a murder of gods review

(Each week, we’ll kick off our discussion of American Gods by answering one simple question: which character do we worship this week?)

Last week, we saw the New Gods’ plan in the form of the trippiest sales pitch ever seen in a jailhouse interrogation room, but this week, we were faced with something even crazier than that. The new gods spoke of franchising worship, but in this week’s “A Murder of Gods,” we got a taste of what that really looks like in the form of Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen), the god of the volcano, who managed to flourish, to a very frightening degree, by putting his fiery stamp on guns, and making every kill with a bullet a sacrifice to him. “A Murder of Gods” expands on episode five, by taking us deeper into the war rooms and the networks of the gods.

vulcan and wednesday 2

Who Do We Worship This Week? Mr. Wednesday

Last week left Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) shaken. We saw who he was up against and why this previously unseen enemy is so terrifying. Who can stand up to something that is everywhere and knows everything? Refusing to let a group of young buck new gods get him down, our old con man showed us what he was made of this week. After ditching the small town and leaving the police massacre behind, Wednesday had to perform some roadside surgery on Shadow, removing a strange parasite out of the wound he received from the killer branch that ravaged the police station. As he kissed Shadow on the forehead, we saw a little more vulnerability in our mysterious lead, and that he does in fact seem to care about Shadow as more than just some muscle for hire.

However, by the end of the episode, we saw Wednesday return back from this vulnerable place. He went right past the old con man that we have come to know and love and straight to something more archaic and powerful. Looking for comfort in an old friend, Shadow and Wednesday headed to the bizarre town of Vulcan, a community named for the gun manufacturer at its core and the man at the helm: Vulcan himself, the God of Fire and Forge, the God of the Volcano. Vulcan is a god who has managed to franchise blood sacrifice, a deity who seems just as scary as the new gods.

Through Shadow’s warnings and discomfort in Vulcan’s presence, Wednesday remained calm. Through asking Vulcan to forge him a sword worthy of a god, Wednesday remained calm. Through calling out Vulcan for selling Wednesday and Shadow out to the new gods, Wednesday remained calm, and through picking up the sword that would put Ned Stark’s to shame, slicing off Vulcan’s head, throwing him in his own ‘volcano,’ and then relieving himself in the molten metal to curse an entire batch of new bullets, Wednesday remained calm. Mr. Wednesday showed us why Mr. World respects him, and the dangers of selling out.

Coming to America

Jesus vs. Jesus

Last week’s ‘Coming to America’ sequence was an ancient story of a god so old that he ultimately died from being forgotten. This week ‘Coming to America’ was brought to the present day with a coming to America story often seen in modern times: immigrants risking their lives to come to America for a better life. It is impressive that a show that has had multiple ‘Coming to America’ sequences has made them all interesting, exploring the different cultures and the various ways they made it to our borders. This week’s episode once again got political with this sequence, as American Gods once again pulled out that mirror in its back pocket and forced America to look at itself.

A group of Mexican men, women, and children pray to Jesus for protection as they prepare to swim across the Rio Grande and into America. The leader of their group declares that if you can’t swim you can’t go, but the promise of America is too strong for one man as he tries to brave the water anyway, only to find himself drowning behind the rest of the group. The prayers for protection did not go unnoticed as a hispanic man walking on water pulls him out and gets him to the other side. It is a beautiful show of faith, miracles, and the purity of prayer in times of need.

The realization that their savior was among them was cut short, as the light growing around him proved to be headlights rather than a halo. With that, the wary immigrants tried to scatter back to the water, while bullets rained down around them. The bullets fired by the men who stand up for ‘God and Country,’ the bullets of men who carry crosses and fight in Jesus’ name. The ones who promote a Christian America. With guns engraved with the word of the lord, these defenders of America shot Jesus himself, or at least shot Mexican Jesus, as he tried to protect those who prayed to him for guidance. It was the difference between the truly faithful, and those who use the guise of faith to justify their violent thirsts. In a world terrorized by religious extremism from all walks of life and societies, American Gods doesn’t shy away from getting in your face – any religion can be weaponized.

Mad sweeney and Laura Moon 2

A New Adventure

Our prayers from last week were answered, as it now appears that the dynamic duo of Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon will be a continuing source of comedic relief. Who knows how long it will last, but it is certainly a welcome addition to the narrative. Between New Gods and rebranded Old Gods, rainbow psychedelic presentations and killer branches, the scope of Wednesday and Shadow’s cross country road trip seems massive in scale. We continue to identify with Shadow’s confusion and his feelings of WTF-ery – this is much more akin to some kind of intergalactic or time travel adventure than one within the confines of middle America. So it is nice to have a breather in the form of a second buddy road trip through America.

The internal journey to counter Shadow and Wednesday’s massive external quest, Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon have joined up with Salim and his taxi cab as they all search for….something. Laura seems to be having a post-mortem existential crisis, as Shadow (unbeknownst to him) left her behind at the hotel, and she realizes that she might have let him fade away. Mad Sweeney continues trying to get his luck back, but with several lingering looks at Laura throughout this episode, it makes me curious as to what else he is missing in his life, and what the creators have in store for this new storyline. Salim’s quest seems to be the most pure of heart, as he simply drives in the direction of Mecca searching for his Jinn. This very mix-matched trio want nothing to do with the war that is brewing or the big picture. For better or worse, their personal conflicts are shrouding them from what is really going on.

Adaptation Notes

We’re going to talk book spoilers now. If you haven’t read the novel, you’ll want to stop right here.

There is not much to be said as far as adaptation notes in this episode, as almost every moment in it was new content developed for the show. As far as the scenes for next week, I am hoping that the apples were a clue to the possible introduction of Johnny Appleseed next week, and it also appears that we will be getting Mad Sweeney’s backstory. It will be a great addition of the more fringe folklore members of this underground world.

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