The world is your unicorn…
American Gods… Episode 5 – Lemon Scented You
I enjoyed some parts of this episode immensely, and other parts I really didn’t care for.
Are there any Survivor fans out there? I’m a junkie, so I tried Australian Survivor in the off season to get my fix. It has similar production value, but it’s just not the same. After a few episodes (and begging for your life back), you will notice that the real difference is in the editing. The American show is tight… scenes have been cut to tell a specific story and to portray the players in particular roles. Sure, it’s manipulative, but that’s Media for you. If you don’t know Survivor, if you have ever tried to watch Rachel Maddow… same same.
So, that’s how I feel about American Gods. It’s good and there is a lot to love, but I just don’t find it tight.
I need my immediate gratification. I also need plot advancement. Perhaps the intention is to encourage people to read along. I totally support that, but it may also not be amenable to audiences with short attention spans. Just saying.
The animation on this sequence was stunning. I wish all the Coming to America vignettes were done the same way. It’s also the first time we hear the story of a god dying, Nunyunnini became extinct along the mammoths that symbolized him.
“Trust me: there is a land to the east that is manless. This land shall be your land and the land of your children and your children’s children, for seven generations, and seven sevens.” (Nunyunnini)
In the book, Atsula questions the voice of her god, yet she follows his instructions nevertheless. Here, Atsula is depicted with such strong faith that she carried it with her (literally) and led her people to America from Siberia in 14000 BC. This was just at the end of the ice-age. When they reached America, they found themselves unable to live off the land and Atsula sacrificed herself to the spirit of the land, the buffalo, for the sake of her tribe. Yet still, the tribe elders refused what the land offered them and they perished. Technically, they were killed off by the natives, even though Nunyunnini promised that the land would be uninhabited.
I want to talk so much more about this. The snowflake teardrop. The grief over the loss of a child. It provokes her to take the rest of her kin and find a land more hospitable; a better life for generations to come so that they can avoid the pain of loss that she felt. Atsula thinks it is her god who leads her, but she is the one. God is (in) her…
The tribe’s children, though, accepted the food and comfort they were offered. They recognized the spirit of the land as their god, and all memories of Nunyunnini and Atsula soon faded away.
In the story of the Vikings, they are so confident that it their prayers that brought the wind. Could have just been climate change. Atsula’s journey began at the end of the ice-age. When they reached Alaska, the land had not yet started to thaw, but by the end of the vignette, we see that the sun is shining as they look back at the god that didn’t provide for them. The children decided that this was the work of the new American gods, but it was probably just global warming.
There is another point that is made more clearly in the book. The tribes that Atsula and her peeps encounter in America are their own people. They are those who travelled with Atsula’s group and before them. Their own people adopted new rituals and totems in this new land. The buffalo replaces the mammoth. Evolution.
For me this was a beautiful analogy for the fight between the old and new gods that is happening in Shadow’s time. The elders were stubborn, clinging to their faith. The children, however, were tempted away by instant gratification. The kind that media and technology gives you. An escape.
Let’s come back to this idea when we meet the new gods.
Laura and Shadow
I liked and hated Laura and Shadow together. It was long and Laura seemed so completely lacking in remorse. It really bugged me. Perhaps this was planting the idea that when she lost her faith, she also disposed of any guilt that comes along with it. Another interpretation is that Laura just cheated death, and she’s feeling a bit epic.
It seemed to me that Laura was being a bit too coquettish, and playing on Shadow’s vulnerabilities. It wouldn’t have killed her to be a bit kind. At the same time, I can appreciate that she was completely honest with him. The contradiction here is that she is being true, possibly for the first time ever in their relationship, yet she is trying to seduce him with the memories of what they used to be. There is a lot to overcome for Shadow: the cheating, the death, the smell of rotting flesh…
Please don’t tell me that because her heart has finally started to pitter-patter for Shadow, that we should now love her. We love her cause she’s ninja.
The best part for me was when he said he was not still her puppy. At that very instant, there’s a knock on his door from his new master.
We have confirmation now that the ravens are indeed Wednesday’s and they have been spying for him since before Laura and Shadow got married.
Did anyone notice that it seemed that Shadow and Wednesday were at totally different motels? Or maybe Shadow seems to be on the outside, while Wednesday was on the inside.
