American Gods season 2, episode 6, “Donar the Great,” takes us back in time to spin the tale of the God of Thunder’s time in America.
The past comes back to bite Wednesday in a stand out episode in American Gods season 2. Stepping up from the slower pace set in the opening half of the season, episode 6 enters with song and dance (several in fact) and another Wednesday and Shadow con game.
While those elements may single a joyous romp is in store for the duo, the episode manages to deliver some of the heaviest material of the series for Wednesday with only one line of the novel as its base.
Previously, we’ve seen what’s Backstage, but in this week’s discussion our writers explore what is actually behind the curtain of Wednesday’s mind.
‘American Gods’ season 2, episode 6 in conversation
Brittany: How do you think overall this episode fits into what we’ve seen so far in season 2? I found it very entertaining, but also very jarring. Like a complete shift from what we’ve been watching in episodes 1-5.
Natalie: So surprising on so many levels.
Brittany: I was not expecting full blown musical numbers, that’s for sure.
Natalie: Absolutely. Opening with a musical number was about the most unexpected thing they could have done. I mean, first of all – how would you rate those theatre scenes just as a Broadway buff?
Brittany: Laura Bell Bundy has already won the single Drama Desk award I feel qualified to hand out. She was absolutely spectacular as Columbia. The rest of the show, as a whole, was shockingly very good. I enjoyed the sheer amount of showmanship that went into the Donar scenes especially. Very flashy, but also classy.
Natalie: I mean I love flashy pre-war music hall stuff at the best of times. But I was surprised that this was the way Wednesday chose to drum up a little worship. The Norse pantheon isn’t exactly who I think of for Follies.
Brittany: But somehow all the pieces worked for me. Especially with Nancy feeding off the worship as the show’s manager. But most of all using this as a vehicle to show the father-son relationship between Donar and Grimnir and, picking up on a thread we’ve been following for most of the season, the gods and their relationship to their human worshippers.
Natalie: The other thing that of course was unusual was how straightforward and linear the plot was despite the jarring time shift. As it played out you got the picture of why it was important, and why it was on Wednesday ‘s mind. I was excited when I realized we were meeting the Strongest Avenger.
Brittany: Which is very uncommon for this show. Getting a peek behind Wednesday’s curtain. The strongest of all Avengers, who also faced a similar hair loss journey and but turned out looking mighty fine on other side.
What did you think of Thor’s portrayal here. I felt that he was the least adapted god we’ve met so far. Do you think that is because he’s relatively young in the grand scheme of things? He felt very much like he just got off the bus from Asgard, especially in the way he was speaking.
Natalie: I need to ask right away, before delving into his journey – did you remember the mention of Thor in the novel while watching?
Because I remembered it about three quarters through and was like, “oh, DAMN.” And it made me so impressed with how the show can take a passing statement from the book and just work out the story behind it and include it.
Brittany: I looked this up after watching the episode because it is the strongest example of what we’ve been seeing develop on the show. That, exactly what you said, they take a passing mention and really let Wednesday dive into it. Something I did not expect to get with any bit of his story.
I feel like keeping us in the dark with everything about Wednesday, even the bits we know about him as readers, prevented me from remembering that he ever mentioned his son at all. But here it is blown up as a major crux of Wednesday’s arc.
Natalie: That passage in the novel about Thor having killed himself, some TV writer was like… let’s unpack that.
And I’m so glad they did as it has given me a million questions about Wednesday.
Brittany: Yes, so many questions. But I think it also filled in some gaps as well.
Natalie: Some of them are book-endgame related, but I do think Donar seemed young too – or at least idealistic. Maybe he was quite young – born in this era. He’s probably the American iteration of Thor and there are others.
BBrittany: It was quite tragic to see, Wednesday feeding on the scraps of worship offered by applause. But portraying it as “work” I thought was interesting. Wednesday, for all he does dragging Shadow around and being seemingly unwilling to earn his worship, actually had some hustle. At least managing the talent, singing a bit, and spreading it around to his constituents.
Natalie: It’s certainly enlightening to see the evidence of how he’s tried to survive as a grifter and it makes me wonder what the tipping point was. Why now? Why in 2018? Why is this the take back time?
