American Gods season 2, episode 8 closes the door on Cairo, Illinois and makes us question the power of human nature.
The second season of American Gods concludes the same way as the first with a character on a bus bringing us to a pivotal location in Neil Gaiman’s novel. American Gods season 2 added more color to the stories of the Jinn and Salim, Laura and Mad Sweeney, Ibis and Jacquel, Bilquis and Mama-Ji.
We met Sam Black Crow, got to ride the carousel, and saw what became of Thor Odinson. While at times the season felt a bit disjointed and all over the place, it managed to pull off one of the more impressive diversions from the novel we, as writers and fans, never saw coming — we lost Shadow Moon.
“Moon Shadow,” even in title form, gives us that twisted look at the character. In our final review of the season, our writers look at what the rise of the New Gods says about societies connection to mass hysteria today, what a hub of action Cairo became, and what is in store for Mike Ainsel and the series in season 3.
‘American Gods’ season 2, episode 8 in conversation
Natalie: It’s the final installment of this season of American Gods, which feels like it has arrived rather quickly. From the House on the Rock to Cairo and beyond.
I must say that this has kept us on the basic roadmap the book lays out in terms of player movement, but it detoured into back alleys that I never would have imagined. But this portion of Shadow’s journey, which was in the novel a very sleepy sort of time, in the funeral home, has become one of the most action filled.
We need to talk about how that landed, but first – Mr. World and his Godzilla’ing through his tiny town.
This opening monologue that addressed the audience was interspersed with scenes set the night that War of the Worlds was broadcast on radio, as an example of the power he wants to wield.
How did this feel for you?
Brittany: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times — Crispin Glover in this role creeps me out. It made perfect sense that he would use the fear of the masses — manipulating them into believing these imaged beings could be real simply because they think of it. What a powerful weapon to wield.
How humble his beginnings were — dissemination of fear and information through radio, driving people from their homes, moving to TV, and now, as we see it, tapping into unmatched potential harnessing all the bandwidth in the world.
Did you see this as an origin story or just a way to illustrate his endgame?
Natalie: Great question. It is clearly a moment in history that he admires, either for his own achievement or just observing the power of it.
I need to take this moment to state that I fucking HATE this stunt. Not in the show, in life.
I understand that it was announced as a dramatization before the program started, and it is very clever, but it is an example of human susceptibility that makes me uncomfortable.
The way that we see the family react here – they clearly tuned in after the announcement, they clearly believe this is a real news story as they have no way to learn otherwise. And that was the reaction that occurred afterwards, conflict in the headlines about it, whether it was cruel, unethical.
Basically everything about this piece of history has always majorly bothered me, both towards the programming that allowed people were duped – it feels like a consent issue in a way, like we turn on the TV now and we know that a show is really news or a drama… but also at the people for being susceptible, mob mentality.
It’s a mess and it has always upset me.
So, the fact that this was an example World had in mind, makes total sense and it’s quite brilliant for the show to have pulled from it.
“Fear is fiction.”
Brittany: And the fictions that are being passed around are many. Why not tap into and harness that power of the masses who cannot tell the difference when the story comes from someone “important.” Be that a God or your local news anchor.
Natalie: I would like to state that I do NOT pay money for an hour and a half of anxiety, especially not with three dimensional glasses.
Brittany: Same for the glasses bit. But I did go see A Quiet Place. So…
Natalie: Nope! No thank you.
But ultimately what I am trying to work out is how World would gain from this. He incites fear, fear in a fiction, lets the human mind build on what it would do for fear. Is it merely chaos he wants?
Or is it to do with becoming dependent on something that he gains from? “The more you believe, the more you believe.” This means everything and nothing. I feel like I get it, on a cosmic and psychological level. But also have no freaking idea what that could mean for the world.
Brittany: I think it is the attention to and then dissemination of information, be it real or fake. I’d like to think the idea of having that much power is enough for him, but in this case it works in his favor to have the faces of Shadow and Wednesday (and poor Salim) out there for the world to turn against with only the slightest bit of reliable information — these men are bad, please stop them.
And using Salim as the innocent mirror held up to all of this is was particularly effective.
Brittany: It’s just not right. The poor man.
Natalie: There is more to discuss about the New Gods takeover, what New Media is spinning, and the reappearance of our friend who says hello.
But this piece at the start was more a direct address to the audience. A statement of intent, right to us.
How did that tactic work for you?
Brittany: I want to say it felt very disjointed, but this season has been a bit all over the place, so in the grand scheme of things I actually think it fits right in. It was more of an, “allow me to reintroduce myself” moment for World who, for the most part, has been about as cryptic as Wednesday with what he wants from all of this beyond the Old Gods yielding to his way of operating.
He wants to keep America moving so long as his messages are able to be spread without trouble. I think he ultimately craves consistency.
We, as viewers, have now wandered and gotten familiar with the Old Gods. We might not be rallying behind Wednesday, or even Ibis, at this point but we have at least gotten chummy with them, heard more of their tales of woe and loss in America and beyond, gotten accustom to their faces.
World is here to remind us of what he’s been trying to say all along — that for all the work and labor they put in to keeping belief alive, he can turn their heads at the drop of a hat. Stir the pot. And he reveals the worst things imaginable are not greater than us, they are not Gods, they are us. We are dangerous because of the unknown power we yield.
