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American Gods S02 Ep05 Deep Breakdown: The Ways of the Dead

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How much do I love you, seven or so readers of mine? Well, I’m glad you asked.  American Gods airs exclusively on the Starz network, a station that – in addition to being spelled in a needlessly stupid way – requires a certain sum of money to watch it on the monthly.  It’s not a huge amount, mind you, but since the only thing I have used it to watch is American Gods, a show that has become more of a chore than a pleasure, it has bent into a bit of an absurd irony.  I’m paying to watch a show that I’m only watching to write reviews about how much I don’t particularly enjoy it anymore.  And if that seems somewhat tedious to me, I can only imagine how it strikes a reader!

This is where that love I alluded to comes in.  Today I’m going to talk about the things I like.  They’re there; it’s really easy to focus on the lack of, well, focus, and the inability to readily detect the trajectory of this season.  Our disappointments jump out at us, and man, we love to shelter them, coddle them, indulge.  But it’s a purposeless negativity.  The showrunners aren’t reading my reviews.  They’re not going to say, “Oh, let’s right this ship” – and hell, maybe it’s not a question of “right”-ing.  What works for me may not work for everyone, and maybe, maybe there’s a deeper vision to all of this that I’m just not seeing yet.  So let’s talk about it.

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First, I want to address the Shadow Moon of it all.  I’m still not sure how he fits into this narrative of events, but Ricky Whittle remains an engaging, likable character.  He has a bit of a side adventure this week, where Mr. Ibis explains a sort of local ghost story of a young, black man who was wrongly accused of murdering a white woman, and then viciously  lynched by a delighted crowd who was clearly far more invested in their racist brutality then any semblance of actual justice.  The bitter ghost of Will James seems to take a certain perverse pleasure in haunting young black men.  I don’t know, man.  I’ve got some thoughts about this storyline and how borderline exploitative it feels to me, but at the same time, I recognize that I am a honky.  This is a uniquely black story, and I have neither the experiences nor the perspective to properly address it.  That is the province of those who have lived a life that I can’t even begin to guess at.  So what I will say is that I do appreciate the show’s desire to address the racial inequality our country is built on.  If American Gods is to be a distinctly American show, it is compulsory to look at an ugly, bigoted history, and the vein of racism, institutionalized and otherwise, that still runs in our country.

STARZ

On a more fun basis, though, I’m going to now sing the praises of Wednesday, something I’m sure the old god would enjoy very much.  This week he gets to have a little side adventure with Salim and the Djinn – who remain the show’s most consistently enjoyable pairing – as he continues his pursuit of the perfect weapon (I guess that’s what he’s doing now.  At the risk of dipping my toes back into the negative side of things, it’s really difficult to know what the stakes are in any given episode), Wednesday hops a ride with the erstwhile lovers, who are having a bit of a spat about the nature of faith and belief.  Also pretty fun, to be honest.  The Djinn points out that Salim has now personally met a whole slew of gods, so doesn’t it seem a bit silly to believe that there is no god but Allah?  Salim is steadfast in his faith; he believes in the suffering he witnessed, but he doesn’t believe in the supreme divinity of the gods he has met.  This is a heady conversation, but it’s carried with a deft enough hand… it doesn’t feel oppressive.  And to lighten it further, Wednesday bounces through the interaction like a delighted agent of chaos.  He provides his insightful couples counseling to them, very much not at their request, while also trying to court Salim into maybe switching gods – can I interest you in a little deity named Odin?  Throughout this storyline, there’s a sense of what this show could be – although at this point the canon has completely and entirely diverged from the book, the sense of fun and humor and adventure that is present in Wednesday’s capering feels very authentic to the spirit of the novel.

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Finally, I feel like I have to acknowledge the Sweeny/Laura storyline.  Which is: Laura meets Sweeney in New Orleans to find a more permanent solution to her little, “oh no, I’m still dead” problem.  Sweeney takes her to meet Baron Samedi, a Voodoo loa who can give Laura her life back.  I’m not particularly invested in their plot at this point, which feels like a truly squandered opportunity – every second of Sweeny-Laura screen time felt like a gift to be treasured in season 1 – but goddamn it, Pablo Schreiber is fun to watch.  I enjoy the shit out of him and his performance, and it remains a high point of the show.

Alright, guys, we did it.  We focused largely on the positive and we made it through!  There aren’t too many more episodes to go, but pretty soon the Amazon Good Omens series will be premiering, and maybe if I smile real pretty, I can get clearance to write about that… either way, we’re going to finish out this season, guys, and maybe, maybe we will be surprised yet.  Hope springs eternal.

About Author

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Kelly Mintzer hates dolls but loves movies about evil ventriloquist dummies. She is working her way through the “Sandman” series slowly but surely, and has been compared more than once to that iteration of Death. Holding down South Philly with a creative writing degree and the full series of “Hannibal”, she hasn’t seen her natural hair color in years.