Simply the development of society where the New Gods gaining power? Or something else?
Brittany: That’s a great question. I think it might partially be an abandonment issue. He sees the rising power of the New gods for sure, and feels his own slipping away. In light of that I think he realizes that when he turns around there is no one to turn to or nurture (for lack of a better word) in his image, no one to influence. Eighty odd years is nothing for an old god, but in terms of how quickly everything changed over the last 80 I think it was certainly a wake up call for Wednesday to get the ball rolling.
Natalie: So say us all, honestly – the amount of change in terms of how we live and interact as a society has changed more dramatically in the 20th century than in so much of history combined. And that’s of course because of technology – and it scares me to think how much more we may change now that we have this power to record and develop information and communication and all sorts of things on this level
It’s all speeding up. And this episode saw a little of that concept sneaking up in the form of a much older Tech Boy. Who both proved the point I just made and also fell victim to thinking that his level of change was permanent. He couldn’t see his own progress ahead of him the way Wednesday could. Wednesday knew the speed at which change was approaching.
What did you make of that?
Brittany: It was very interesting to see Wednesday almost appear helpful to this early version of Tech Boy. How he, like you said, saw this new wave coming. These new gods are young, Wednesday like I mentioned earlier is seeing how quickly things are changing compared to before with such a broader perspective.
What really intrigued me about this meeting is how it parallel what Wednesday did with Laura. He spoke in all truths, but masked his endgame. Handing the new gods a vehicle through which to gain power, while keeping the literally stronger hand. He’s a gambler, but also a crook.
Natalie: A gambler, a crook, a grifter, a con man. Is this a good time to shift to the present and talk about another passing book mention that played out beautifully, or do you want to stay in the past and continue in the club towards his agenda with the glamorous happy couple? This episode was extremely – unusually – focused on a single story and few characters, but still had a ton of different elements to follow!
Brittany: We can shift here. But only because I love a good con. Especially one where Shadow gets a new business card to use.
Natalie: There’s some deeper elements about the Wednesday and Shadow story that need to come after we look closer at the Donar arc, but it all starts because Wednesday is dwelling on the events that – as we find out at the very end – broke Gungnir.
To be continued there, but here we are to fix it up with the promised dwarves, who are living the retail life.
Brittany: The vision of the mall was so real and terrifying, I hated it. Which I guess is because it rings so true.
Natalie: It felt exactly like a particular mall that I think a lot about from another story – but what did you think of the impression Wednesday gave about it? That it is a failing enterprise – why, because people shop online? Did you catch his point there?
Brittany: Malls are ghost towns, everything is closed or so high end the average shopper cannot afford anything but a pretzel. I thought Wednesday was dead on. There is no room for unique craftsmanship in a mall, so you go into retail. Enduring remembrances, I believe is the name of their stand.
It’s not even a store, just something people can pass by and maybe think to stop. The visual of the seeing the dwarves take up shop and try to survive in a place of impermanence and mass production was very striking. So, I think it’s a comment on the fact that online shopping has risen, but so has people’s connection to the mass produced. Unique shops don’t hold a place anymore, unless they hold something so unique you have to actively seek it out and interact with the world to obtain it. Like Lou Reed’s jacket.
Did you take it to mean the same thing? That the rise of impersonalization and detachment feeds into it?
Natalie: Mall culture isn’t exactly the same here, so it’s not my forte. We have shopping centers but they don’t feel like American malls, which are a very… unique and weird place. But I absolutely understood the significance of finding the artifact among the artifice because the power of their work was being drained away.
Brittany: And that something, even a jacket, could be infused with so much power among a million leather jackets available. It wasn’t so overt in the grand scheme of what we’ve been hearing pontificated across the other episodes in grand speeches, but still just as powerful.
Natalie: This is such a Neil Gaiman thing. I feel like they chose Lou specifically for Neil.
So as a fan and friend of our intrepid author I really just found this entire situation with the con absolutely on the nose but in an amazing good way. Like a little gift wrapped easter egg. Obviously the grifts throughout the book are prominent parts of Wednesday and I know Neil had a ball researching them, as well as the coin tricks. He has spoken about the delight of it and I think there was even a news report of someone attempting the ATM grift in person that he was horrified but impressed by. And in season 1 we saw that incredible scene brought to life by Andy Haddock.
