American Gods goes completely off book in season 3, episode 4, “The Unseen” and our reviewers tackle all the new details that set the stage for the remainder of the season.
Halfway through American Gods season 3 and the series has left Lakeside for an episode designed to introduce three entirely new storylines. “The Unseen” is a fitting title for an episode that pushes Shadow Moon, Bilquis, Laura, and Wednesday outside of the confines of the original novel.
Episode 4 sends Shadow and Tech Boy on a two-man mission to rescue Bilquis, Wednesday and Cordelia pay a visit to Valhalla East, and treats us to Laura sharing the screen with Sweeney for the first time this season. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly what we had in mind.
While the questions surrounding the endgame of the Old and New Gods continue to pile up, our reviewers take a look at how these new storylines both complicate and support our ongoing ideas for how the series will play out.
UPDATE: On February 1, serious allegations of abuse were raised against Brian Warner, better known as the singer Marilyn Manson, who has been featured in American Gods this season as Johan.
Actress Evan Rachel Wood named Manson as the same abuser that she testified about before the California Senate in April 2019 in order to help pass the Phoenix Act, which would extend the statute of limitations in domestic abuse cases. Wood wrote the bill herself in order to help other survivors, and the bill was signed into law.
Upon Wood’s naming of Manson yesterday, four other women have come forward with similar claims. Within hours of the allegations, Starz released a message on American Gods social media stating that Manson’s upcoming appearances on the show would be edited out. Manson has also been dropped from his record label and AMC’s Shudder has pulled Manson’s upcoming episode of Creepshow.
Hypable is committed to flagging the presence of known abusers in the properties we cover and questioning the networks and studios who continue to employ known abusers. We support Starz’s quick response to the allegations against Manson. This review, written prior to the allegations naming Manson, discusses the actions of Manson’s character Johan, but does not discuss Manson by name.
‘American Gods’ season 3, episode 4 review in conversation
Natalie: So this week, we take a break from Lakeside and follow some of our heroes on new adventures — this is actually an episode with not a scrap of book canon in it. But I’d say the main plot of the episode is the intertwining perspectives of Shadow and Bilquis — Shadow on his quest to find her, after finding the wreckage of her NYC apartment, and Bilquis, as she’s held prisoner by the people who did it. Let’s talk about Shadow and his little sidekick as they try to find the lost goddess, and then talk about what actually happened from her perspective.
At the end of last week, Shadow found Tech Boy shorting out among the bloody mess in the apartment, and of course this week he immediately accuses Tech of having something to do with it. There is no love lost between these two — something Shadow does not let Tech forget — but unluckily for Shadow, Tech has more information than he does, and he also has a common goal (finding Bilquis) — so he’s stuck with the kid.
Brittany: For a being made completely of programming he knows how to strike every single nerve on a person. But luckily, Tech does prove to be useful in a two–man con situation, something Wednesday can’t say for Shadow at least this week. I’m still a bit on edge around Tech because he is so volatile — “I’m going to need you to dial it back to a two” — but watching his much more frequent glitches and Shadow’s just completely over–it attitude with him definitely made me warm up to this partnership. I don’t know if Shadow exactly sees what Tech can do for him right now and trusts him about as far as he can throw him — which was shockingly quite far — but he has Sanders’ phone, can play “guess whose calling,” and does a great Area 51 experiment impression, but for better or worse we are going to ride along with them at least into next week.
Natalie: Honestly, when he “won” the argument with Shadow about getting to come along by sucking the phone into his hand, I screamed. It’s so childish and perfect, it reminds me of those farcical scenes where someone doesn’t want someone else to read what’s on a paper so they chew it up and swallow it. It was so damn funny. The dynamic between him and Shadow here is so incredible, Shadow’s weariness in basically dealing with a bratty teenager coupled with his constant rage (over the lynching) that he needs to express just a little, even if it isn’t helpful to destroy Tech for it right this second.
Because Tech has answers — he’s reviewed the security footage and they assess that Bilquis was taken in by the security detail of Bill Sanders (sounds like a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs of that world) which honestly shocked me. She was taken by a bunch of human goons who have NO idea they’re tangling with Gods. I was expecting some of World’s cronies. Did this surprise you?
Brittany: Tech’s “I already apologized for that” plays into that teenager role so well. But slamming his head into the table was so great.
