American Gods Season 1 Episode 5: In Advance
There are episode spoilers in this review. This review will also contain book spoilers, but only up to where the show has covered, as I compare the two side-by-side. All images are from American Gods on STARZ unless otherwise noted.
A collection of the latest Neil Gaiman and American God relevancies, but not as related to the show specifically.
The past few weeks have proven more fruitful than I’d have imagined when it comes to quality American Gods/Neil Gaiman headlines. My most recent favorite?
That’s right. In return for $500K donated to The US Association for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Neil will provide us all with an assuredly uninhibited performance of pastas, seafood, cheesecake and prices!
And as of 8:50PM on 5/29/2017, the amount raised was $69,389, which is impressive!
UNHCR has been one of Neil’s greatest dedications as a successful author. He has not only been a voice for the organization, but after a 2014 visit to Jordan to visit displaced Syrian refugees, he became a voice for refugees. In an editorial, he shared not only their unimaginable journey and devastation, but also their tenacious hope.
Here’s the video of some of that journey:
Even if the campaign doesn’t make the $500K mark, the money goes to helping Syrian (and other) refugees attempt to rebuild a life among chaos.
This is one of the reasons I personally have always found Neil to be an admirable character in his own story. He doesn’t just interact with the world around him, he cares considerably even when others do not. He also has founded The Gaiman Foundation, which grants money to everything from the ASPCA, RAINN and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and more.
If you can, donate to help refugees and gain the bonus of a soothing, calm-inducing Neil performance of a Cheesecake Factory menu.
The changes that have transpired in the book-to-screen translation.
Without a doubt, thus far, this episode has veered the most from the book. Just a statement, not a judgment. But until about 3/4ths of the way through the episode, I didn’t have even a remote idea what I should be relating this to in the book as the experiences on screen seemed so widely disconnected from the text. Not to worry, though. I finally latched on like the leech I am. I think.
I’ll get some of the smaller, nuance-y changes out of the way to start. These are the occurrences that happened only in the show. Behold and fear my bulleting skills this week:
- Laura says the cat dying pushed her over the edge and the grief inadvertently lead her to the Robbie affair.
- They’re at a new hotel. Laura meets Shadow at the America Motel in the book, right after he gets his buns kicked by the Children.
- Laura decides to “heat herself up” in case Shadow wants to touch her and thus bathes. Alarming, but as she’s already dead, I guess it’s not too much more alarming (?)
- In one of my favorite moments, Huginn/Muninn, who have been foreshadowing everywhere since the beginning of the show, knocks at Wednesday’s door for a dialog. It is holy perfection.
- Shadow admits he knew she was going to die the last time he called Laura. Definitely new “insight.” Book Shadow knew something was off, but he never admitted this detail.
- From what I recall, Shadow and Laura’s kiss never ignited a heartbeat in Dead-Kinda Laura. And also The Coin was definitely not stuck in her heart. Instead, she wore it on a gold chain throughout the novel.
But goodness me for the main scenes.
Even now, I’m not sure I’ve latched on to the correct correlation. The closest equivalency I can come up with is what I will call, with intended vagueness, “The Train Scene.” I will not elaborate in case it is NOT this scene, but if you know the book, you could probably guess why it’s the closest parallel I can find.
Anyway, let’s just consider it a new scene for sanity and analysis purposes.
Regardless of whether this was a new scene or revamped scene, there was certainly a lot of fast-paced action. This episode was constant movement.
Laura and Shadow’s meet-up finally occurs after at least two episodes of suggestion. Laura is much more willing to talk than the previous, depressed Laura we had met. She even admits that it took dying for her to understand how much she truly loves Shadow, but Shadow is (obviously) hesitant about everything, especially post-affair. He’s not her “Puppy” anymore and refuses any deep connection with her.
But then, BAM. Arrest. Shadow and Wednesday both. Police led to them by a fax machine that hasn’t been on or used in ages. Seems like they’re done for. Even as someone who knows the book inside and out, I was concerned for the characters and wasn’t sure how they’d be pulled from this rut.