It was one of our favorites for sure – just lovely and perfect and glorious. But this one, the Bishop – well. That one was mentioned in the novel as Wednesday’s very favorite two-man con. One that he described to Shadow with a wistful mood, reflecting that it would never work again, that its time has passed.
It’s sort of interesting to look at it working now – but the way they adapted it was so hysterical. To switch it up for a Cool Hip Bishop and Shadow as the FBI agent is amazing. Though I feel worse for Carl than I did for the bank, who recover customers money on insurance. He won’t get it back – or that amazing Jacket – and he clearly was very earnestly thrilled. #JusticeForCarl
Brittany: Carl will not be returning to work at that store ever again. Maybe he will find employment elsewhere, perhaps in a retail environment that is not crumbling.
Natalie: I think this was also Neil’s favorite grift to research, from memory of his blog. But Lou Reed has a special place for him, as did that whole scene – his lovely Lucifer from Sandman is Bowie. But I know Lou is uber-special. Neil interviewed him once, he found him very challenging in person but he still adored him. He named his daughter after a “character” – she was a real person – mentioned in a Lou Reed song, and his Dream – Morpheus – is too, i a roundabout way.
So this combination just made me so happy and ridiculous about that.
Brittany: The bishop bit, and seeing Wednesday in that outfit, was entertaining. But more so, I think that the moment where Wednesday pitches his idea without using so many words to Shadow was a great moment. Shadow is just so adamantly against it, as he is everything, but then to see him go all in on the agent aspect was incredible. Plus, it plays into his quick thinking and sleight of hand skills.
I also think the contrast of how light and fun the con was, played so well against the aftermath of that moment. Where Shadow asks him pointblank about his son. It just grounds the whole thing so quickly, as they did with the “did I make it snow?” after the first con.
Natalie: Once again I feel a little odd that Shadow is complicit in the con – but it was still very fun. Andy Haddock is the role of a lifetime. It’s a very interesting mirror you mention.
Brittany: Oh, because of the actual mirrors in the shot?
Natalie: Too on the nose?
Brittany: No, I don’t think so! The reflections of them on opposite sides, but reflected on the same side, was very complimentary to everything that’s been going on.
Natalie: There were a lot of lines that really had some ton of bricks heaviness to them in this episode.
There’s sort of a need to go back and forth with learning about Donnie in order to give this more context, but as of now – what do YOU think Wednesday meant about reminding him of Donar?
He says it after Shadow sasses him back with his own words, pushes against him. What do you felt you learnt about Donnie and Dad that made that comment understandable?
Brittany: I don’t actually think I can speak to it without the context I have now. I can apply what I know it reveals now, because hindsight is 20/20. But in that moment, at least from what I have written down, I mainly noted the look on Shadow’s face. Revealing a slip in Wednesday’s defensive nature. That at one time, Wednesday and his son had a back and forth where the great Odin was challenged and pestered by someone he saw as “not knowing any better.”
Natalie: On an issue of, shall we say, morality, or principle. And we must go back to the past to piece it all together.
Okay, so let’s take a long hard look at the rise and fall of Donar the Great.
Brittany: From the greatest showman to American forfeiter.
Natalie: Somehow I’m never prepared for Nazis. Yet somehow, it is always about Nazis.
Brittany: And Wednesday, though at first skeptical, finds a way to make himself even worse by handing his son over to them all for the worship. Dad of the year.
Natalie: I understand that we’ve been getting the message that the gods really don’t care about human morals human quarrels or human oppression. We’ve heard that loud and clear. But still, gross. I had to Google the Friends of West Germany and this is news to me. What a nightmare. At least Columbia is disgusted.
Brittany: And Nancy at least wants everyone to pick up their damn shoes and stay safe. But Columbia appears to be only one making any sense. Get away from Wednesday, start a new life. Thor would be worshipped in California. Especially with those luscious locks.
Natalie: Now, this lady of America was brand new to me. Did you know much about her as a symbol?
