This was a very intriguing and thoughtful American Gods, with a few answers and my favorite character pairing. Let’s get to it.
We get another official “Coming to America” segment, featuring a group of illegal immigrants preparing to cross the Rio Grande to into America. A woman leading the group tells them that the river is deep and the current is strong, so if you can’t swim, you won’t make it. They slowly begin crossing, and most make it to the other river bank, except for one man who sinks below the water. A hand reaches in and pulls him to the shore. The mysterious man walks on water, to the awe of everyone in the group. The nearly drowned man asks for his helper’s name, and he replies “you already know my name,” as heavenly light gives him a halo, clearly indicating he is Jesus.
The heavily light actually comes from a series of trucks, where a group of men opens fire on the immigrants. Jesus holds his hands up for peace, but a bullet strikes through his hand, and another through his chest. He falls to the ground, landing in a crucifixion pose with a literal bleeding heart, as a tumble weed rolls by, leaving what looks like a crown of thorns on his head.
We then get back to Shadow and Wednesday, having just left the massacred police station. Shadow is completely freaking out still, and clutching his side where the tree stabbed him. Wednesday says the slaughter at the police station was a warning to him and a sacrifice to “them.” As Shadow remains bewildered by everything he’s seen, Wednesday asks Shadow what a god is, and which came first, the gods, or the people who believed in them? He also tells Shadow that everything he’s seeing has always been on the periphery, just outside a window, and that it’s safer for people to stay inside away from the window.
“Who are you?” Shadow asks. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, ” replies Mr. Wednesday.
Shadow says he believes in something because he say his wife, Wednesday is intrigued. They arrive back at the room, destroyed from Laura and Sweeney’s fight, but Laura isn’t there. Wednesday asks if he thinks he saw a ghost, and Shadow insists she was real, but Wednesday brushes her appearance off and ushers Shadow into the car. He points out that something is still after them, and they should get going. As they drive, a figure chases after the car, but Wednesday speeds away.
That figure was Laura, returned from the morgue. She misses the car, and realizes hers was towed by the police because she was a dead woman earlier tonight. Laura demands to talk to the cops to get her car back, when Sweeney arrives to tell her the cops are all dead. She storms off into the parking lot with Sweeney following. They argue about stealing a car and settle on a cab, and she breaks Sweeney’s handcuffs as part of their burgeoning partnership. He tells her he can’t get the coin back until she’s done doing whatever it is that brought her back in the first place, so he’s not leaving her side. He also mentions that she needs actual resurrection, like his friend Jesus Christ. She calls out his name dropping, but he insists he knows a guy who knows a guy who can help her be actually alive, and not rotting like she is now. Laura demands to know what he is? He replies he’s a leprechaun, which Laura doesn’t buy.
A gun is pointed at Sweeney and we meet the owner of the cab and it’s….Salim! He of the infamous sex scene and jinn-life swapping episode! He heard Sweeney say he’s a leprechaun and asks if he’s ever seen a jinn. Sweeney says if they head to Kentucky, he can show him a whole mess of jinn, and a “murder of gods” once they get there.
Back in Wednesday’s car, Shadow is starting to bleed out from the tree injury. He asks Mr. Wednesday, who’s been talking to him about grief and moving on, says he can heal the wound with one of the many charms he knows. They realize it’s infected with something from the new gods, and Wednesday removes a large chunk of ropy tree branch from Shadow’s side, talking about faith and religion, and sacrifices.
Elsewhere, heading in an opposite direction from Shadow and Wednesday are Laura, Salim, and Sweeney. Salim talks about fearing New York City when he arrived, as Laura zones out and thinks back to her suicide attempt in the hot tub with the bug spray. Sweeney complains about Salim talking, and he and Laura realize that the license for the cab does not belong to Salim. Laura asks if Salim killed the other cabbie, and tell her no, he never even met him, but he was given a new life just as she was. He says his name was Salim, but he’s not so sure now who he is. She asks what happened to his old life, if he pretty much said “f**k those a**holes” and he agrees that’s the case. “That’s the spirit,” she says.
