Well that was a pretty explosive episode, eh? Ehhh? Anyone? No? Ok, moving on.
Episode 6 of American Gods opens with a bang… sorry, no more, I promise. After a meeting with Mr. World and the New Gods, and a narrow escape from the police station, this episode opens on a Coming to America vignette that many new Americans can relate to – a dangerous trip across the border. In this vignette, a Coyote leads a group of Mexican immigrants through a tumultuous river to reach America. She warns, “if you can’t swim you don’t go” but this doesn’t stop one determined man from taking the trip. As the water gets deeper he is unable to keep up and begins to drown, only to be saved when a hand grasps his and pulls him to shallow water. On land the man catches his breath just long enough to see that the hand that saved him appeared to belong to a man who could walk on water.
I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. THEY BROUGHT IN MEXICAN JESUS.
I found it pretty fun, the way they played with the Jesus imagery in this scene. They even gave him a halo. But this moment of awe doesn’t last, as minute men or vigilantes armed with guns roll upon the Mexican group and opens fire. Mexican Jesus shield a family from bullets, only to be gunned down and left to bleed, sprawled on the ground in a matter that is purposely overt in it’s crucifixion references.
The story then goes back to Wednesday and Shadow, escaping the police station and heading back to their hotel. Shadow is still having a hard time comprehending all that is happening and looks to Wednesday for answers. However, when met with Shadow’s barrage of questions, Wednesday says that he wouldn’t believe him if he did explain.
They go back to the motel where Shadow says, Laura is waiting. However, when they arrive, she is not there and Wednesday seems unconvinced that she ever was. Or, if she was there, that she will ever come back. He convinces Shadow that it’s too dangerous to stay and that they have to move on. What Shadow doesn’t realize is that Laura hasn’t left. She chases desperately after the car, having escaped the morgue, but despite seeing her, Wednesday does not stop.
What’s cool about this moment is that it shades everything Wednesday has done for Shadow in a darker grey than before. Sweeney warned Laura that Wednesday couldn’t be trusted, and here, he sees the woman Shadow is searching for, chasing after him and
does his best to make sure they don’t meet again. Even in the scene that follows, I can’t help but wonder “what is his angle”?
Having been left behind yet again, Laura has no choice but to reluctantly team up with a newly liberated Mad Sweeney and, while attempting to steal his cab, come across Salim (from Episode 3). He wants to find the Djinn and joins them on their trip.
Back in the car, Shadow seems down, having left without seeing Laura again. Wednesday attempts to console him when he realizes that Shadow has been seriously injured by the tree that attacked him at the police station and he is bleeding badly. Wednesday stops the car, then does something we’ve never seen before. He displays power. While distracting Shadow, he removes the wood creature/parasite from Shadow’s side (more Jesus imagery?) and tosses it away, while explaining that the creature is an ancient God who saw how man had changed and decided to change as well.
With Shadow’s life no longer in immediate peril, the two men continue their travels, eventually arriving in the town of Vulcan, Virginia. It is here that they meet – who else but Vulcan. He is doing well for himself in this patriotic little bullet manufacturer town. Their love of guns, God, and country make them ideal followers. Wednesday wants to
recruit his old friend Vulcan for the upcoming war, and all seems to be going well, yet, Vulcan constantly eyes Shadow as though he doesn’t like, trust, or want Shadow around. While staying as a guest in his home, Shadow sees an old hanging tree in Vulcan’s front yard and, for a moment, the noose that he was hanged with. Shadow is obviously uncomfortable in this place but says nothing as Vulcan and Wednesday agree to work together in the upcoming war.
But all is not well. At the factory, Vulcan forges Wednesday a magnificent sword only to be confronted about his newfound power. He admits that he has made a deal with the New Gods and that they are coming for Shadow and Wednesday. Wednesday picks up the sword Vulcan just forged for him, and in a shocking (though now necessarily surprising) move, Wednesday swings the sword, decapitating Vulcan. He kicks the body into the molten steel and pisses in it for good measure.
I mentioned in the previous post that I think that Shadow’s reactions to things that happen are the most realistic and hilarious part of the series, and this episode is no exception. What do you say when the guy you’re traveling with lops off a guys head with a sword? Not much. You shout, curse and maybe try to calmly get that thing out of his hands. I died. Truly.
