Monday, May 29, 2017

Git Gone and Lemon Scented You

The blog and I have been off for a week, as I've been vacationing in New York City. Tales of that trip to come, but first I feel compelled to not fall any farther behind on the newest Sunday TV obsession -- American Gods.

The episode from a week ago was an interesting one to delay in watching, since is was an entirely Laura-focused, flashback driven episode that painted in the relationship between her and Shadow. It also showed her entire post-death life, leading back to that moment in the motel on the bed. I was drawn to the pre-death chunk of the episode, as it was largely new material to me and others who have read the book. It could be that some of what we saw came from scattered sentences by Neil Gaiman that were assembled into a single plot, but I felt like I was seeing and learning a lot for the first time.

And all the extrapolations/enhancements/additions were very fitting and clever. Of course Shadow and Laura would meet over a blackjack table, and of course he would be in a situation far out of his depth. But most telling of all was how dead inside Laura was before her actual death, a bored and disaffected ghost of a woman not even really all that committed to the idea of suicide. We really got to see how her new "undeath" is more of a life than she's ever had.

That teed things up well for this week's episode (the third to feature Shadow and Laura's meeting in that motel room). This week did more than anything so far to outline the overall narrative -- what the struggle is, who the key players really are, and where the relative power levels stand. Though the episode was full of great performances, two in particular really made the episode stand out to me.

First was Gillian Anderson, who must be having the time of her life playing Media. This week we got two different personae, a David Bowie version and a Marilyn Monroe version. It's interesting to see a fractional continuity between all the incarnations of Media, a commonality that's there even though the bulk of Anderson's performance is given over to the given impression. This week's two characters were cast wonderfully against type for the content of the scene. David Bowie -- ultra-cool, unflappable, put together -- was there for a dressing down of Technical Boy, while Marilyn Monroe -- playful, sexy, joyous, funny -- was there for a scene of threat and menace. Both were wonderfully fun sequences.

The other great performance was Crispin Glover, finally appearing as Mr. World. If you know anything about Crispin Glover's career at all, it's masterful casting. He's a famously moody actor, temperamental to a degree that only A-listers usually get away with (which is, presumably, why he hasn't worked all that much). Perhaps the most well-known example of this is his psychotic, non-verbal assassin character from Charlie's Angels; in the script, the character actually had plenty of dialogue, but Glover refused to say any of it.

Casting Glover in a role as important to the story as Mr. World feels like a risky high wire act without a net. Is he really going to play ball for the open-ended run of an entire TV series, working in the world of writers who clearly have such a crystalized vision of what they want as Bryan Fuller and Neil Gaiman? It's perfect, because there in the scene, Mr. World is all dangerous and powerful, and then there's this extra meta level of menace behind it -- like not quite literally this, but that Glover could snap and any given scene or episode could be his last. He was an instantly magnetic force in the scene and the show.

Of course, there was great work throughout from the rest of the cast too -- Ian McShane was great showing us a Wednesday not calm and in control, Emily Browning and Pablo Schreiber made great fun of the confrontation between Laura and Mad Sweeney, Bruce Langley gave us more of the deliciously weaselly Technical Boy, and Ricky Whittle anchored everything as stoic-in-the-face-of-the-insane Shadow.

I watched both episode 4 and 5 back to back, so it's a bit hard for me to separate the two and rate them. But collectively, I think they marked the show really ascending to a still another creative high -- a grade A pair. Clearly, American Gods is the show that'll make the extra three months waiting for Game of Thrones bearable.

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