And as for the goons, we speculated last episode that it would be someone connected to World and, surprise, just regular old humans with money and power. I will say I was a bit surprised by it, but I like it a lot more. Just as Tech is getting under Shadow’s skin, now this group of people is just like some gum stuck under World’s boot. It’s annoying to say the least to those in the know. And it provides a bit of levity as we noticed, on the side of Shadow and Tech toying with security, but also that look at the grossness of humanity with the capture and subsequent torture with just a passive attitude of Bilquis later on. It’s kind of refreshing to see all the gods have to sort through dealing with what they consider cogs in the worship machine and how that counters Laura’s interaction with the first human she sees.
More on those later, obviously, but the bodyguard of Sanders’ daughter is the first human we interact with after Tech shows us the security footage of the resources this company is able to deploy to “handle” Bilquis. What did you think of the kidnapping and interrogation of this guy? I always like seeing what Shadow is capable of and this was another great showcase of his talents of persuasion.
Natalie: Well, first of all, looking in the face of this kind of thing — the idea that real rich people can and will do this deeply shady stuff (instead of say calling a detective) freaks me out way more than the gods using nefarious ways. I think that kind of thing is probably realer than I would like to imagine, and it reminds me a little tiny bit of Gaiman’s Mr. Alice, a character that appears in some short stories that occur in the American Gods-verse (Monarch of the Glen) — so rich and powerful that other people don’t even know he exists, and the stuff he can get access to… obviously this mogul is Known Level Rich and Powerful, but seeing his staff handle things this way made me very uncomfortable. So, I think they deserved the fear that Shadow and Tech put into the guy whose car they hijacked.
The alien invasion tactic was — let’s face it — hilarious. Tech was so into it, once he realized the game. A little bit too into it. But Shadow — after several weeks of Mike, seeing this steely side of Shadow, slipping into his role play — it reminded me again of his intelligence and adaptability. Even just the dialogue, word choices — I loved it. “No reason to turn adversarial.” And especially the dramatic irony of “You’re so far out of your league you don’t even know what game you’re playing.”
Brittany: Tech’s excitement was fantastic. Lately, there hasn’t been room for Shadow to slip into this type of leader role in a stunt. He needs to be liked and accepted in Lakeside and with Wednesday he needs to counter his sharp edges, though now he is a bit more over it with Wednesday. So, I agree I think watching him here, not only his smoothness, but watching Tech Boy slip into the supporting role was really a great showcase of the muscles these actors can flex in these roles.
And they were successful! They got the Hoboken location! Granted, not as easily as World was able to, but they worked with what they had, those scrappy lads.
Natalie: American Gods knew just what to do to make this inherently funny, but not like, slapstick funny. It’s still very sharp and dangerous. But I’m sorry, I have to say this, I’ve been thinking it for two days: “dialing it back” jokes always get me, for some reason — the structure of that turn of phrase just does it for me in terms of a dynamic between people — but when Shadow pulled Tech aside after the kerosene comment, all I could think of was David Rose micromanaging his parents excitement while tired, like “You’re at a ten and I’m gonna need you at about a five. Ten, to a five. Thank you.”
David Rose would not handle this scenario as well as Shadow Moon, though, it’s safe to say.
Brittany: Absolutely not. But I agree, that line depends entirely on the delivery, and Shadow Moon has that delivery on lock. Cut right to the core of me in a way I didn’t think it would given the moment. Such a great pair and that balance of humor and severity carries their scenes.
Natalie: Tech got his chance to go up to an eleven when the moment called for it though.
Brittany: He did. As they leave and get gas later on, the delivery of “Tanks full” also got me. It wasn’t even funny. Just aggressive for the sake of being annoying to Shadow. Incredible.
Natalie: Ultimately the guys don’t actually get very far in the episode. They get the information, but they don’t save the girl or anything. They’re very much mid-quest. Shadow gets interrupted by two very different phone calls requesting he come help dear old Daddy, but he turns them both down. They’re more relevant to the Wednesday track but do you think he’ll be going to Hoboken or to the hospital next?
Brittany: I think Hoboken. While Cordelia is kind of stuck in the middle, I don’t think that Shadow is exactly too bound to seeing if things work out in Massachusetts.
How much intel do you think World has on Tech? In terms of his whereabouts and the quest? Do you think he is just happy that Tech is out of the way and driven on his own personal little mission? I am feeling as though he is more fringe than when we started this season and it’s only episode 4. This was his one and only goal to prove himself — convince Bilquis to join up — but even World himself can’t do it. So I guess my question is how much stock do the New Gods have in Tech right now?
Natalie: I almost want to say none. I feel like Tech is now rogue. Especially since Bilquis “fucked him up” in whatever the way it is that she did. All he wants is for her to “unfuck” him. I don’t think World’s agenda is on his mind and I don’t think World is keeping tabs on him — which is probably stupid. What do you think Bilquis actually did to him?