The police station scenes were OK. I quite liked the female detective, RIP. We got a few good lines out of Wednesday as exposition to catch folks up on Czernobog, Anansi, and his war before we meet Mr. World.
His recitation of the first stanza of Madame Life’s a Piece in Bloom was lovely. Foreshadowing his end, he is stating that he knows that death is at his door, but he carries on anyways.
Laura and Mad Sweeney
“It’s easier to kill people, when you’re dead yourself,” (Laura Moon)
Laura’s got super-human strength and Sweeney is down on his luck. I loved this whole dynamic, but I feel like maybe I’m in the minority here. So I will spread the gospel.
His desperation and Laura’s cockiness worked well together. And it was funny, but leprechauns are generally thought to be kind-hearted, foul-mouthed, and have the ability to grant wishes, mostly by accident and proximity, rather than actual will. Just ask Jennifer Aniston.
Shadow stole his luck, passed it on to Laura, and now Mad Sweeney will follow her to the ends of the earth to get it back. BTW, that means he will also be following Shadow.
Is it me, or is Sweeney just a better looking Robbie. He’s big and loud and aggressive. he takes up space, where Shadow stayed true to his name. I want more of this and don’t care what Gene Lyons has to say about it.
As Shadow and Wednesday are otherwise occupied and they have left the car and keys behind, I see the two of them taking Betty on an American Zombie-Leprechaun odyssey.
Media and Technical Boy
Media as Bowie was such a nice touch. Bowie, is a god. At least in my mind, and though he’s gone (RIP, sir), Media is how he will always be remembered. For as long as she lets him be remembered. Ironically, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust reached its peak in the American billboard charts after Bowie’s death.
Ziggy Stardust was a character he created that came to earth as a messenger for extra-terrestrial beings. Media was delivering a message. Brilliantly. Speaking in song lyric metaphors, She talks about the famous radio drama about aliens invading that implanted terror into people. Though it was revealed as a hoax, some continued to believe, and now
“there are Star men waiting in the sky”.
Gillian Anderson delivers a wonderful performance that demonstrates that technology is simply a vehicle. Media is the message.
Technical Boy is exactly as we would expect. Indulgent, brash, impetuous. He is scolded for his handling of the Wednesday situation. Indicating that technology can scare people into their old habits and rituals. Tech Boy’s minions are known as the children. My children are most certainly slaves to technology.
So, he needs to apologize to Wednesday so as not to antagonize the enemy. But why? Because Mr. World said so.
Enter Crispin Glover. The portrayal was a bit over the top, but then so is Mr. World. He is like the supernatural offspring of Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch. He is that mysterious entity that has access to all your data and uses it to build the products and images we consume, crave. The more we give him, the better he gets at giving us what we want. He represents the homogenization of culture across the globe through shared films, programmes, technology, and migration. Globalization.
We increasingly are fed messages that are massaged to help us feel secure at times, and to build fear in us at other times. That balance between fear and security drives people to do crazy things, like giving up their rights to privacy or electing orange presidents.
Mr. World realizes that Odin will not soon be forgotten, so his goal is to re-package him. His name will have a different meaning for generations to come. They will forget the old stories and focus just on the devastation. In the short term, people may cheer for the Odin missile that destroys North Korea, but eventually people will remember the atrocities to humankind and Odin’s name will be sullied forever.
When I saw the unicorns and rainbows in this sequence, I thought immediately of the Marvel universe. We know versions of Thor, Odin, Loki… but they have been modified to suit the tastes of 15-year-old boys. It’s fun, it’s flashy. People watch The Avengers and they think they know these characters. That’s all they need, job done. Why bother with the actual stories?
Instant gratification, minimum effort. Like the children in Atsula’s tribe, our children are increasingly susceptible to Mr. World.
My favourite thing about this book is how much mythology I read alongside the book. I wonder if bringing this story to the screen will change that dynamic.
Laura at the morgue
Didn’t get it. What was the point? Moving on.
You may have missed this, but there is a tree in the police station. This is one of Mr. World’s spooks (spies). His colleague is Mr. Stone. They are thugs. They have no conscience or opinions. Just thugs.
Finally, Shadow and Wednesday escape through the back door into a cloud of fog. Backchannels are very in this season.