Sweeney says the Gods are not the heroes, but are we?
Natalie: He is more on the train of thought that we speak about often – that the Oldies are kind of delusional for believing that humans serve them. The Newbs are much more aware that they can benefit from the humans’ power of belief in the way that feels autonomous to us (humans).
Rather than be told what to believe, ride the coattails of where we go naturally. World is happy to pull strings to exacerbate that. It’s not a bad tactic, all told. Though the idea that free will is an illusion is stressful, and one our humans need to process.
Salim and Shadow have very different reactions. But we find Shadow starting that processing after the final battle of Mad Sweeney, working through what he has learned.
Brittany: FINALLY. Only took the blood of his only ally to get him there.
Natalie: Lying on a grave like a regular citizen.
Brittany: Healthy, for sure.
Natalie: We get a big montage of all the important highlights from Shadow’s journey. Clues he should have listened to. It’s a little heavy handed, but did any jump out at you now in retrospect?
Brittany: The only one I thought about was the voiceover of Zorya saying, “You believe in nothing, so you have nothing.” I forgot about that line on the roof when she hands him the moon.
And now, what does Shadow actually believe in? Anything?
He has nothing right now at this moment on that grave except a bunch of people waiting around for some big moment that he doesn’t understand is coming because I don’t think he believes it will. For all the “magic” he’s witnessed, he is still very much isolated from the big picture moment Wednesday is prepping him for.
Natalie: On a scale of 1 to 10 how frustrated are you with Shadow for his naivety? Does it feel different to the perspective of Shadow in the novel?
Brittany: Right now, I’m at about an 8. The novel keeps you very close to Shadow, intentionally, that is how it was written. He is your eyes and ears as we’ve mentioned and that makes him special to us. Everything happens to him and you witness it through his lens.
Here, everything also happens to him (so much, all the time) but we’re not tethered to him. Distance here does not make the heart grow fonder; it makes the mind ache.
However, I like it. We are not completely in tune with our point of entry to this situation and I have been enjoying that for the most part. There are so many surprises because of it – Tech Boy, Sweeney, Laura, even Ibis – that I think playing Shadow in this way is kind of genius.
It is almost as if Shadow is a blank canvas at the end of season 1 and we are throwing paint at him all the time. It doesn’t look like anything yet, but maybe by season 3 I’ll start to appreciate the picture a bit more?
How are you feeling about him at this moment?
Natalie: I agree. He’s pissing me off, frankly, but maybe book Shadow would do the same if we had the wide lens on the pages. I do think that some of the things that happened to this Shadow are a bit more in your face – the book’s first act takes place very fast, from the plane to the House on the Rock, so it’s a little more forgivable.
However, by the end of this episode we do see this Shadow pull a big move for autonomy, which carries him (on a bus) to the next part of his story, a part that was initially also Wednesday-mandated.
But until then – on a scale of 1 to Silas Benjamin, how much did you want to cause Ian McShane physical pain when he snuck out of the mansion?
Brittany: Wow, you went there. This man really knows how to grapple with a God complex.
Look, Wednesday’s stick is gone, his greatest asset is about to have a breakdown, and now he is running away from a house full of guests waiting to do his bidding for some fine wine. I’m not okay with it. Why back off of wielding this control over Shadow now? Why detach yourself from the equation?
I’m assuming it is to make Shadow act, finally, instead of asking the “hows” and “whys” of it all.
Natalie: Faking Shadow’s idea of autonomy?
Brittany: Yes. Precisely. Seems On Brand.
Natalie: The “Is This A Pigeon Meme” strikes again, it seems applicable to everyone on this show. Except in this case, he is asking “Is This Free Will?” and the butterfly is labeled “Wednesday’s Manipulation.”
Brittany: No one has any idea what is going on at any time. Except for, perhaps, the members of the Oldguard. Playing chess and keeping an eye on things.
Natalie: I’d really like to know if they think they have the upper hand. If they are using Wednesday as much as Wednesday thinks he is using them.
Brittany: I would peg Nancy for that – but at the same time, he watches the tree and then makes his departure. I read that as all things are going according to plan. But what is the plan? Who is in control of the plan? Nancy? Wednesday?
I don’t know how much of it is for the OldGod’s own gain at this point, though. Nancy would certainly be playing a VERY long game if he is using Wednesday.
Natalie: And they spend this episode watching the humans – dead or alive – make emotional mess.
Brittany: Feelings are *dramatic Ibis pause* a mess.
Natalie: The first installment of FEELINGS is when Shadow wakes up on the grave and Laura is there, lying on a parallel one. How did this reunion go for you? She has a lot to say, and he isn’t too willing to listen – at least in the moment.
I hated Shadow for saying that – I don’t believe you – after she was so open.
Brittany: Interesting. I had kind of a different reaction. His choice to not believe Laura, is kind of the death of his belief in their love. It really wiped his slate clean. “I believe the fuck out of love.” But that love doesn’t exist anymore.
I do see how he would read her words as insincere, there isn’t much good blood left between them. The last few times she was with him she was so cold and hardened to the world. This Soft Laura is basically a stranger.
And I also think it helps him push her away enough to deliver the next blow.
Natalie: I mean he also says “Sorry doesn’t change anything… if it did…” Then the blow.