But, after police interrogation, BAM again. Media, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and Tech Boy enter the interrogation room. Partially because Tech Boy owes an apology for a tasteless overreaction that resulted in the lynching of a POC during hateful times in America, but mostly, the meeting is for the New Gods/Other Team to seek a merger with the Old Gods (Wednesday’s team). The proposed new merger includes a new (and oh-so-fitting) form of worship for Wednesday: The Odin Missile to be released over North Korea. Thousands would be praising his name! But Wednesday calls BS and sees the offer as more of a push for make the Old Gods “obsolete.”
Meanwhile, Mad Sweeney and Laura fight over The Coin. Such delicious sass on both behalves. Laura gets Sweeney to admit that she has to willingly give the coin to him, thus he’ll never get it. The two fight and we can gauge by Sweeney’s responses (and flights across the room) that Laura has become insanely physically powerful. Cops show up and arrest Sweeney while Laura pretends to have “died” in the bathtub: “You’re a f*cking a**hole, dead wife!”
OVERALL… though there is a lot of explosive new energy in this (likely) brand-new scene, it feels like it fits well with the progress the show has made thus far. If anything, this week’s show brings a reinvigorated energy. The Laura episode was necessary and intriguing, but significantly slowed the overall pace. This episode brought dynamic, lively progression, as well as more cemented connections of who Laura is, how she’s returned from the dead, is Wednesday trustworthy, and even giving Shadow a starker, more understandable platform for his actions.
Admittedly, it was odd to see Mr. World so soon in the show, but I’m also guessing placing him this early is to aid in easier connections for the non-book-reading viewer. Laura’s scene with Sweeney also felt “off” until I realized that there are many allusions in the book to things Laura has done but that we haven’t witnessed. And, like I tend to say, it hasn’t thus far messed with the plot integrity, so both are notable but probably non-factors at this point.
Also, I have no idea what the tree that grabbed Shadow is meant to be and it burns my soul that I have to wait to find out.
The most distinguished occurrences of the episode.
Primarily, I enjoyed the nonstop developments and found the pace engaging. See above reasons.
Gillian Anderson as Media as David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe has yet again revealed her uncanny flexibility in roles when it comes to acting. And besides her acting, thanks to the effects team and makeup team, she was an astonishingly convincing Bowie – even down to the anisochoria (differently sized pupils). Her Marilyn Monroe was sultry and knowing but also ultimately still Media, not Marilyn. Her dedication to Media over Media’s “characters” is absolutely vital.
Crispin Glover introduced an upfront, no-nonsense leader of The Other Side, but also unleashed a chaotic, unbalanced personality. He’s not how I pictured Mr. World, per se, but possibly even more functional than the textual Mr. World.
Finally, I also absolutely adored the Huginn/Muninn conversation. Another simple but pivotal consideration. Most of us, as handed down to us by the “scriptures” or re-tellings, would imagine Odin atop his lofty throne with the two ravens whispering in his ear. But what if it was 2017? Yeah, you can bet your tail Wednesday would be receiving intel at a hotel door from a squawking raven.
The more displeasing impressions of the episode.
My main “wait, what?” of this episode was the beginning origin tale of Nunnyunnini. I found the book’s description clearer, more concise. This felt more difficult to follow, even though I knew what was happening. I also didn’t understand why there was a need to make it animated (although the animation itself was well done, truly), when all of the other origin-like tales have been acted.
So much influential movement that, despite this episode mostly seeming like a new addition to the original story, continuity and interest levels remain high. Gillian Anderson and Crispin Glover add a new level of life and worship to the New Gods while Wednesday’s grounded stubbornness, arrogance and wittiness leads an increasingly distrustful but faithful Shadow.
And though I generally have an idea what we’ll be seeing in the next episode, consider me clueless but excited for next week.