Brittany: I honestly can’t even begin to figure it out, but my gut is telling me it’s something that is messing with his ability to compute the programming that was installed by the New Gods. Perhaps agency? Something not in 1s and 0s, but closer to humanity that is rebelling against his program.
But again, that could be too simple or too complex, American Gods will still surprise me, I’m sure of it. When he absorbs the phone he immediately plays the very emotion-heavy voicemails from the daughter. He is even taking the emotion out of the technology.
Natalie: It’s got to be to do with emotions and trauma, I feel like — making him FEEL the things he’s done or were done to him? She is a being based in love and deep emotion. If she wields power, it is the power to make people feel.
Brittany: I never quite have a grasp on the sheer amount of power Bilquis has and what she can truly accomplish with it, especially with the New Gods. We’ve seen her be worshipped, we’ve seen her go toe to toe with anyone in her path, but I also feel like I am always waiting for her to truly unleash. We might be getting close.
Natalie: Certainly something has changed for her as of this moment.
Brittany: But that power was certainly not enough to overcome the actual security who entered her home and took her into their custody. Though she was able to get the upper hand on one of them the others were able to restrain her enough to knock her out with a sedative. But once she is in the holding cell we get to see her reclaiming a connection that she perhaps thought was gone? We’ve really only met Bilquis the independent and now we are seeing her reach out for connection.
Specifically, her reaching out to the Orishas whose story we also see this episode.
Natalie: She fought hard, but she still was taken prisoner by human men. It makes me wonder what kind of power she wields and if she is just not willing to use it — but it seems like she can’t exactly smite people on the spot. She does get one guy with a weapon (great action scene for Yetide) but there are a lot of them and they are able to overpower her and hold her for interrogation.
Now, when she’s in the cell, she has a mantra, “I am not alone, I choose to believe that, I have to believe that.” And sure enough, she connects with the Orishas. These seem like very hands–on spirits, tending and nurturing the people where they can, walking among them. I don’t know if she knew she was calling out to them when she was praying — if it had a specific focus. To me, it felt like a rediscovery when things started happening for her — she starts to remember the before, perhaps what she was before she adapted into Bilquis.
The Orisha story began with a full, traditional Coming to America, voiced by Ibis, condemning the choices as White America was made — the choice to go against the principles they claimed to found America on, all men are created equal etc — in order to keep slavery going for financial gain. But he describes the gods that some of the African people carried with them — the Orishas — and we meet them in the cotton fields.
Ibis describes the choices made about slavery as a betrayal of the oath the founders made to God, and it’s an interesting juxtaposition to see the slaves singing a Negro Spiritual (“Wade in the Water”) — aimed at Christian God, while also calling on the Orishas, who show up and introduce themselves.
The various facets like the water and the earth gods, for the Orishas — they all show up and promise their people they are there to help. The slave leading the prayer, he says “I is not me, I is we” — and the male Orisha, Chango, finishes up with “and we is power.”
One of the female Orishas, Oshun, makes a promise to a little girl — “You are my beloved. I will uphold you in your courage to carry life forward.” – sounds like a goddess for women, for women as creators of life. And this is the same god who comforts Bilquis in the cell. I looked it up, and Oshun is the Yoruba god of purity, fertility, love, and sensuality. So we see how these gods came to the slaves, and how they come to Bilquis. What do you think this meant for her? Was she once an acolyte of these gods, or even a member of their family?
The main important thing to me is that she saw her past – as the sexual love goddess – in the reflection of her tears and seems to remember she was not made for that originally, that she was more than that. Which for me ties to this growing depression she seems to have about her godly role — the being wanted and had.
Brittany: It’s a really interesting arc for sure. We’ve seen a more focused evolution over the series where I don’t think she’s been on any sort of path forward to feel whole since she was plucked off the streets by the New Gods. That was a bandaid, not a permanent fix and I agree that we’re seeing this growing depression in her and it makes me think about something we talked about this season — what went wrong when she consumed Bill Sanders. She was getting by until even that stopped working for her. The Orishas are tapping into this unrestrained call for help.
As for her connection to them, I want to say that she was a member of the family. I only really get this from the connection we saw in Shadow’s dreams. But they weren’t together, as Bilquis was not in the freezer, but perhaps that points to her being a product of the strength she drew from them as an acolyte like the women on the magazines she portrayed.
How do you see her connection with Oshun who — as you mentioned — is the god of pretty much everything I associated with Bilquis until this point, guiding where we go from here with Bilquis’ story? Are we going to see her come into a new form, or return to something she always was?