Brittany: Not too much. I mean, we see that poster of Rosie later on that has her face, but that I think grew out of this symbolic wave of women in the workforce during the war efforts as an icon.
Natalie: Well, Rosie is allegedly who she became, but more on the manufactured breakup of America’s Sweethearts momentarily. Columbia herself is the personification of the United States and was used as a symbol for ages. Not anymore it seems – proving the point.
Brittany: She lives on forever carrying the torch in the Columbia Pictures intro roll.
NNatalie: Indeed. As a goddess of America, she sits between old and new, I’d say. And I can’t help wonder if we will see her again.
What did you think of the literal American God wanting Donar to throw away his father’s plan and make a new life?
Brittany: I think she is resigned to a life on the opening credits buried in the wave of new media as it were, for symbols of America. She still gets some worship there is some form or another I suppose It’s the American Dream, isn’t it? Live out your life with a fresh start, become who he wants to be. Capture the opportunities that await them in California.
I like to think she was hoping he could become a symbol for American in his own way, next to her. Then they could be beacons apart from the old, but not quite with the new.
Natalie: Self-made, as the dream claims. Stage Manager Nancy sees the power in Columbia as one of his queens. He sure has a thing for queens. But given Columbia’s adaptation I have a few suspicions about how she may have evolved. We shall see. But here is a lovely sweet romance and although Columbia is not too happy about the Nazis, she and Donar stay strong together through his strongman career.
Brittany: Until, of course, he is asked to lose on purpose. It was nice while it lasted, he picked stuff up and put it down. Nothing more to it. Then he was asked to become a symbol of weakness and defeat. That does not vibe well for Thor.
Natalie: There’s a lot of honor issues afoot here. Poor gentle Point Break.
Brittany: That word honor is interesting. Because through all of these trials, Donar is honoring Odin by obtaining this attention and notoriety for THEIR shared name. There is that great line when the all-too-cheery Friends of West Germany man asks him what his last name is and Donar replies, “I don’t have one.”
Wednesday nearly throws himself in front of the two to claim the relation with Odinson. Everyone will know his name.
Natalie: Again, Father of the Year. Wednesday is all too willing to use his boy as a pawn. Is there any living being who Wednesday is wholly altruistic and respectful of?
Brittany: Right now, no. But maybe a week ago, Zorya. That’s about it.
Natalie: My thoughts exactly.
Brittany: I am thinking now about how the final moments with Donar and Wednesday play out and what that says about Wednesday treats his relationship with Shadow. Perhaps he sees Shadow’s interested piqued just enough that he will not abandon him just yet. But to push his buttons like that, to keep everything played so close to the vest, it me wonder why he wouldn’t give a little bit over to the only person alive who would toss any empathy in Wednesday’s direction at this point.
Natalie: Maybe he literally cannot help it.
Brittany: I think that’s the feeling I got with the scene in the mall where Shadow tosses Wednesday’s words back at him. That jovial feeling of connection, the ease of the tension between the two of them, where Shadow fell into a rhythm already stomped out by Wednesday. It was challenging him, sure. But it was also falling in line in a sense.
Wednesday sensed that partnership rebuilding, which of course plays out well for him during the con and subsequent conversations. Especially when Shadow lays down some if his Norse mythology knowledge later on.
Natalie: Do you think Shadow has any upper hand here at all, or Wednesday just letting him think he does? Is this questioning a genuine weak spot – was he really vulnerable?
Brittany: Shadow has no hand in this. It’s all Wednesday making a choice. I think he could shut down these conversations at any given moment. But Shadow did find a weak spot and as he keeps putting pressure on it, Wednesday gets worn down resisting it. It opened him up somehow, but I do think Wednesday is not going to crumble over this and he and Shadow are going to hug it out.
It’s a nice mirror to what we saw at the end of “Head Full of Snow” in season 1. That dark car scene where it’s easier to speak in truths that aren’t clouded by so much activity and urgency. Do you think he is vulnerable at all?
Natalie: I’m not sure. I do think Wednesday is allowing this, I guess – though his actual physical power in a human body to get out of Shadow’s handcuffs is questionable. I do agree with you mostly. But there’s something like – he’s bending a bit.
