Monday, May 15, 2017

Head Full of Snow

This week's episode of American Gods was both an example of what I loved most about Neil Gaiman's novel, and the reservations I had about it.

When I say "what I loved most," I actually mean that literally -- this week's episode contained material from my favorite chapter of the book. Wednesday's "bank robbery"/grift is just delicious in its simplicity and brazenness. I smiled a lot while reading it; I may even have laughed out loud once or twice. The performances here added an extra layer of delight to the sequence, with Ian McShane "playing dumb" as Wednesday, and Ricky Whittle showing how Shadow actually came alive and enjoyed himself as he played along.

But the episode was also the most scattered yet, and this was my biggest reservation about the book. While television is truly the perfect medium for adapting a story that's so "episodic" in nature, this week's installment of the show demonstrates how those episodes (narrative parts) sometimes aren't even enough to fill an episode (hour of television).

This week opened on a vignette about Anubis coming to collect a kindly but uncertain old woman after her death. Then we had the conclusion of last week's visit to the Zorya family. Plus, still another "Somewhere in America" vignette involving a jinn in New York. And the aforementioned bank robbery. Plus the plot thread about Mad Sweeney and his soured luck. There's a lot going on here, and aside from a loose overarcing theme having something to do with "belief," they weren't terribly connected.

That's American Gods -- in book or television form. And the thing is, each one of those disparate pieces is so compelling in its own way that it kind of doesn't matter if it comes off a bit disjointed. Zorya Polunochnaya is mysterious and tantalizing; it's a good story in and of itself. As is Mad Sweeney's cursed run-in with Bryan Fuller alumnus (and former Kid in the Hall) Scott Thompson. As were both of the "Somewhere in America" sequences. And my personal favorite, the snowy bank grift.

I may have a small reservation here and there, but I'm also just thrilled to be watching something artistic and freaky that carries on the torch for the brilliant-but-cancelled Hannibal. And hey, it's not like loads of (what at first seem to be) unconnected plots hurt Game of Thrones. This is another A- episode of American Gods for me. And with the news this week that they've already secured a renewal for season two, we all have plenty more to look forward to.

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