The episode closes on our three amigos, who’s travels to the gathering of gods took a detour when Laura decided to re-route them towards home. Although she and Salim appear to have adopted a “fuck those assholes” mentality as it pertains to their former lives, it seems that Laura still longs for it, even though she was miserable and empty back then. Salim pulls over in the morning so that he can pray as the others wait silently for him to finish. Each in their own way pondering what awaits them on their journey.
There is very little in Bryan Fuller’s style which lends itself to subtlety. His vision is highly artistic, eclectic, bold, and often eccentric. Because I enjoy his style and find his kind of morbid humor to my taste, I enjoyed much of this episode. What’s more, once you take time to digest the overall theme of the episode, many of these overt images weave in meticulously to the episode.
The title, “A Murder of Gods”, references – most directly – a murder of crows, which is what one calls a group of crows. When trying to figure out where Laura and Salim can find their lost loves, Mad Sweeney, desperate to get Laura what she needs so he can get his coin back, says “You want gods? I’ll show you a whole murder of them.” Yet, there is more to what Sweeney says in this scene than just a reference to the episode title. It’s no
coincidence that Mexican Jesus was introduced in this episode, the way he was. Yes, Jesus dies but he is also no stranger to crucifixion. Sweeney teases the idea that Laura could be resurrected (much like our friend Jesus).
This episode also showcases the first actual murders of it’s godly characters, which is different from being forgotten (Nunnyunnini). At it’s start, Mexican Jesus throws himself in front of a family and is shot dead by a Vulcan bullet. This act of martyrdom is fitting for the Son of God and fits in with his image. At it’s conclusion, Vulcan is decapitated by his former friend, also with a Vulcan weapon. His body is kicked into the forge and the whole batch is cursed when Wednesday pisses in it. While one murder harkens back to it’s biblical roots, the other seems more final. This brings us to the other recurring theme of the episode. The idea of sacrifice and martyrdom.
Let’s re-examine the murder of Mexican Jesus at the start of the episode. After walking on water and saving a man from drowning, Mexican Jesus is shot while protecting that man and his family. He is shot by men who (based on the crosses they carry) are also religious, practicing Christians. Basically he is betrayed, shot through the hand and the heart, and falls down, hands splayed in a crucified pose, and as a tumble weed passes by his face, a crown of thorns adorns his head. As he lays on the ground, blood pooling in the shape of a heart on his shirt, the family looks on in shock, but it should be noted his heart seems to glow. Everything falls perfectly in line with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. This seems less like the cold blooded murder of a godly figure and more like a part that he plays over and over again. It is through sacrifice that Jesus (white Jesus, black Jesus, Mexican Jesus, etc.) gains his power. The people who survived this onslaught will most assuredly believe very strongly from this point on. Mexican Jesus is nowhere near dead.
Towards the middle of the episode Vulcan revels in all the sacrifices he received because of his new bullet enterprise. This is what makes him strong. And he suggests that if Wednesday has no one willing to be a sacrifice for him, that there is power in sacrificing himself. This harkens back to the fear that Mr. World and Media expressed in the previous episode, that Tech boys actions against Shadow would essentially turn him into a martyr for Wednesday’s cause and give him power (which it has). When Vulcan is killed, he is unceremoniously dispatched with his own weapon and thrown into his own forge where he is turned into bullets. Wednesday also takes the added measure of pissing in the forge to curse it. This death, unlike Mexican Jesus’ feels much more permanent. No one in the town is praying to Vulcan himself. He was siphoning off power from the faith they had in their guns. He will not be a martyr. He will be forgotten.
American Gods has begun to weave new tales and branch off in a different direction than the book and I believe it’s paying off in a big way. I like that they’re bringing Salim back into the story, since they spent such a significant portion of Episode 3 with him and the Djinn.
Although it has it’s bizarre moments, American Gods follows a very distinct structure in it’s storytelling which compliments the source material rather than relying on it. As the season comes closer to it’s conclusion, what stories will it decide to tell. I think it’s about time for some backstory on Mad Sweeney and an update on Bilquist, but who knows? I eagerly anticipate the next installment.