I think there is some honesty there and that in itself is vulnerable. I don’t think Shadow questioning his son was part of the plan. But I could be wrong.
Brittany: I definitely think it was a slip on Wednesday’s part and it took Shadow all of 0.3 seconds to catch it. We’ll see how that plays into this moving forward now that Shadow is armed with this story and how it visibly bothers Wednesday. An added layer we don’t get too much of in the book.
NNatalie: I think it was a good reminder that Shadow is actually not in Wednesday’s control, in a lot of ways. This continues to be a choice.
A choice to honor the agreement, a choice to play ball. It’s a bargain and at the moment it still feels like Shadow is conceding to be a part of it.
We know Wednesday needs him, specifically, so we don’t know what would happen if Shadow truly noped out, but I have a feeling that what Wednesday needs is for Shadow to choose it.
Keeping Shadow by force would nullify what Wednesday needs.
Brittany: I agree.
Natalie: So he has to keep convincing him.
Brittany: That is the key to Shadow. Keeping his free will in play. Having some radical stories and heists also helps. But history is already repeating itself as we saw how Wednesday’s involvement in Donar and Columbia’s story plays out. It’s very much the same deal as Laura, convincing her that there is a better offer out there, that she is not what the chosen boy needs or wants when he is faced with some greater purpose.
The confrontation between Donar and Wednesday in the alley was one of my favorite shots of the episode. How Donar strikes Gungnir with his hammer and breaks it (revealing why it was inn need of repair in the first place). Wednesday has a line, “Look at how powerful you’ve already become.” He’s not done growing into his full potential, but he is done doing it for Wednesday. Donar is not connected to the Ancient Ones and he has suffered the loss of Columbia.
Of course, we see where that takes him. But I think Wednesday’s solo performance in the dark theater at the end if very telling of the cost.
Natalie: Isolating his champion did not work out whatsoever. Why did he think it was going to work for Shadow? Why is he playing the game again this way? Or what has he done differently? Wednesday seems to need an honorable man with unshakeable morals and a clear head to have faith in him. And that’s hard to foster as a con man.
Brittany: Wednesday started the long game with Shadow early on, namely by killing Laura, ruining the heist, etc. etc. He drove Shadow into the darkest place possible, only to bring him back to life.
It’s easier to win someone over if they have nothing to lose. The con becomes a cake walk. But now that things are hinting at unraveling, either by Wednesday slipping up by mentioning his son, or by Mad Sweeney’s return next week, I think things are going to turn against Wednesday and test Shadow’s resolve really quick..
Natalie: Remind me: does Shadow know Wednesday via Sweeney had Laura killed? Surely not.
Brittany: No, not yet.
Natalie: You would think that would be a dealbreaker for sure!
Brittany: One would hope…
Natalie: Here’s where I’m stuck with Odin’s plan for Thor. Losing to the German would have not drawn in more worship. They were played. Used as a pawn in human games. This mattered – his honor, the trickery – to Donnie – and there is that wonderful conversation with Nancy reflecting on it. That he once didn’t even want to carry his hammer onstage for performance.
So once the truth came out about the Nazi plan, why did Wednesday still want to split up the couple and send Donnie on that path?
Brittany: I think there was still the possibility of an opportunity presenting itself there. Almost a comeback kid story. I think Wednesday was blinded to the idea that he could be fooled and that the only was through was to keep pushing forward, perhaps make them pay in some way. If I were to give it a best guess that would be it. That there was retaliation on the mind and the only way to get it was to keep his pawn in play to make a move.
Natalie: That’s fair, but so reckless and foolish.
Brittany: I don’t think I’ve seen anything to convince me he is anything but that at the end of the day.
Natalie: And yet he wants everyone to believe he has the best plan and all the pieces are in his control. Sounds a little 45th Administration.
I want to go back to Nancy a little before the end, because he’s still with Wednesday today. Yet he saw all this go down. He knows how problematic Wednesday is and what errors he’s made.
Brittany: I do think he cared about Donar, especially after he talks to him about honor as you mentioned earlier. But he also does something quite odd with him. Nancy teaches him how to calm down. How to NOT give in to anger. Which was… well, not what we’ve seen thus far.