Brittany: He is feeling guilty AF.
Natalie: It’s also the perspective that he is in a space where words and intentions mean nothing because he is drowning in actions and consequences. So, there’s that lens to how he receives Laura’s simple words.
Brittany: There is also the contrast between this warning Laura, the Laura in the flashback, and the Laura with a mission we get at the end of this scene. Does Shadow even have the capacity to reconcile that they are all one in the same? She’s also been through some stuff, but they don’t exactly have time to unpack all that on the graves.
Natalie: The flashback was a lot. Given that we sort of had an origin story of the Puppy name before, and it was harsh, and this changes it.
Brittany: I had a very “Oh, there is Ricky Whittle” moment. And you’re right, this provides a much nicer connotation of the word, but of course, we cannot have nice things. It goes to show how twisted versions of stories can become.
That even the truth, as pure and wonderful as it was, can be weaponized until it is unrecognizable.
Natalie: Laura’s plain speech to him about Wednesday being a psychopath, not a mentor. Do you think Shadow listens at all? Even in how he acts? Clearly he is struggling to make himself come to terms with this anyway.
Brittany: I think his mind is cycling through a loop of, “why do people keep telling me this?” Instead of, “oh, I should pay attention to this.” He knows, he just isn’t accepting it all yet.
Natalie: Why does he have any reason to believe otherwise though? So frustrating!
But yeah, Laura really lays down the law. I will always have your back, but you need to work out your priorities. Did you take that as a sort of – I’m on your team but we aren’t in love any more – statement? Laura is going to kill Wednesday, is Shadow going to try and stop her?
Why couldn’t he have said Free Country to Sweeney???
Brittany: RIGHT. That line was incredible. And yet too late.
Laura here is staking her position definitely along the lines of we are a team, but don’t act like we’re in this to win each other over. It was basically the Sweeney speech all over again. You aren’t seeing what’s in front of you, Shadow. Wake up and smell the deception. And when it comes time — Don’t. Get. In. The. Way.
From what we’ve seen, Shadow might get in his own way unintentionally, but right now as it stands at the end of season 2, I don’t think he would actively choose Wednesday in this moment.
Natalie: No. To his knowledge, he is not. It took a lot to come to terms with it, and I guess I wonder like… why was it so hard? He was so obviously dodgy.
But we get a little of that over the season as people question Shadow about why he’s bothering. Like “oh, he made you think you made it snow? That’s cute” But what is snowpower vs wife murder?
Brittany: His beliefs have been built up and then demolished by so many different people over the course of the season. From his pure excitement about experiencing “backstage” and seeing the Gods’ true faces only to have Nancy mock his question at the diner table after. Then to have all of this duty and position thrust upon him by Wednesday, followed by the information dump about his wife being murdered by the same man to win his loyalty.
It’s all So Much.
Natalie: Also, the fear of how to oppose it if he rejects it. He clearly can’t just walk away.
Brittany: It’s that fear that traps him, almost literally, in the house even as he is attempting to make a break for it. He wasn’t prepared to have to run. Something kept him from having one eye on the door. We see that as he scurries around a bit later in the episode trying to escape. He got comfortable and is now dealing with being robbed of that?
Natalie: There’s more to say about Shadow’s place in the world and his mind space when Salim breaks the news of what the New Gods have pulled off. A lot of threads to follow there, as well.
But I wanted to ask this: how do you feel about the way the setting of Cairo was shifted from a hideaway corner to center of the action? All season we have seen Cairo become a hub of activity and that was a big surprise to me.
Both the Cairo period and the Lakeside period are moments of stillness and normalcy for Shadow, long stretches of undercover small-town life. I like most of the plot this season but could have used some more extended stillness!
Brittany: I did not get that sense in the beginning of the season. I think it felt very slow even if we were physically moving and making our way across the country. Shadow with Sam Crow was definitely the most relaxed we got Shadow in season 2.
I don’t see how that would have translated for screen; stillness is better suited as something that works better on page. While I might have enjoyed a bit of stillness here and there, I think there were small moments that made a bigger impact because of their fleeting nature. One that comes to mind is Shadow spending the day working with Ibis before everything goes awry.
It was clearly a choice to not give Shadow this idle time setting him and us more on edge.
What exactly would you have liked to see?
Natalie: I’m not sure. I think you’re right. Sitting around being mundane isn’t too successful for TV. Despite me being very happy to watch characters I love in this situation, I guess I’m hoping that doesn’t happen so much in Lakeside?
I am happy for a lot to happen to others outside of Lakeside, but not have the drama converge in Lakeside the way it did here. Lakeside is a story within a story, and I don’t want it messed with.
I could have been happy with action happening to others around Cairo and then stillness and naivety within Cairo, but it does work here. I’m more preempting the fear of changing Lakeside if that makes sense.
Brittany: Yes, and that’s a concern I have as well. I think Cairo lends itself to be more malleable, though if you asked me that at the start of the season I certainly would have disagreed. But Lakeside is another thing. I don’t think it can nor should it bend too much from the novel.
Another thing about Cairo is that Bilquis seems to have taken to her life there quite well, even if no one in that house believes that she is 100% on their side. I think here again we see the bridge that she provides between the Gods and humanity. Clearly, Laura is Going Through It when she sees the blood.
