Monday, June 05, 2017

A Murder of Gods

I'm taking a break from the New York trip stories to talk about the latest episode of American Gods. It was a big one in terms of building an identity for the TV series separate from the book; not one thing we saw this week came from Neil Gaiman's novel. That's not to say I disapprove (and I doubt very much Gaiman himself would either). The episode was very much in keeping with the tone of the book, and the show thus far.

The episode really opened up the story by giving us a full-fledged subplot to Laura and Mad Sweeney -- and roping in Salim too. They're an interesting trio, each on a desperate hunt to recover something lost. Each is after something different, but at the primal core of what motivates them, they're all somewhat alike. I have no idea what's in store for the future of their road trip, but I'm interested to see more of the world of American Gods that's not in the immediate vicinity of Shadow Moon. (It's not that I don't like him; it just seems like such a rich world to get only one perspective on.)

But far more important and interesting (to me, at least) were the ways in which the episode thumbed its nose at what America "worships." That was always a key piece of Neil Gaiman's agenda with this story, revealed clearly when he chose to make gods of the internet and television. I feel like the show upped the ante on that premise with this episode.

First, there was the prologue in which Jesus himself came to aid a group of Mexicans sneaking across the border. And what did the Americans do when they found Jesus? Mowed him down in a hail of gunfire, along with all his "followers." Not a subtle metaphor, that. (But one both sad and twistedly funny.)

Then there was the encounter with Vulcan, the historic god of the forge now remade as a god of firearms. No subtlety here either, as Vulcan specifically spoke of the strength he drew from human sacrifice -- from mass shootings, from love of guns as a substitute for faith. It was another stinging indictment of American values, a portrayal of violence as religion.

I'll be interested to see if there's any sort of backlash to this episode. Will there be fans out there who were all on board when the show was a fantasy gently mocking the deification of entertainment, but suddenly go "hey there" when the target of playful derision changes? I for one was thoroughly entertained, and can't wait to see where else the ride goes now that they've gotten us all on board. I give this episode an A-.

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