Natalie: I literally have a note saying “this is who she has always been” so I think the latter. I think this is a matter of rediscovery. But perhaps it is born because she has been too proud to accept help or join with anyone in a very long time. However, the puddle of tears is a breaking point for her in terms of needing to reclaim her true self, I think. She sees her past as the certain love goddess she has been, and she says “I am not what you say, I was not made for you, I was before Shiva, I was before Aphrodite, before the Word, I am not alone. I knew and was known, my name was…”
So she is trying to recall her true origin before she twisted into the love goddess Bilquis. And my question is whether she IS Oshun. If she is the Oshun of Africa, perhaps. Not the Oshun of the slaves. Given their meeting, the mirrored dances, and first words, I would bet a certain amount of money on that. Or if she is a long lost Orisha sister…
Brittany: I’m in the middle here. I think we are going to see a bit of the god left behind, that original god, be it Oshun or something akin to her, but that needs to marry with who she has become. I hope we get some kind of either flashback or continued spiritual journey for her in the present to unveil her reclamation of who she was and then trace it to where we are now. So while yes I do think she is with them in some capacity, I don’t think we are going to get a hard reset, much like Tech Boy. It’s that bit of agency of knowing her truest self, which I’m excited to see.
Natalie: Indeed, not a hard reset, but an awareness of the layers built upon her. Before now, we didn’t really have any reason to believe Bilquis wasn’t simply Bilquis, who she has always been. How do you feel about the fact that she’s not? Does it make you suspect that every God or Being has these layers that time has taken from them? Sweeney did.
Some do still seem like their purest form, some have conscious layers (Easter), but this makes me think twice about everyone we’ve met so far — old and new.
Brittany: I don’t think my opinions on Wednesday or World have shifted. But I am looking at everyone else with a bit of a sharper focus. Honestly, I should have shifted my perspective when they blasted a hole in the fourth wall with Sweeney’s story, but Bilquis’ arc and even Tech Boy to some extent has really given that push to take a closer look at all of these gods. Even those I feel are unshakeable.
Natalie: Of course, whatever is happening with Oshun is happening inside her mind, because the security guards see her madly dancing (alone) to the heavy metal music. She is still trapped by the end of the episode, albeit with a new strength in mind. Her principles remain strong, as World could have gotten her free if she’d at least faked going along with the New Gods for a day or two — but she refused that offer.
Brittany: The scene of her dancing in joy to the metal music intended for torture was quite something.
I think World’s reappearance in the male form we know from other seasons, played by Crispin Glover, was unsettling as always. But it also felt… I don’t know how to describe it without contradicting my last statement, but the most comforting persona that could have come into that cell for Bilquis. It came off as, “I know you’re not going to like this, but this is the last offer, the end of the line and it’s coming from me, take it or leave it.” And, of course, she is still adamantly against choosing sides and rejects the idea of this big tech mind control game.
Natalie: Honestly, World’s track this episode was a little unusual. We learn that Sanders is the tech boss of the company the New Gods are using to set up their whole Church of the Mind — this ploy where the humans have to think they’re doing it for themselves. I still don’t know why World wants Bilquis sooooo badly, but for someone who has a vested interest in both Bill and Bilquis, I was so stunned that World was in the dark? “I should have known,” Ms. World says when looking at video footage — and yeah, you kinda should have!
I guess the goons are meant to keep on top of these things, but ultimately, World knew they were seeing each other and said it was fine as long as Bilquis didn’t eat Sanders, and once again Bilquis had this angle of “I never agreed to your terms, stop acting like I’m in any way under your control.” Glover World is in there giving her his best pitch once more, about how their plans will revolutionize man’s link to the divine and how her presence will make other Old Gods want to get involved too, leaving Wednesday with no support. Still acting like he wants to avoid a war, that Wednesday is the only one who wants it.
It was a moment that struck me about the update to the 2020 period — because World’s argument holds up a little bit. In this day and age, it just doesn’t make sense for someone to wage a war based on the idea that cellphones are bad and that we should be sending letters by carrier pigeon (raven?) instead. Wednesday’s cause honestly looks stupid to most people, even though most of our heroes are on his side. But of course we know a bit more about World’s actual endgame from the book. BUT, keeping that out of mind, just in case it doesn’t even come true here — how much did you believe in what World was saying in the cell, about his belief in advancing worship for ALL Godkind and trying to save her life?
Brittany: It’s the same drum that he’s been beating since season 1, so good on him for sticking to his convictions. But I agree that the translation to the present day is really not helping the Old Gods’ side of things, making me think that Wednesday needs to open up a bit to convey his message a bit differently. Maybe a social media intern who doesn’t dress in the black on black turtleneck/slacks combo can help him out.