Natalie: How was it for you, seeing how she reacted to the news of Sweeney from Shadow vs her processing in the greenhouse?
Brittany: Her isolation in that moment was palpable. For one thing, Shadow just pushed her away and now, I don’t know what she was looking for inside, but she certainly wasn’t seeking out Sweeney’s blood on the floor like that.
That shot of her just looking at it and feeling the blow of what it means to her – it hurt. A lot. I’m sad.
Natalie: I think she went looking for him, Sweeney, despite what she says to Bilquis. Like that she needed to see it with her own eyes and process it. Probably not expecting the Blood Lake though.
Brittany: Not only to process, but she also has this draw to get his blood. But again, was likely not expecting that much of it.
Natalie: It would seem that she knows that Something is Up with the blood. Her little kicky feet certainly imply that, unless it’s a nervous tic. Grinding his blood into her boot is the world’s biggest and shippiest smoking gun. Whether it’s her seeing the light, or an incidental thing she can AHA over later.
Brittany: I thought it was 100% intentional. She will have more than enough blood later on, but that little bit just meant insurance, to me.
Natalie: Maybe I’m just desperate to see inside her head and hear all her thoughts that lead to the acknowledgement that she was loved by him.
Brittany: There’s always season 3.
Natalie: Thank God! Bilquis does try to read her, like, “if you wanna see him…” And Laura is VERY POSTURING about how much she DOESN’T CARE.
Brittany: Must not show that the dead girl has feelings. But instead of Bilquis propositioning Laura, what did you think of Laura’s question to her about joining the fight against Wednesday? We have seen Gods tempt Bilquis’ allegiance, but not a human (dead or otherwise).
Natalie: What surprises me is how open Queen B was about being tempted.
Brittany: And while she was holding an apple… my, my how the tables have turned.
Natalie: That freakin’ apple. What is going on there? Do these Gods just carry dramatic props at all times?
Brittany: You never know when you’re going to need to role play a snake!
Natalie: Did Bilquis have her own temptation planned? Or maybe, was this something less Christian – fruit from the Tree of Life? An offer? Or just a freakin’ Honeycrisp. A snack for the road.
Brittany: Leftovers from the mourners. Someone sent a fruit basket.
I can’t peg a motive to her in this moment, namely because of how standoffish she was with Laura. She was offering her information, but not getting close, she wasn’t tempting her. So, while the symbolism is pouring off her, it felt very “no temptation today!” Instead she kind of warns Laura about the dangers of wanting to kill Wednesday for revenge.
Natalie: I don’t know if I felt like she was standoffish, but she was different. Honest, in a way – wise – but again, is this manipulation [dot] jpg.
Do you think she cares about Laura? Laura certainly senses an ally – in thought if not in deed.
Brittany: She cares about Laura as much as she cares about the rest of humanity. Maybe a tiny bit more, if that. Do you think she has an ally?
Natalie: Maybe. Maybe someone to clear her path a little.
Brittany: She won’t get in the way.
Natalie: Unlike Some People We Know. Good on Laura for asking for help, though, she is a go getter.
Brittany: I mean, what else does she have to lose?
Natalie: Bilquis leaves her with that “I know where to find you” – she’s considering how to play this. But I think her WANTS are clear – she’s another, alongside the Jinn and Sweeney, who would really like to see Wednesday and his game playing wiped off the map.
Brittany: If there was anyone at this point to get behind to go against Wednesday, it is this girl right here. Even if that delays restoring her humanity for a little while longer. What is she living for at this point anyway? What changes would she make? Do you think she will take the potion in the end, if (ok, when) Sweeney’s blood makes it a viable option?
Natalie: I feel like she’s better fixed to kill Wednesday with her dead girl powers. And she must know that.
What comes beyond… I don’t know.
Brittany: Oh, absolutely. There is no reason for her to rush into that now. My question was directly pointed at the after.
Natalie: Well, perhaps it depends – you’re right, she doesn’t have much to live for and to be frank, in the book, Laura does eventually die properly. I feel like this could go another way though.
I feel like we need to maybe finish off her story for the episode to theorize more – because everything is about to happen So Much – but she is outside of it. So, despite her claim to Bilquis she does go to see Sweeney’s dead body in the mortuary, and she has one of the best face journeys ever, watching him.
Brittany: It felt almost as if she wanted to yell at him. Which hurt even more.
Natalie: Lil’ trembly mouth. Very emotional – and what is interesting is that moment on the graves is the last time she and Shadow cross paths. She leaves him to his journey and continues hers, and in a parallel moment to her watching Sweeney, he runs upstairs and finds Sweeney’s coins, and after seeing the news, gets his bag out and prepares to leave.
The news story is the main focus of the episode, so there is backstory to revisit there, but Laura’s arc among all this is to take her dead leprechaun lover and leave. Just her, along a road, with a 6″5 dead body around her shoulders.
A very normal thing to see passing by in your RV
Brittany: I must say, that shot nearly killed me. When his body was gone, I was just… “Oh, she didn’t.” And she did. She really did.
Natalie: She did that. She is, to quote what the Stark Sisters have been screaming in their Instagram stories all week, “that bitch.”
I mean, she’s going to try and bring him back, right? Why else would she take the BODY?
He was in a funeral home, he would have had a respectful end.