Natalie: I loved that advice – you have plenty of choices, but make them when you have a hold of yourself. Great advice.
But you are right. We have also seen Nancy feed that hot rage.
Brittany: I do think Nancy’s ability to stick with Wednesday is admirable and a bit twisted. But maybe he needs to be where the show is, where he can get a little action. But he’s behind the scenes not calling the shots. Just doing what needs to be done to keep the show afloat. Is there a place for him right now in America? Or is this his best shot at a piece of the worship apple pie?
Natalie: I truly don’t know where his real aims and morals are – which is fine for this trickster.
I get the feeling he is a little more connected to the real life struggles though.
What did you make of his story about his past – his rebellion? He seems to be implying that he was the one who basically caused white colonization and slavery in Africa, which is a LOT of weight to carry and a lot of regret and duty back to his people.
How did you see that metaphor reflecting for the Nazis and Donar? They obviously wanted to make a show that America could fall weak to the Germans. Does Nancy see a Man in the High Castle future ahead if Donar plays along?
Brittany: Nancy has a lot more to atone for and perhaps he is bound to Wednesday in some way that we have not been privy to yet. Perhaps some peace is coming to him through all of this managerial duty. “I’m counting to seven and I’m starting at four!”
But I think in relation to the Nazis and Donar, he wanted to give Donar some sense of strength and belief in himself as an individual, not a servant of the Nazi party or Wednesday. That scene where he cups his face and tells him he is beautiful, felt almost like he was talking to Bilquis. I got the same energy.
And as for what the Nazis want with Donar, they want to prop him up as the great American failure. I don’t think a Man in the High Castle situation would exactly come of that. But without Columbia to force him to look deeper at what was actually going on and without knowing what Wednesday would have done with his hand guiding Donar, who knows. Maybe!
Natalie: Maybe Nancy is the Mom Friend and has stuck around to make sure Wednesday doesn’t ruin everything every single time for the good of everyone.
Brittany: I like that. But I don’t think he keeps coming back by choice. Surely he can leave whenever, but there is that tether.
Natalie: Columbia and Donar both had contracts with Odin. A contract with his own father! Maybe Wednesday, in his height of power, made these deals with everyone and is still calling them in now.
Brittany: He’s got the receipts. And he’s not afraid to use them.
Natalie: Nancy stole fire lances from the gods – I could take that as lightning, power, leading to the start of electricity – to allow the Western world to develop in these insidious ways – and lightning is a very Norse Pantheon thing, but stealing fire from the gods is also Prometheus.
If Nancy turns out to be fucking Prometheus I will lose my mind. We know that these gods develop in different ways and take new identities and I cannot shake the feeing about Columbia. I have a weird feeling she became Media. But maybe not.
Brittany: Oh, I absolutely thought that from the second she was on the wall in the image of Rosie the Riveter. I assumed that was her path.
Natalie: Oh, good. We have obviously the mirror of New Media expanding her power in this episode – what a juxtaposition.
Brittany: Who knew a cat filter could be so powerful? And World is clearly alarmed by Wednesday making his moves quicker than anticipated. In a season that has taken its time, it certainly felt weird to hear him say that things are moving fast and that Media is not growing strong enough fast enough.
I think it’s weird to see these New gods “gain” power. Because it’s so disconnected and less leg work than the Old gods.
Which makes me sort of angry? What did you do to deserve this? — she says as the internet demands her attention every which way over the course of this conversation — I guess I’m more angry at myself?
Natalie: World’s tone is so bizarre that I don’t know if he felt alarmed, his tone is always a weird manic excitement in all circumstances, but indeed he has some urgency. But totally. Maybe the old gods could once draw power this fast from every altar in every home and now we have entertainment systems in their place.
Brittany: There is an altar in every person’s pocket.
Natalie: That’s terrifying and profound. I love it and hate it.
Brittany: Yet, there is something to be said about how fleeting the worship is that World is urgently demanding more and more. The sheer masses that he can tap into given New Media’s reach, is incredible. But it’s not enough. At least there’s some comfort in that?
Natalie: Some authenticity is needed. I also wonder if intent matters. With the old gods, people believed in them and were worshiping them on purpose. The new gods have power but it isn’t active, intended power. No one is actually literally sacrificing to the emoji god.