I do believe World wants to advance worship for all in a manner that they all get an equal piece of the devotion. It’s not one god fighting over another and that messaging of unity, even if the actual endgame does not abide, is much more appealing than begging for scraps that don’t fulfill your basic needs. So I do believe he wants to help Bilquis, but for his own gain at the end of the day. She has sway to bring others over and perhaps something else that he needs seeing as he is quite out of the loop and things are getting away from him faster and more easily than before.
Natalie: If I were her I probably would have taken him up on it and then figured a way to game the system later, but not her. Unfortunately, he — in disguise as the security boss — orders her killed, basically, once she doesn’t cooperate. Killed or broken — something to stop her becoming an asset to “competitors.” So, World leaves Bilquis to rot, we leave her dancing to heavy metal, our dynamic duo haven’t reached her yet and may not reach her tomorrow as Shadow MAY have a detour, given the end of Wednesday’s episode 4 journey. However, Hoboken is only a few minutes drive from Manhattan, pending Holland Tunnel traffic. So perhaps it’s just sensible to take care of Bilquis before heading to a Massachusetts mental institution.
Brittany: It is far more feasible. Plus, as far as they know she is alone against many and Wednesday at least has Cordelia.
Natalie: True. But what a strange phone call to receive. Shadow is perhaps regretful he didn’t take the job when Wednesday called the first time, or perhaps not — but did he seem very incurious to you? If it was me I’d be asking a lot more questions — at least mentally. Shadow feels kind of like, this is not a right now problem.
Brittany: Well… Wednesday does have quite the track record. I think I am more on Shadow’s line of thinking, this isn’t a thing and how dare he use this poor girl to do his bidding. At the very least I would feel some sort of pull to protect Cordelia, who for some reason, really cares for this insane god.
Natalie: I definitely feel like his concerns are for Cordelia too. But the story of how they got there is a pretty weird one. Wednesday wants more evidence against the conservator for the court date with Demeter. I would have assumed that signing over her care to the husband would be perfectly simple, but I guess not, or maybe she refused to participate.
Either way, they’re trying to prove he’s a crook, and they want Shadow to come help retrieve the guy’s computer. Shadow passes — he’s kind of in the middle of something. I did like how Wednesday contacted him off of that burner phone via some spellwork — into the goon’s “dumb and empty” brick. It was a funny moment that almost reminded me of Crowley’s (Good Omens) watch that kept working without any new batteries. Technology for these people is just incidental.
Brittany: I felt like Wednesday felt a bit of satisfaction prior to the call when he realized that Cordelia’s remote access could only get them so far. Almost like, “Ha! Your fancy banging on that brick still does not beat a two-man con!” Vindication.gif. And Shadow’s complete unfazed reaction to both times Wednesday reaches him by phone is also played so well. “It’s for you.” Tech Boy’s upgrade is a great caller ID.
Natalie: Wednesday was quite excited by the prospect of Doing Crimes, and with Shadow unavailable he goes to seek out some other helpers at a biker bar. He’s managed to make a name for himself as an “everyday” old biker — one of them — who pulled off amazing feats, but all the biker gangs who come there are dedicated to Odin — at least, as an imagery thing — the bar is called Valhalla East. I wouldn’t bet on any one of them literally believing in the Norse God Odin, but they have a special interest in the mythology. And that’s enough for Wednesday to work with.
Brittany: Right, this isn’t a church, but it is still a place of congregation around a common belief. Not that it is directly for Odin, but he benefits. I did enjoy that he was there to rope someone into his mission, but also had to take care of some housekeeping, namely with Johan who is not having a good time.
Natalie: Not at all. Wednesday has his biker buddies and he has his goth band buddies and the blend is not great right now. Johan is genuinely unstable after the murder of his bandmates — coming in, looking for a fight, but Wednesday manages to counsel him a little. He was the one person I thought may know the truth about Wednesday here, but he’s so crazy it doesn’t seem to matter. I asked in my notes — does this guy know the truth, or is he just in a weird delusion that happens to match the truth? Again, with Wednesday, it doesn’t really matter. As one of the bikers says, with Wednesday, rules just don’t seem to apply.
Brittany: I had zero doubt that Johan knows the truth and not only that, but his weird voice changes at moments seemed to set him as some sort of servant not like a lay human. From the moment in episode 3 where Wednesday looks at the news on the TV and says, “oh, we’re going to have to deal with that later” to now where he seems to be tired of Johan’s antics, giving Johan the “you need to get new bandmates” order seems very strict. And Johan was very submissive, but also unhinged in a way that probably gives Wednesday more headaches than the concert halls provide support.
