
- The accident happened in the “early hours of Wednesday“
Technical boy was different than I imagined, but cool. I like that he was slightly imperfect, with the gap in his teeth and the synthetic toad skin vaping. You can find out more about smoking deadly hallucinogenic frogs here.
His henchmen, the Children, were OK. Not sure about their headwear choices for inclement weather, but let’s see as the series progresses.
It’s not clear who saved Shadow from the lynching. Many people assume it was Wednesday. It was certainly divine intervention of some sort (or some serious acid rain that melted through the rope). I won’t give any spoilers here, but that was pretty lucky.
As opposed to Wednesday, Tech Boy makes his capabilities known straight away. It was a harsh awakening for Shadow to realize that all is NOT as expected.
Media, played by Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall), shows herself to Shadow as an avatar of Lucy Ricardo. She is motherly and tells Shadow that she would never have treated him as badly as Technical Boy did. She is Media; she says what he wants to hear. She manages the message and tries to undo some of the harm that Tech Boy’s impetuousness caused.
We see her again in episode 3, but only for a flash. We also get a glimpse of a character that hasn’t yet been introduced.
The cameras that are tracking Shadow and Wednesday in the bank show a top-hatted silhouette in the top right. We then see Media’s eye in the monitor just before it goes dark. She is watching him, watching them.
I’ve seen a few trailers and it looks like Gillian Anderson has this. That perfect mom, who bakes the best cupcakes, but who you should not fricking cross…. ever.
We see Anansi in a coming to America story that shows us the holds of a slave ship and the desperation of its cargo. I have high hopes for Anansi, as the lead character in another of Gaiman’s novels. It would be nice to see his story extended in this series beyond American Gods, so that we can get a glimpse of his world.
Orlando Jones seems to be perfect casting, though I imagined someone a bit older, like Morgan Freeman. It’s meant to be a funny character, but I hope that Orlando Jones doesn’t take it over the top.
Literally translated as the “Black God”, Czernobog tells the story of his brother and himself, judged by their colour. Until the time when they have grown old, their stories all but forgotten, they are both grey. He survives as a tale to frighten children but his brother has now disappeared.
Even for him, technology is putting him out of a job. Killing used to be an art. What he did was scary. Now weapons are so accessible that reality is more scary than the old stories. In their second game of checkers, Shadow observes that Czernobog is playing the same game. An old dog that cannot learn new tricks. He has become obsolete.
The Zorya and sisters that represent the morning and evening stars respectively. Their place in mythology is to watch over the doomsday hound, Simargl. The legend goes that if the hound is able to unchain himself from Polaris, he will devour Ursa Minor (the Little Bear) and the universe will end. Neil Gaiman added a 3rd sister to the legend, the midnight Star, Zorya Polunochnaya. If any have read Stardust (or seen the movie) you will know that Gaiman has an affection for stars that walk the earth.
There is a point to make about lies. It’s very subtle in the show, but there is mention that Zorya Utrennyaya cannot tell lies very well, where Zorya Vechernyaya can tell the prettiest lies and Zorya Polunochnaya can tell no lies at all. Are we most truthful in the middle of the night and most deceitful in the evening?
Zorya Polunochnaya tells Shadow that he is empty without believing in anything. How can anyone stand up for anything if they don’t believe in that cause. Until now, it seems that Shadow is driven purely by money. A few extra dollars per week was all it took to stop asking questions about Tech Boy and the lynching. She gives him the moon in the form of a silver dollar as protection, telling him that he was once protected by the sun itself. In the book it is clear when she says “the daughter, not the father”, that she is offering him a weaker form of protection than he had previously.
Mrs. Fadil was a muslim that had once heard stories of Anubis. he came to her not because she was a devoted follower, but because she was a true believer. Someone who was told stories as a child from her grandmother, whom she loved, and had held those stories sacred in a corner of her mind.
Anubis probably has some time on his hands due to a decrease in overall demand, whereas Allah is likely pretty busy. I found it interesting that even though he was not her god, Mrs. Fadil put so much faith in Anubis that she gave up her final choice. He final hesitation was dismissed by the cat (Bastet), who gave her a gentle nudge through the door.
I enjoyed the stairway to heaven and the lightness between Anubis and Mrs. Fadil. It was a lovely and tender moment that expressed the essence of the book. Faith.
Salim and the Jinn
This scene showed how people feeling alienated in a foreign land can find comfort with people who share common stories. It is an instant trust given to a total stranger based on that very basic part of our identities.
The scene shows a transfer of power through intimacy. A metaphor for that deep connection felt with one’s kinsmen. That shared language, knowing the same jokes, the same old tales is deeper than finding someone who likes the same music and movies. It’s a deeper understanding of the things that all of your values and decisions are tethered to.
This could also be a commentary on the venn diagram between ethnicity and vocation in big cities. Salim was not able to make his plan work, so the Jinn helped to show him the ropes, and Salim will do the same for the next.
Clearly the Jinn is not the person on the license, so it has been passed down and so the story has been inseminated.
If you take a close look and do the math, there’s something not quite right here. The driver’s license belongs to Ibrahim Bin Irem, who was born in ’85, yet his taxi permit expires in 2001.
I can’t quite place when this scene was taking place, but we know it is in the past, because when we see the Jinn at the diner in Episode 2, he is wearing Salim’s suit.