Brittany: No eulogy for Mad Sweeney.
What if she puts her blood in the potion? And gives it to him?
Natalie: That’s kind of how I’m seeing the potion go. I think he is getting it. Whether with his own blood and love for her, or with hers if she has any left.
Brittany: Sure, there was chaos happening in that house, but I personally would have saved myself the struggle of carrying him and done it there.
But maybe it’s easier to get him where you want him if he isn’t kicking and moaning and complaining about his damn coin. Maybe she is enjoying the silence for the first time in their relationship.
Natalie: I guess I want to ask, if this works and Pablo Schreiber is back in the game for season 3, does this diminish any of his ending in season 2 for you?
Brittany: No, I don’t think it changes the journey he went on or the piecing together of his past.
Natalie: I watch Supernatural, so I am well versed in exploring a main character death not as an exit but as an exploration or vehicle for change.
Supernatural operates on the sense that if one of the main trio die – and they do, a lot – the audience KNOWS the stakes aren’t about will they come back – it’s about what does this change for them.
What do you think this death might change for Sweeney if he does come back?
Brittany: He might be more willing to take some bad luck now and again.
I do think a rebirth will open him up a bit more to the type of people who believe in him now. That he can still protect people and that, for some reason he probably doesn’t understand, having this one person believe in him and hear what he is saying not just about Wednesday, but about how his world view – opinions on adultery, and vows, and honesty – is enough.
She may not follow his code to the letter, but that’s okay. He madness isn’t what makes him who he is. And so maybe he’ll stand a bit taller (if possible) in that version of himself.
Natalie: Do you think it’s possible in this world for a God to become a human or vice versa? A person born human who became a symbol of myth and got powers – or a person who was a God truly becoming human?
Brittany: I think anything is possible. The former seems more probable, but I don’t see why the latter would not work as well.
Perhaps it would require some outside assistance, where I think the first could just happen based on some form of great belief.
Natalie: So, A) do you think he will be back in season 3 and B) do you want it?
Brittany: A) Yes. B) some sort of hoard-related closure moment. I’m a sucker for sadness, I don’t think he should come back for good.
Natalie: A) I don’t know – I wonder if they did this ending because they weren’t sure of availability or shooting dates and maybe it would be like, “oh, whoops I lost his body in a waterfall.”
B) Yes, I want it, in a totally romcom way – honeymoon in Ireland, lots of drinking and visiting libraries.
Brittany: Whoa boy. You’re too sweet. Give me mourning and loss and tissues.
Natalie: I’m delusional! But there is only so much mileage we can get out of those two today.
The actual plot of the episode requires a rewind to the start and a look at the new birth of Tech Boy – and we see how the New Gods are creating chaos for the world in the name of their next move against Wednesday.
Brittany: They’ve really stepped up their game.
Natalie: Everything Changed When The Start-Ups Attacked.
Brittany: Silicon Valley is out to get us as if we didn’t already know…
Natalie: I have some big questions about why humans are complicit in this. But Xie – our acolyte pal – does actually revive Tech Boy, and I could not help be moved that these two got through their rough patch.
Brittany: That’s true that they got through some stickiness, however I think Xie may have created something more powerful than he anticipated, bridging the gap between New God and human in a very different way than what Bilquis is doing in Cairo. On a technical level as opposed to an emotional level.
Natalie: It’s interesting to see Xie having been distracted by the shiny New Media but came back to what he always believed in – Tech. He missed him. Classic. And he rebuilt him – he dreamed him up, inspired by that musical element and that chaos – and here he is.
Brittany: There is that moment where they do use the term “friend,” but the conversation turns to God versus human and what it would be like to touch a God. Xie is starting to recognize that he may have created one — he sees perfection in contrast Tech Boy only recognizing his messiness.
Natalie: I want to talk about how easily World accepts Tech back, but I feel like that conversation sitting on the floor is a mutual love fest. Both sides recognizing the strength of the other. It’s weird because Tech is talking about the fallibity of man, yes.
But it’s in a way that seems troubled – not judgmental – but struggling to process what humans are capable of. It felt protective, a bit, but also like he was just boggled. Amazed. Xie isn’t too phased and starts talking about the nature of science and God.
“Science is the closest we come to wrestling God.”
“Why would you want to?” That HURT! Like he is so…. troubled! And possibly worried about his friend! Am I insane?
Brittany: I think that Tech is asking the question of why you would want to do that, but not from a troubled or concerned place.
Tech is no longer messy, the upgrade wiped that out. He knows the fastest route from point A to point B is a straight line. I don’t think he is detouring for an emotional conversation or connection here. I read their interactions as processing data on Tech’s end to find the shortest possible path to achieve his next update – which is to say that he becomes everything that Xie imagines he could be.
He is not the troubled Tech of the past, I personally, lost that boy here.
Natalie: Interesting because I found him more shaky than ever. At least during this conversation – he becomes more robotic than ever later.
Either way, he reveals that Man is not made in God’s image – that the Gods are made in man’s – another egg in the HUMANS HOLD THE POWER basket.
Brittany: The only limit to our power is our imagination. Something that the New Gods beat the drum with over and over in this episode. And something that rings true again and again.
How did you read the moment where Tech Boy turns the passage of Jacob that Xie originally uses to speak to their unique situation against him – as he touches his hip, rendering him useless, and then taking all the information? Was the information what World wanted? Or just the power over it?
