American Gods Season 1 2017

I Do Not Grant Wishes

In the second “Somewhere in America” sequence for this episode, we meet the meek and mild Salim (Omid Abtahi), already down on his luck, trying to make it his first week in America selling “shit.” The meeting between Salim and the Ifrit, or The Jinn (Mousa Kraish), was one of the more memorable ‘Somewhere in America’ sequences in the book, and much like Bilquis and her man-eating ways, I was curious as to how this scene would be properly adapted visually. In a book that was published pre-9/11, the Salim and Ifrit story is one featuring an LGBTQ love scene between two Arab men, a connection not often seen in today’s media.

Fortunately, like Bilquis, the scene is handled with such care and intimacy that the audience feels like they are intruding on something far more meaningful than any typical sex or love-making scene. Where Neil Gaiman beautifully articulated the feelings of Salim receiving the fire from the Ifrit, Fuller, Green, and Slade showed it to us, taking us into the desert where these two impassioned men became something otherworldly. If handled poorly, the switch from reality to fantasy in this scene could have felt tacky or caused the audience to remove themselves from the moment, but it was in the proper hands: this moment felt pure, and much like Annubis in the opening scene of this episode, it showed a side to middle eastern mythology that is not normally emphasized. It’s a side we certainly don’t see in the news or in the anglo-centric casts of Hollywood (I’m looking at you, Gods of Egypt).

There were no magic lamps or mummy curses, no plagues or horror tropes, no terrorism. The show managed to deliver a religious experience that most viewers would be otherwise unfamiliar with. With a softer Annubis gracefully escorting the recently deceased to the desert beyond and weighing her heart against the feather of truth, the show allowed us to see the religion beyond the myth that has been co-opted so much into horror and science fiction. It is another opportunity for American Gods to teach a history and humanities class under the guise of good old fashioned entertainment.

anubis-on-american-gods

Fantasia 2017

Brian Reitzell’s musical score has acted as its own entity and character in all three episodes of American Gods so far. However, this episode in particular brought up feelings of Fantasia, albeit grittier and with more uses of the c-word. The score lends itself as a second storyteller. If you removed all dialogue from this episode you would still know every character, relationship, and feeling. The score never tries to hide, or merely provide background noise to each scene. Instead, we get to know the characters through the instruments that play them. When we first see Czernobog in this episode, our ears are greeted with long and low notes on a bass, a drastic change from the light and airy chimes of Zorya Polunchnyaya. Without any words spoken, you can dissect each character’s nature.

The show doesn’t shy away from boosting the setting and score up to eleven. It would be easy to just show Salim sitting in a waiting room and watching the clock tick by, but this is a man who came all the way to America to start a new life and this isn’t just seconds and minutes and hours passing him by – it’s his opportunity being wasted. It’s his new life slipping further away. How can they emphasize that? By turning the wall behind him into a giant clock and setting it to a score that lacks any urgency or optimism, which is paralleled later by the intense and passionate rhythmic score of his encounter in the hotel room.

Adaptation Notes

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

With Czernobog on board and Laura Moon sitting on Shadow’s bed in the final scene of this episode, the show made great strides in the plot, and we can expect that the next stop is the House on the Rock. However, the preview scenes for episode four indicate that most, if not all, of the episode will be fleshing out the story of Laura Moon and her journey to and from the grave. Learning more about her story could answer the question raised in episode one about who slaughtered all of Technical Boy’s goons to save Shadow, but it looks to primarily be an expository episode to help us get to know Shadow better, before taking a much bigger leap into the world of the gods and finding out Mr. Wednesday’s real identity and what the hell is going on.

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