[SPOILER WARNING: The following review does contain spoilers for the novel American Gods as well as the earlier episodes of the TV series American Gods.]
Shadow Moon has had a hell of a week since getting out of prison. Presumably there is not a good way to find out that your best friend and your wife were screwing around behind your back while you were in jail but finding out they both died while indulging in an intimate act while driving has got to rank among the worst.
With the future that was waiting for him gone, Shadow had no trouble signing-on to work with a mysterious grifter who introduced himself as Mr. Wednesday. Since then Shadow has gone on to see even stranger things. Yet after all that, Shadow still was not prepared to return to his hotel room and find his wife waiting for him.
Laura Moon has had a hell of a week as well. Quite probably literally as her death left her in some desert with a man who told her that – having believed in nothing in life – she would to go nothing in death. Then something saved her and she found herself, if not precisely alive, then not quite dead in her grave. Now the world around her is a dark place, lit only by Shadow’s presence.
Little do they realize that even as they discuss the state of their relationship (a matter Shadow considers more important than how Laura is walking around), the forces opposing Mr. Wednesday have already begun to move.
Lemon Scented You may be the strongest episode of American Gods yet. This critic has commented before about show-runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green being willing to expand upon those aspects of Neil Gaiman’s original novel that were left unexplored or under-developed rather than doing a straight, by-the-book adaptation. This occurs again in the first half of this episode, where Laura and Shadow’s reunion is given far more space and time than in the original book.
Blasphemous as this may be for a librarian to say, I think the reunion here – written by David Graziano – is the stronger. I must also pay credit to Emily Browning’s strong performance, which – despite last week’s episode doing much to develop Laura’s character but little to make her sympathetic – somehow inspires feelings of pathos. We feel this even as we simultaneously sense that Laura’s newfound love for Shadow may be less than legitimate, wholly inspired by his status as the literal light of her life – a metaphor that is visually manifested wonderfully by the effects team.
The aesthetics of American Gods are another of its strongest points. The set-design and visual effects are astonishing. Professionally, as one who has done some make-up work, I have to admire the effects used for Laura’s scars and the fact that the prosthetics team was able to make them hold-up underwater. Then there’s the outstanding opening sequence – another straight adaptation of one of the Coming To America vignettes from the original novel – where animation is used to depict an prehistoric tribe and their journey to American across the Bering Strait.
The most powerful moment of the episode, however, comes from Media’s conversation with Technical Boy, where Gillian Anderson – in the form of David Bowie – lectures the younger god upon the power of persuasion by talking about the panic caused by Orson Wells’ 1938 War Of The Worlds broadcast.
“Not everyone believed,” challenges Technical Boy.
“Not everyone had to. Just enough,” smirks Media.
The irony that stories of the mass hysteria inspired by people tuning-in partway through Wells’ broadcast are themselves greatly exaggerated only further drives the point home, in this time when complaints of fake news on The Internet and the traditional news outlets abound.
It is the moments such as these which make American Gods truly magical. Not content with merely adapting Gaiman’s already excellent and relevant tale, the show runners are – like all storytellers – refining the story into something stronger. I just hope Orlando Jones is game for the inevitable Anansi Boys adaptation.