It’s all very cryptic, but the data breech and the news take over both play into fueling World’s move on the God battlefield.
Natalie: Well, first of all, World is very happy to welcome back Tech 2.0. Do you think he planned this or was like “oh finally you’re useful?” That may color my answer.
Brittany: I don’t want to shape your response to this. But from my vantage point, World shaped this in the sense that he needed Tech reborn and old Tech was getting in his own way, bogged down by the human view of what he was and not what he could be.
So, to set Xie in motion, by teasing him with the potential to set his mind off in another direction and improve his old friend thanks to his connection with him. I think that was all World’s doing and why we got that episode earlier on where we saw Xie’s innocent mind taking something he had a personal connection with and thinking he is arming the old with the potential for the future. Advancing it in some sense.
Natalie: Is This Manipulation.jpg
I guess where I’m at is that I don’t know how complicit Xie is in the big plan. Is he an innocent? When World says our friends in the Valley… does he mean human allies?
Brittany: Yeah, the big thinkers. The people who don’t ask, “why?” The people who only think in “hows.” That’s what World needs. None of the mess, just the progress. Silicon Valley has tons of thinkers and doers, not paying much mind to the whys of the world. Their brains think and create. It’s a powerful weapon. And, as we are seeing, probably more effective than a spear carved by dwarves. It really sets the contrast.
I also think that the “humans” are allies who are not aware they are allies. More like, New God freelancers.
Natalie: Hmmmm. Seems exploitative!
What struck me about all of this was Xie describing how we try to create a narrative from chaos. To force meaning on existence or events. And now I feel like I’m guilty of that for crafting a narrative where this relationship is mutually beneficial.
Though of course Xie is not in on it – He’s rather shocked by the data leak and I wonder if he could again become one of our band of outlaws- if the final battle will be humanity against the use and abuse of the Gods. Or is he dead? Because it still feels like Tech is trying to make a partnership. This has gone from sort of feeling like he has a patron to being a slave of the Gods.
Brittany: I would love to see this coming together of the outlaws against the Gods. I think that would make an interesting twist, but I’m not quite sure that we are going to achieve that seeing as each of our humans has a God proxy, even if they are on bad terms at the moment. I do like this idea of the divide that has happened between the patrons and their idols.
I am not onboard with this though. I felt very disconnected from the old Tech by the end. I don’t see so much of an olive branch extending from him towards Xie. And that’s where I kind of agree with you on the fact that Xie is realizing he’s been duped here, that the Gods saw what they wanted and took it out of him. Now he must try to clean up the mess they left in their wake.
Natalie: I just feel like this element of human involvement to achieve the Gods’ end is a problem. One that creates a new theme or moral for the story of American Gods. A concrete issue rather than an abstract idea about power and belief.
So thank God we have Salim to be the avatar of this issue, wouldn’t you say?
Brittany: American Gods has to change to fit this even more terrifying reality we live in now and it’s not just “how do we animate Media?” It’s doing what it did well the first time around, looking at the fear we know is there and giving it a name – Tech Boy, Media, World. I don’t like it. It’s messy and hard to think about how easily the human mind is manipulated by what we see day in and out. How smart we think we are to be above it, but no one is entirely.
And so yeah, thank God we have Salim. Poor, poor Salim. Because we need someone to panic, take a step back, breathe, and see and accept the truth and goodness in the world when it is presented back to him. Otherwise… what else is there?
Natalie: I think the way the show has tapped into the changing landscape of the digital age is fate intervening prior adaptations and saying no, not yet. It’s just SO much more relevant and realistic now. The book was on the precipice, this era is the extreme.
And then to throw in an innocent, sympathetic character like Salim, who is here for love and buys liquor for his dead leprechaun friend. I like that he is the one to discover it, the contrast.
Brittany: “I’ve never bought alcohol before” – precious boy. I do wish he got to give a eulogy for our fallen friend.
Natalie: It’s interesting to me how much the show leans into teasing what you expect and then rewriting it. Like opening on Sweeney under the bridge. It’s not even that they do something different, it’s that they show you the original path and the diversion.
Does that work for you?
Brittany: So far, it has. These little paths are, in the grand scheme of things, aiding the larger diversions, such as making Cairo so twisted and action-packed. There are so many small changes that they make the bigger changes feel less so?
And to that end they are all done so well hitting on emotional beats I wouldn’t have ever thought of, that I’m happy for it.
Natalie: I like this element because it feels like it is sort of honoring the concept of the book and not just changing for the sake of it – it is an acknowledgement of this is why it’s different. This is why this story, outside of the Shadow track of the books, would play differently.
We see it and we know what we are doing. The changes may play out differently or be received differently if they just bustled ahead and left Neil Gaiman in the dust.
Brittany: Yes, exactly. The elements are all there, but they take on new meaning if you look at them differently. I like it. More please!
Natalie: Can we assume that what the Newbs did was real? I’m a little thrown by the War of the Worlds. Did they really actually mess with the data or did they just tell people they did? Not that it matters, the reaction is the same.
Brittany: As in, you think it could have all been an illusion? I absolutely think what they did was real. Why play a trick at this stage of the war? World is throwing out his play, how easily he can wield the mind and harness the collective fear and intensity of the people to fight against something he tells them is wrong. It’s a power play against Wednesday. I don’t think he would do it just for show and tell.