But Laura isn’t thrilled with her new life. She muses that she’ll never see her mom again, and thank Christ for that, assuring Sweeney she’s not taking the name in vain, because once she gets the resurrection deal, things will be better. Sweeney snaps at her for blabbing about what was meant to stay secret, but she brushes him off. Salim asks if she’s dead and she says this is her after life. He also asks if she prayed for another life, and she says she used to pray for her family to go away somehow, maybe in an accident, and now her prayers have been answered. Salim tells her he does not pray for things, but rather to thank God for bringing him where he needs to be. He also confesses he wants to know more about the jinn. Sweeney catches on to his meaning and teases him about having sex with the jinn: “Did you have a genie in your bottle?” He goes back to sleep, and Laura quietly guides the steering wheel away from Kentucky towards Indiana.
As that group heads west, Shadow and Wednesday head south to Virginia. Before they arrive, we see the Vulcan munition factory, filled with happy go lucky workers, including one who falls off a railing to die in a smelting furnace. The liquid metal is poured into bullet molds and sent out for shipping.
Outside, Shadow and Wednesday arrive in the seemingly empty factory town, as Wednesday says, “There aren’t just two Americas. Everybody looks at lady liberty and sees a different place.” Shadow is very wary, as they drive through town and start to see tons of semi-uniformed people in arm bands toting guns, including a granny in a wheel chair. “People will defend the warm safe feeling their America gives them” with bullets Wednesday tells Shadow. They come across a parade/funeral for the man who fell into the fire, and Wednesday says someone got tossed in the volcano. Shadow realizes he means human sacrifice, and Wednesday points out that there’s a lot of faulty railings in the factory, and insurance says it’s easier to pay off families than repair them.
Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen) leads the group in some kind of group prayer that concludes with everyone firing their guns in the air, and Vulcan saying “go in peace.” Wednesday approaches Vulcan to discuss joining his cause, as the bullets rain back down from the sky. Vulcan accuses Wednesday of starting a war, but he tells him they’re already losing and “they” are taking over America. He shrugs and says he’s not starving for anything.
Back in the cab, Sweeney wakes up to realize they’re in Indiana outside that crocodile themed bar from the first episode. Inside the bar, the unlikely trio of Salim, Laura, and Sweeney order drinks and hide in a dark booth to cover Laura’s smell and deathly pallor. Sweeney presses Laura about being in Indiana, saying he thought her attitude was “f**k those a**holes” and not going home, but her heart still beats for it. Laura says the only time her heart beat was when Shadow kissed her, and Sweeney scoffs that doesn’t obligate him to her in any way. He questions her on the kiss, saying he must have tasted the death on her and that he’s not her man anymore, he’s Mr. Wednesday, adding that they’re in the bar where that deal was made. He concludes that she should get a new life like Salim, who’s not looking back. She insists Shadow made her heart beat again.
Back in what I’m referring to as “Gunsville,” Shadow and Wednesday are at Vulcan’s house, where Shadow spots a creepy tree in the front yard and imagines a noose dropping from its branches. Vulcan gleefully tells him it’s an old hanging tree, asking if he likes it (Shadow says no). Inside the house, which is filled with animal head trophies, Wednesday asks how Vulcan became leader of this little universe and Vulcan replies sacrifice. Wednesday tells him no one cares enough to sacrifice him anymore, but Vulcan points out he could sacrifice himself, he’s done it before. Frowning, Wednesday admits the world opened up to him when he did.
Vulcan turns to Shadow and asks if he’s ever seen a man hanged, and he replies sternly he has. “Bad way to find your faith,” Vulcan tells him, as he admits he’s franchised his faith. He was the god of the volcano and now with guns, everyone can have a volcano in their hand, filled with prayers and his name on them, and it fills people’s spirits and keeps them warm at night. Breaking the tension, he fires a gun at a random deer head in the house. “God bless the believers,” says Wednesday and asks Vulcan to join him in Wisconsin. Vulcan says he was already on board.