Do we know how we got from Johan calming down enough to walk away to the bar exploding? Now not only do we have a crazed Wednesday, but we have lost the person he recruited as his number 2 for the theft job.
Natalie: So, the bar blowing up I have no clue about, but here’s what I saw: Wednesday chills Johan out and tries to smooth everything over. Everyone has a drink and toasts to Odin. This amount of direct worship to Odin is like a massive dopamine hit and it sends Wednesday into ecstasy. That’s my working theory anyway. Like, it’s TOO MUCH, it powered him up too much.
Brittany: Ah, I like it.
Natalie: Cordelia called Johan a berserker as a colloquialism, but it may actually be the truth too. We had to handle berserker lore on Teen Wolf so I am well versed. They’re from Norse lore, warriors who fought in a trance like madness.
Brittany: I mean… that tracks.
Natalie: And you can bet your bottom dollar that the original berserkers were some of Odin’s special warriors. Maybe Johan is an original, and he and Wednesday both entered a moment of madness.
Brittany: Unfortunately Wednesday is very good at burning (literally) every relationship he needs to carry out this war. Unless Johan is completely insane enough to survive, I think we can bid adieu to that special warrior. Which, maybe he pulled off something! Wednesday did appear overloaded and was feeling himself a bit too much — wandering into traffic, singing songs, giving Cordelia quite the shock. For the first time she has a “I did not sign up for this” look.
Natalie: Absolutely, and I think that’s reasonable. I think if Wednesday survived, Johan did. I did catch the line “try not to kill the help, their adulation sustains us” so Johan must believe the truth — either as a sort of deluded human, or because he’s a creature of myth too. I really think he must be a berserker, and I think he probably survived.
But I probably don’t trust him with a stealthy B&E, and now “the help” is gone. Not that Wednesday is in any state to be carrying out crafty plans. Cordelia is right to be worried — the man is mad. Reciting strange song lyrics, ripping off clothes. Maybe this is Wednesday in the heat of highest battle — feeding off the energy of it all. Maybe all those deaths were for him — Johan sacrificed in the name of Odin? Or maybe he’s faking it. Though I have no idea what the motive for that would be.
It did make me think of Demeter though — all those things I asked about why they can’t pass? Maybe when they’re too powerful, they’re too overcome with godhood to conceptually process the human reality/need to pass. And therefore just look mad. Do you think there is any chance he’s faking it?
Brittany: My first instinct was that he was faking it as a motive to land himself with Demeter, but that would make no sense because he doesn’t need to go there. I think by following that train of thought on first instinct, “Oh this is an act” it’s actually a bit more unsettling to think it is not. What are the consequences going to be if he or any god has this constant stream of belief to tap into? Sheer chaos or bursts of it all the time? Or will they be tempered out and blissfully fulfilled. One hit is never enough, so World’s end game of worship for all doesn’t work here. But neither does Wednesday’s power grab. It sets the world a bit on edge.
Natalie: I don’t think he’s faking it either, but I am confused. If this is a result of a direct hit of worship, I guess it’s like a high? Like drugs? He might come down off it naturally, but it’s easy to see how all these gods drunk off power might recklessly destroy the world.
Brittany: That’s a great point. We really haven’t seen anyone but Bilquis bask in their worship. We’ve seen powers — Easter and Odin — but the shock value of the belief and sacrifice overload has not happened outside of closed doors.
Natalie: I almost think Wednesday knew Johan was going to do it, hence setting off the “Hail Odin” chant himself, but yeah, if I was Cordelia and I still thought this was just a normal old man, I have absolutely no idea how I would take this.
Brittany: It is certainly out there and while I’m sure he will get out of the hospital no problem, I wonder what the next phase of her relationships will look like. If/when Shadow appears again, how pissed will she be at him? How does she continue working for Wednesday? Is she let in on the secret at this point?
Natalie: She certainly thinks he’s callous, but yeah something has to change for her. Shadow seems to think the news is kind of funny, which is probably a bit stupid of him, but no one really knows the potential fallout here. Even Shadow doesn’t know what to make of his dad’s powers and how real they are or are not, but the idea of him explaining to Cordelia is an interesting one.
Brittany: Shadow is still spending his drives trying to figure out the snow. Maybe Cordelia will catch on a bit faster.
Natalie: I expect to see Wednesday “come down from the high” next week but if he doesn’t I honestly have no idea how they fix this.
Brittany: I think he’ll come down. I can’t imagine Shadow ditching Bilquis at this point to go deal with this and also what would he do? So I hope we get a quick resolution, I doubt we’ll get all the answers, but perhaps we can pivot into Cordelia coming into the fold. I really want to see her reaction, plus we still have to get Demeter to reconsider and take down this nursing home sleaze.