Natalie: I guess – just questioning whether they actually did anything or if they just promoted in the media that they did something. Again, War of the Worlds. Make people believe something happened.
I was of half a mind that they spread panic by accessing the media reach and tapping into mob mentality but that nothing was actually at risk. Sort of Y2K-ish. But I can believe it’s real all the way down, also.
Brittany: There are two stories at play here – the framing of Shadow, Wednesday, and Salim plus the data breach.
Natalie: I think they then put up Wednesday and Shadow (and sweet Salim) to tap into that mob mentality they incited.
Brittany: Right, that makes sense. They incited panic, probably stole some data, but it’s all ones and zeros to them the actual information doesn’t matter. Holding it hostage got the people on alert and in a craze and now they can frame the boys.
Natalie: Pretty much! Once again, I’m always terrified how easily society breaks. This show may give me some paranoias.
Brittany: Again, Salim is the perfect person to put through this, even if it is troublesome to watch. He is just going about his day and then the friends he’s been staying with are all being tossed into the fire, he is being framed, and he sort of starts to believe it all?
Just watching how glued to the TV he becomes is terrifying enough. But I’ve been there. Unable to turn away from something.
Natalie: His whole performance was so special
Brittany: That is, of course, until it gets to a place where, it is too much or a fourth wall breaks – namely seeing his face pop up on screen. Only then does he turn against what he saw. It was all so much.
We get the same sort of deal with Shadow though. This real-life threat (actual cop cars and news anchors saying his name to the public) sends him into flight mode. Where was that instinct with Wednesday? Maybe the threat of prison is enough to get him moving.
Natalie: It’s really interesting because yes, he kind of checks back into the world. “Oh shit, I’m not going back to jail for this.” Like has he been living in the clouds? Is there a special thrall?
But the visible hit the ground with a thunk moment was there. Wake up and smell the potato salad.
Brittany: He also does not have a go-bag ready. Which I found interesting. He is scrambling. And Bilquis, of course, is not helping his concentration.
Natalie: What do you think it meant that he was that… settled? It reeks of someone who has just gone “fuck it” to me.
Brittany: Yeah, I think it echoes what Sweeney said to him the previous night. How nice it is to feel like you are Wednesday’s golden boy. Shadow was feeling that on an unhealthy level. And now he is spiraling.
Natalie: I don’t want to get too timey wimey, but the “Bellfontaine massacre” mentioned – and holy crap, that was the POLICE STATION massacre apparently.
Brittany: They bring that WAY back to the best murder tableau! We get that flash to Wednesday and Shadow, “What will they say happened here” “Whatever they want.”
Natalie: Basically, how long has this season spanned?
Brittany: I have no idea how long this season has taken. I’m sure we could do the math, but I would believe more than 10 days. I’m focused on how long it would take to get back and forth to New Orleans, I would imagine that adds a few days to our tale.
Natalie: So the police station was apparently ten days ago? That seems insane! Burning the candle at both ends, guys!
Brittany: I don’t think that tracks But perhaps?
Natalie: Well, that is what it says. Jesus. I want a timeline. I feel like the timing changes my perspective.
But anyway – yes – overhearing Nancy saying that Shadow’s ignorance gives him bliss and others power doesn’t help with the scrambling. And poor SalimNotSalim being like what the actual fuck is going on why is no one acting like this matters.
It’s a mood, and his innocence is so great because it is tinged with that dark shadow of having lived with irrational prejudice.
Brittany: As we’re trying to get Shadow out of that chaos, Bilquis’ anointing of him in the bedroom sort of slows things down in spite of the rush of emotions throughout the rest of the house. I think the mention of Bilquis and Shadow’s fortunes being linked was interesting.
Natalie: The whole thing was a big ol sexy prophecy. Find out who you are? Your survival is of great interest.
Brittany: How much stock is Shadow willing to place in her words that he will be safe here?
Natalie: It does seem to give him the confidence to freakin’ move.
Brittany: Right. That’s the most interesting thing here, that she is finally the force to push him into action. Bilquis mentions when she kisses Shadow that she tastes the “love lost.” That loss is not only Laura, but that connection with his mother, which we see really come back to him in this moment after Yggdrasil grabs him.
I don’t know exactly what else they see in each other that is connecting them here. I don’t see what Bilquis stands to gain from Shadow’s embrace of this knowledge.
Earlier this season we saw Bilquis act as Shadow’s guide into the hall “backstage.” She has this guardian-type role there and again here. She also sees that everyone else around him is basically like, “You’re asking the wrong questions.” What does that give Shadow? Nothing.
Perhaps she will gain a supporter against Wednesday, against World. But it’s all very much operating in the gray here.
Natalie: The fact that the climax is Shadow destroying Yggdrasil from inside out – and learning about his daddy issues along the way… really a lot happening to him today. But that montage – it’s very easy to put things together and say they mean something.
We spoke about it this episode already. Desperate crafting of a narrative. Do you think this one had enough to go on, to make it true?
Brittany: I don’t think so, but I also think that’s intentional. I feel like we are almost back in season 1 with a new Shadow (almost literally) working through this next phase of “well, what now?” Is he free?