Mr. Wednesday then asks Vulcan to forge him a blade, and he agrees to make one worthy of a god. Shadow asks if they can trust him, and Wednesday says he knows who Vulcan is and who he’s been, and he can depend on it.
Before they join Vulcan at the forge, Wednesday says Shadow is distracted by Laura after losing her twice. He has Shadow close his eyes and picture her, where we see her outside her family’s house, looking through the window. They can’t see her looking in, she doesn’t even fog up the glass because she’s dead. Wednesday asks if Shadow can let her fade. We don’t get a solid answer as the focus shifts to Laura getting back in the cab, where Salim asks her, “F**k those a**holes?” She agrees and they drive away.
At the factory, Vulcan is forging a very cool looking, engraved with a tree, offering to give Wednesday a gun instead. He scoffs at the machine made weapons, but Vulcan insists that Wednesday needs a blood sacrifice. After finishing the blade, Wednesday asks Vulcan if the new gods know he and Shadow are here, and he says they do, and they’re coming. He was advised to appear neutral in the situation, to which Wednesday points out staying neutral really just means he’s on the side of the oppressors. Vulcan insists they’re not oppressors, they’re the future, and they put power back in his hands with guns after he had been forgotten, and that every death by a gun is a prayer to him.
Wednesday sees the betrayal and informs Vulcan that he’ll be a martyr for the New Gods, because after all, he did pledge allegiance to Wednesday and make a blade for him, and that they’d kill him for that. He then slices Vulcan’s neck open with the blade and kicks him into the vat of liquid metal.
Shadow FREAKS OUT, as Wednesday hands him the sword and pees into the vat as a final curse on the whole process. The bullets continue to be manufactured, with their god inside.
On the road, the sun rises, and the cab is stopped as Salim sets out a rug to pray. Laura sits nearby watching and listening, even as flies buzz around her. He sees her and says “God is great.”
“Life is great,” she replies. They share a smile.
Questions for Next Week
- Is anyone going to join Mr. Wednesday? Other than Czernobog back in Chicago, he doesn’t have many allies.
- Can Sweeney actually get Laura to Jesus, and will she actually be brought back to real life?
- Will we see that “whole mess of jinns” at any point? That was really intriguing. And why are so many gods in Kentucky?
Points of Interest
- The gunmen who killed the immigrants coming to America had “thy kingdom come” imprinted on the stock of their guns. So they’re “Christian” too. Bryan Fuller and Michel Green said in the featurette that the Jesus that came with the immigrants was Christianity in its purest form, while the faceless gunmen with their religious looking weapons was Christianity at its most perverted.
- This Jeuss was not played by Jeremy Davies, who will apparently be playing one of the many Jesus types that Mr. Wednesday mentioned back in the third episode.
- The people in Vulcan’s town are not only wearing Nazi-esque arm bands, but also do a vague Hitler salute in their greetings.
- “Gunsville” (as I like to call it), looked to be exclusively white, and none too kind to Shadow.
- Vulcan has that low key racism when it comes to Shadow, not only mentioning the hanging tree, but also refusing to offer him a drink in his home.
- During Vulcan’s speech about every bullet being a prayer to him, he mentions guns being fired in a crowded theater. That was an obvious allusion to the Aurora theater shooting (among other incidents at theaters and elsewhere), and I think it was wise, as far as bringing up mass shootings in this context, to exclude school shootings.
- Fuller and Green discuss Vulcan’s story in the post-show featurette, saying the town represents communities that feel safe when they’re insulated, and the idea of security that a gun brings to some people.
- Before the happy go lucky supervisor falls to his death, “Come on Get Happy,” is playing.
- I thought it was interesting that Laura is still depressed even with her “new” life, thinking back to her suicide attempt, and always being followed by flies.
- I got a laugh when she threatened to rip Sweeney’s lips off when he kept calling her the c-word.
- So delighted that Salim is back. I think they’re doing such an interesting job expanding the novel and building the characters.
- Calling out racism and the gun obsession in this country is another excellent development. I liked the book, and think Neil Gaiman wove an interesting story about belief, but missed some of these kinds of topics that are deeply woven into America and its history.
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