Natalie: Will true love prevail? Probably not, once per season is enough for that and this episode has this covered.
Brittany: Well Demeter and Wednesday did not get a music video tribute so I’d say they are doomed. As we know, in pop culture, if you get a fan edit, you’re destined to be.
Natalie: Oof. Yeah, let’s rewind a bit here but wow, that sure did happen and I hated it and loved it. So, Laura is hanging out in Purgatory waiting for her ticket to be called once more. I guess what happens is that you just go round and round and learn new lessons.
Brittany: That was my impression of how things go in the Middle Place.
Natalie: Before we see her, we actually see a child finding Sweeney’s body, which is pretty horrible for the family and his body is removed, to be cremated. This sets off the events that will see Laura come back to life.
But before then, Sweeney is on Laura’s mind — she’s asking around in the waiting room to see if he might be there too. I guess it’s possible, but probably not. Sadly he isn’t here, or at least no one has seen him. But she does get the chance to talk about him.
Brittany: I liked that it was staged in a way where the conversation wasn’t forced on her. She wasn’t confronting people who knew him, she wasn’t being shown her own life in flashback on a screen, but she was actively choosing to bring him up by asking after him. Then going a step further with it. It was sad and was made worse by what we saw of him being cleared from the current timeline.
What did you think of the woman whose been there for close to a few decades? How many times do you think Laura would have to go through her card being called to find any semblance of peace? These people appear to be content so long as they have a seat.
Natalie: Given people’s dress, I think a few decades is nothing. The woman who’s seat Laura took looked to be from early 1900s. It probably depends on the person or the attitude, there’s probably no guarantee.
I actually saw a lot of interesting costumes. Given Laura’s clothes, it’s the outfits people died in, and I felt like there were a lot of nurses or doctors from different eras, soldiers, two boxers — people who died in the ring I guess. I would have been down for seeing more of Laura’s life moments before she got yeeted, but that’s okay. I think that the smoker lady — she knows she died in 1993 but she may have no idea how much linear time she’s been through since then. She’s probably delighted to gossip about someone’s love life.
Brittany: “So you’re into the bad boys aren’t ya?” She was great, but of course her digging into Laura’s sentimental nature — so unnatural! — led to… well…
Natalie: Look, we need to talk about the fancam. The discovery and burning of his body — it feels like a finality to his story really, and I always hoped he would come back… but this… I just don’t know what to make of it. Because I love 95% of what American Gods is doing this season, but I genuinely had no idea what to make of this, like what they wanted us to think. I went through the thought process of wondering if it was meant to be a parody, like a bit, a gag.
Because of the music, and picking all the most violent bits, not the most loving bits — and then cutting to her saying “no, he’s the guy who killed me.” Given what happens later, I do think it was meant to be 100% serious. Unfortunately, something about the music and visual combo didn’t work for me to make it so.
Brittany: I don’t think it undercut the absurdity of what we were witnessing enough. American Gods is smart. This did not have that edge.
Natalie: Someone could have made a better cut of them and used a better song and had this same scene gut us. Like her thinking back on him, and then really showing us that her denial was bullshit. This, at first I thought it might be the new showrunner trying to make fun of, and then bury the idea of, the ship. Like LOL YOU THOUGHT. You were dumb to ship this! And harden up on the idea that no, he was always her enemy. But the rest of the episode doesn’t imply that at all, so I THINK this was meant to be legitimately loving and sentimental.
Brittany: At first hoping that we would cut to Laura watching this with a sharp — “who edited this crap?” I’m a sap for these two, I did not need a montage to make me emotional, I’ve been emotional and rooting for them for going on 3 years. I would really like the inside baseball of putting this together, but whatever path that got us to this cut was the wrong one.
Natalie: I have faith that a #madwife shipper online can make a better “AMV” (as the kids now say) but I appreciate the fact that they were trying to make it matter I guess. Because it very much does matter. I just would have done it totally differently and I was confused about what they were asking me to think until later in the episode. Still, blue flower field footage, always a killer.
Brittany: The blue flower footage… that entire scene has never left me since first watching it. I think it was one of the series’ top directed and shot moments. The blood being washed off the tomb was enough to make me want to crawl out of my skin in excitement. I wanted this to happen with the spear, when she was carrying him, when she got him to the tomb in the first place. I’ve been waiting! But to have this first, I didn’t need it.
Natalie: But yeah, honestly, appreciate the sentiment of the fanvid, wish it had landed for me, a person utterly obsessed with their weird love story, but maybe it was there to fill in less invested folks or those who didn’t see American Gods season 2. Even for that I would have done it differently.