There is still enough murkiness left for Shadow to work through. He clearly knows that Wednesday, Odin, Dad, are one in the same. But now he also has this knowledge of his mother purposefully keeping him away from Wednesday and he sort of let her down without knowing it.
Natalie: The most disturbing part of this was that War of the Worlds recitation in her mouth, after seeing it in New Media’s so joyfully. But yes – too late, Shadow. It will be interesting to see what his mother knew, and what part that played.
We haven’t mentioned – because it was glowingly obvious – that Shadow is now remembering the sigils on his coin gifter’s bracelet, matching Odin’s tree. He has this perspective – at least when he is inside the Bone Orchard – that he has been followed, and messed with, by Wednesday for a long time.
I’m glad we can openly say IT’S HIS FREAKIN’ FATHER and make those connections about what he wants with his bloodline more clearly, but it is sort of weird for Shadow to know that now.
Brittany: Right, it’s been a long, circumventing road, not to discuss this earlier. But, it’s all there now.
Not to mention the BLATENTLY obvious coin trick that he wanted to learn. The thing that keeps him grounded is the thing that becomes his undoing.
Natalie: I can’t predict what this means for his future – how this may direct him – or what he is conscious of when he comes out of the God Zone. But he very literally wipes away all the chaos in one big sweep. What did you think of this?
Brittany: I thought it was a good reset for the season. I did not want any of this to carry over and it leaves enough mystery hanging for season 3. Lots of questions to be answered, that even as book readers, we don’t have answers to. What does this power mean for Shadow? Has he erased anything else over time?
And it’s not just the erasing, but what it means for Wednesday who now has his fill of wine and ketchup. What is his next move? Can he feel that Yggdrasil is gone? That this move has been made?
Natalie: It didn’t even erase the incident, just got them off his back for right now.
They are still looking for Shadow, but, luckily, it’s Mike now. I will shove that bottle of Ketchup into Wednesday’s dead eye socket. What the hell is he doing? God, he is the worst.
Brittany: First the mustard, now the ketchup. He’s turning me against condiments.
Salim and the Jinn are also on the move now that the cops have taken their leave. Something we didn’t touch on with them – is how the Jinn kind of leans into this a bit more. I think Salim has finally worn him down.
Natalie: It’s kind of implied that this could have BAD consequences for the Jinn.
Natalie: Like, from exercising free will. Surely, we can’t lose him!
Brittany: All love is eventually lost.
Natalie: Shut up.
Regarding Yggdrasil, it’s actually Nancy I’m most interested in. “Now we’re talking.” Do you think that was him (loosely) rooting for Shadow to further a revolution, or was it still Team Wednesday?
Brittany: A combination of both – On the one hand it’s probably a relief to see Shadow connect these dots and stop acting so “stupid” to use his words. But on the other, I think Nancy is itching for war in some way. And this is the move that needed to happen to get this show on the road.
Natalie: But again, like losing the spear, is losing the tree a slap in the face to Wednesday? Or is this one a tactic?
Brittany: I think this brings up a bigger question of why did Wednesday leave if not to have Shadow work all this out? He wasn’t going to sacrifice Shadow to the New Gods. He needs him.
So, the cost of him figuring this all out is the tree. I think on some level he had to know that was a risk or at least part of the plan all along – to grow Yggdrasil to rebirth his two most powerful weapons – the spear and Shadow.
As a finale, how do you think this episode worked? And in the larger context of the season, as an episode? For all that it gave us, as an episode, I was actually not a huge fan.
Natalie: Well, last season and this season both ended on a bus, so there’s that theme to continue. Aside from that, not sure. It left us in a finalesque place, a turning point, but I think the info revealed did not give me a clear picture of what is next.
Maybe that’s intentional, maybe not. It maybe asked TOO many questions?
Brittany: I’m okay with not knowing what’s next, I don’t think that’s a finale’s job. I think the episode as a whole piece felt very disjointed and packed against a season that took it’s time telling and drawing out stories.
While I too have questions, I’d say no more than I do week to week. The biggest ones, of course, pertain to the move over to Lakeside.
Natalie: That’s what’s kept me going these past years! Gimme that snow scape.
Brittany: So, what will happen there? How will it change? Those, on top of the questions we’ve been conjuring up over the course of the season are still there.
Natalie: But again, the context is so different for why Shadow is there, though the pretext is the same – hiding out. But something you said earlier – do you think he made himself into Mike Ainsel? Does he know who he is? Or is this an oblivious Shadow – wiped himself clean?
Brittany: Oblivious, his character in this show has proven to me that he can be nothing else. When he knowingly acts on something, I will be floored.
Natalie: I think the man standing at the side of the bus IS Shadow Moon and he thinks he is getting caught and is shocked to see the name on his own ID. Was that your read?
Natalie: It isn’t like a Dawn Summers situation where he thinks he IS Mike. But it’s still an element of mystery.
Brittany: Who even is Shadow Moon? I guess we’ll never actually know. At least not when we tune back in.
Natalie: I’m a little concerned at the idea that he will swan around Lakeside accidentally using his Godly powers. That would be a whole different show. But I guess he’s going to find out who he is, or whatever.
Brittany: “Or whatever”, so hopeful!
Natalie: I am, truly!
American Gods will return for season 3 on Starz.