A quick preamble at this, the very edge of episode 3. I’ve pushed play, but I’m allowing the opening credits to happen so that I can very quickly tell you that, last night, I had a vivid dream about writing this review, and I’m now extremely intrigued to see how correct my preemptive suspicions regarding this episode will turn out to be. God help us all if my sleeping brain came up with a better narrative arc. See you again in fifty minutes.
Well, then. Let it well be said that the old suspicion that I am far removed from Nostradamus, that no prophecy of mine should be trusted, has proven fully founded. Dream brain, you’ve failed again! Though in defense of my flawed vision, it would be hard for anyone to chart the plot of such a dense episode, especially when I’m not sure much of it makes sense.
Following the train wreck that concluded the last episode, Shadow is once again separated from Wednesday, Laura and Sweeney. He seems to go into some sort of vision world, and comes out of it knowing that he must find Cairo because – quite literally – a little birdy told him to. He pulls an old con on a grocery store clerk – shadows of Wednesday creeping into his being – but is called out by Samantha Blackcrow, making their first very welcome transition from page to screen. And the actress is a delight. Let’s establish that immediately and emphatically. Sam gives Shadow a ride and the two chat; Shadow says cryptic, confusing things and Sam establishes that they’re non-binary, and I’m going to attempt to keep the pronouns correct, since this is a deviation from the book, where Sam was a cis lesbian. And that’s kind of it for Shadow’s storyline. He ends up in Cairo, at Ibis’s house, and has a little talk with Wednesday. Our ostensible hero’s entire plot was contained in a paragraph where I went off on tangents.
Luckily we do get to see Mr. Ibis again in this episode, and he remains a goddamn (pun very much intended, roast me how you must) delight. He sews the parts of a trainwreck damaged Laura back together, and tells her that he believes her current condition may last her another week, if it remains unaltered. Our girl’s in trouble. Wednesday convinces her to go with him to meet Argus, a god of visions who has allied himself with the new gods, claiming that he can recharge her coin.
The two enter a world of Argus’s memory, where they follow dead incarnations of him to the current, living version. And yes! I agree with you! This is a very cool idea. It should have been a full episode, in fact. Instead, it was one of many plots, peppered with vaguely confusing dialogue between Laura and Wednesday, about how Shadow is not the reason she came back, or her reason for staying alive. Ultimately, they find Argus just as he and New Media are having some sort of strange, orgasmic link-up, and Laura kills Argus, per Wednesday’s instructions. Her coin is recharged. I genuinely don’t know why.
And speaking of New Media… she is introduced in this episode. It’s hard to say much more about that. The actress is fine, but has the unenviable task of trying to fill Gillian Anderson’s shoes. The writers are clearly trying to completely recreate the character, which is a decision I ultimately respect, but the void is there.
Simultaneous to all of this, Salim and the Djinn go to meet Iktomi, another spider god, who gives them Gungnir, “an instrument of death”.
This is… a lot. It’s a lot of plot. And there may very well turn out to be a good reason for it! I’m not willing to write that off as a possibility! But right now it is difficult to see where it’s going. It feels a lot like wheel spinning. Almost like trying to get through a video game – you progress through different levels just for the sake of reaching the next one.
Which is not to claim there aren’t pleasures to be had. I will always enjoy Mad Sweeney being attacked by a dog while he tries to jack a car to get to New Orleans. Or for that matter, Sweeney ending up on a born again Christian’s bus trip. So basically anything Sweeney related. And I have officially recused myself from trying to pass an objective judgment on Crispin Glover scenes; he is too magnetic and perfect for me to ever be able to assess credibly. He’s the living best.
We are three episodes in and I remain convinced that this cast is unimpeachable. I think we can say with some certainty now that the structure for this iteration of the show will be very crowded episodes, that follow perhaps too many characters for an hour. But maybe they’re lulling me into a false sense of security. But it’s worth my dime to see where they’re trying to go and to listen to Mr. Ibis narrate things. See you next week.