They grow off of the dedication we gave to the thing itself. And I wonder if the genuine intent of old worship is the key.
Brittany: Everything is spread so thin. No one even worships the delivery method anymore. The hardware, the tangible thing, as we saw with Tech Boy, is obsolete. So where is that attention going? It’s just 1s and 0s, not a person. In fact, indirectly, these people are just using media as a bridge to connect to another human. They need humans wanting human connection even if humans don’t realize that’s what they are doing. It’s just a bridge.
I think the genuine identification of what exactly they are doing is the key. With old gods, like you said, there is intent there. Here, no one is willing to give their actions intent. They just toss them into the ether without thought or meaning. Granted, sometimes that’s not true, but most of the time that salad you just ate for lunch is just sitting on your Instagram and is forgotten by the world long before you digest it.
Natalie: The message of this episode was very much that Thor – Donnie – is different. From all the other gods. From all the other ambitions.
And his hammer can best Odin’s best weapon. Donar could have taken a lot of power in a lot of ways if he wanted it.
Hell, if he waited a few more years he would have had a fandom. Instead, he killed himself. One of the only ways to kill a God that they cannot come back from.
Brittany: It’s wasted power, something that Odin has not recovered from. And does not want any other god to experience or lose. Perhaps that’s why he keeps everyone tied to him.
Natalie: To quote the novel:
“Are you drunk?”
“Not yet. I just keep thinking about Thor. You never knew him. Big guy, like you. Good hearted. Not bright, but he’d give you the goddamned shirt off his back if you asked him. And he killed himself. He put a gun in his mouth and blew his head off in Philadelphia in 1932. What kind of a way is that for a god to die?”
“You don’t give two fucking cents, son. He was a whole lot like you. Big and dumb.” Wednesday stopped talking.
Even in the book, this comment comes about when Wednesday is really feeling defeated and is being moody and vulnerable with Shadow for the first time. Doubting everything will work. On the show, Wednesday seems confident right now but dealing with Gungnir… has brought some shadows.
Brittany: They transfer a lot of the “dummy” language over to Nancy. If we were playing a drinking game to the times he uses that against Shadow we’d be long gone. We’re definitely not getting a defeated Wednesday here, which makes me wonder what it will take to get us there in the future. Unless this is going to be the place to let that part of the book live on.
Natalie: Well, the car ride – I know you love the car rides – I see Wednesday bolstering himself. He is spinning the events to be something he doesn’t regret. And taking Thor’s suicide as a power move. He very obviously knows that is not actually the heart of the matter. But he needs to spin it like that to continue, to make it a part of his plan.
Brittany: And besides, he has his other hammer lying in wait. What does he need with Thor anyway? That is of course rhetorical.
Natalie: I love Shadow for asking about the Valkyries, even if it was salt in the wound. He was doing his best to be compassionate to Wednesday’s culture.
Brittany: Yes, this is what I was alluding to before. That he takes that little bit of Norse knowledge to hit very close to home for Wednesday. It was very moving and even took me by surprise.
Natalie: I wonder how this will change the path. The lyrics of Wednesday’s final song did paint that defeated picture.
Brittany: The empty theater, completely alone, was quite the shot. No one to entertain, no one to put a show on for, just console himself.
Natalie: What did you think of this song choice and how it worked as a metaphor?
Brittany: The words that reflect that they are all just up there, on that stage, begging for attention, asking for the people to give them one little bit of their earned time never gets easier. All the flash and glamour, especially of the show used in this episode, masks the fact that what they are doing is a sad lonely transaction.
Natalie: Once again, it raises the question of who holds the power. Donar said “Humans serve us – we don’t serve them” – but is that true?
They’re extremely dependent, at the oblivious mercy of humans.
Brittany: Donar only has what Wednesday has told him. And Wednesday is not going to admit that he is dependent on them. But he will tell the new gods, like Tech Boy that they are. It’s a narrative that he spins to work for him when it works for him. But I think the humans have the power, they just don’t know it, so the gods must use their influence to coax the worship out of them.
Natalie: BUT HOW? Dun dun dun…
American Gods season 2 airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET on Starz.