Now the blood anticipation, THAT was well done. Like the body getting removed and all, that was a creeping suspicion and a build and then Gilbert broke the potion bottle after the blood had been made to run again with water… It’s a horrible thing, that they didn’t work this out before he died — then she could have given him his coin and lived happily ever after.
Brittany: And Laura does feel guilty about that saying that it is something that she should have been able to do. I can’t believe we got this. I’ve done my waiting to have him be the one to bring her back and I was not disappointed with it playing out the way it did.
Natalie: I can’t believe it at last, and she is truly alive.
Of all the things from the book to change, this feels the weirdest to me. Because that NEVER happens. She never truly lives again. We’ve been questioning how they were going to keep her around and while this makes the most sense (and I’m completely onboard!) it is quite the diversion.
Before Laura gets revived in the tomb, she’s been trying to figure out the relevance of a song that was playing over her video, and the AV Guy tells her it’s Schweiger’s Requiem of Balder. (Not a real piece.) She wants to know more, the relevance, but he can’t help her — however, we can say that given we know that Shadow is Wednesday’s son now — Balder is Odin’s son.
Brittany: I will say that Laura in this episode was the nicest we’ve seen her… ever? Perhaps she got this way with Sweeney towards the end. But the wrath of Laura was definitely turned down to the two Shadow wanted Tech Boy to be at. She’s asking more questions and waiting for answers and least being semi accepting if there isn’t an answer. Just as she is getting antsy about not getting more from the AV man, she is pulled away. But whether the song’s meaning clicks right away or not, she is definitely on a course to have a run in with Shadow since I imagine she has a one track mind to get Odin.
Natalie: I think that once she’s back to life, she is different for sure. She’s certainly changed since the video about her dad, but I think this Laura now alive again, she’s really quite fundamentally different. I remember Mama-ji warning her about the potion — it matters why you take it. She told Laura she has the power to destroy. AV Guy says she has a powerful destiny. But I think she is going on that path with the true awareness of her past self and a clear mind now.
And a box of ashes and an ice cream bar. She’s so hurt by Sweeney’s death, very openly — though I loved that moment of her correcting Gilbert that no, she didn’t kill him and isn’t a threat. Do you think she has fully processed that he was deeply in love with her? If she realises the potion is what worked, she has to have — but it’s one of those things where I wonder if the truth will ever truly out. We know for a fact, but she doesn’t know that wet blood mixed into potion on her ashes… unless she found the remains. Did you take her as understanding this?
Brittany: I do not think that she has fully processed it, no. And I think that she won’t until we get to the hoard again, because we do have to go back there eventually. That is where I think she is going to have to fully face what we all know. But there is that spark of recognition when she realizes what happened in the tomb. That his blood brought her back and that she didn’t do enough to get him back. The fact that the coin never made it to his hand I think is weighing on her more right this moment, that guilt that she woke up and he wasn’t there. So, it will settle, but I think she has to mourn him first before she can look at what was there.
Natalie: True, but I am curious about whether she even knows it was the blood/potion that did it, even though what else would it be? It sounds like she needs to talk this all out with Ibis.
Brittany: Hmm, I didn’t think there was any gray area there. But maybe she doesn’t know. I feel like she would just go down the street in New Orleans for confirmation on what happened. But yeah, maybe Ibis can help her sort out what happened.
Natalie: One thing that did stand out as striking in a genuinely powerful way was Laura’s glimpse — once again — of the golden glow. That once meant Shadow, tracking Shadow, but here was merely a truck stop diner neon. Just the imagery of that, the metaphor of that — is it the roadside signage or is it the light of the divine. That, my friends, is American Gods.
I’m glad she’s sensible enough to head back to Cairo — the best shot at getting an answer — and I’m glad she found a nice lady trucker to take her there.
Brittany: The female truck driver was a nice touch, I am glad she has some company for the long drive. She no longer has the strength to walk with a 6 ft tall leprechaun on her back anymore. But she can sit in a passenger seat with the weight of him on her heart.
Natalie: Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I see good things for Laura — internally if not externally. I don’t know if she’ll die again, but I think that she feels different now. I think that even if she disagrees with the words of Gilbert — the man who found her — she is smart enough to know that this is a massive second chance.
He saw her as a miracle and a reminder of faith. She maybe doesn’t feel quite so holy, but she is certainly different — having a new sense of self both from Purgatory and Sweeney — and I don’t think she plans to waste it. I want to say that her perpetual fuck up cycle is over – whether she survives the series or not.
American Gods season 3 airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET on Starz.