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.
This week, I don’t have a dominant Footnote(s), so instead, I thought I’d update on two of the most recent past Footnotes.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab/American Gods Campaign
BPAL has released their latest batch of American Gods related scents (see note below!). Including their original, pre-show items, this product set is now the fourth release of Neil-backed oils. The latest line (scroll down to “American Gods – III” on the link above) includes scents like All Father (“Oak leaves and ash, honey mead, wolf musk, a flutter of black feathers, and bronze fennel”), Dead Words on a Dead Frequency (“Tinny eucalyptus and elemi against a flat black backdrop of opoponax”), Fuck You, Said the Raven (“Glossy black, rough, and gravelly: violet-gilded opoponax, black patchouli, myrrh, and oak leaf”) and Roadside Attractions (“Plaster, paint, glass, and plastic surrounding a thrumming core of sacred frankincense”), among numerous others.
*If you have not read the book and don’t want what are likely to be show spoilers for next season, DON’T BROWSE THE LATEST COLLECTION ESPECIALLY.
The divine creativity given all aspects of this entire collection renders it worthy of ultimate praise and consideration. And no, I still have no affiliations to them. Just a fan who is impressed with the book-to-smell skills expressed by their work.
Neil to Read Cheesecake Factory Menu if 500K Raised for Refugees
Around May 23rd, Neil agreed he’d read an entire Cheesecake Factory menu in exchange for $500,000 donated by fans to the US Association for UNHCR. Since the announcement, the number has hit almost $100,000. As of 8:18pm on June 12th, the current amount stands at $94, 153.
Even if this event doesn’t hit the $500,000 mark, that’s a decent chunk of change donated to those that need all the help that can be gathered.
Next week for Footnotes, I’m hoping to cover the comic book series of American Gods, including the art of the award-winning David Mack. I won’t cover the series in its entirety, but at a glance both in story and in what appears to be unrivaled art.
Now to the events of Laura, Essie and Mad Sweeney.
The changes that have transpired in the book-to-screen translation.
This week’s episode was another impressive, divergent journey that followed three of the lesser main characters and their history. Specifically, Mad Sweeney, Laura Moon and Essie MacGowan. So what differed from the book?
- Essie MacGowan was actually Essie Tregowan in the book. Beyond just a name change, Essie also worshipped most loyally the “piskies,” while leprechauns (and a few others) were only barely mentioned. Thus, there was no original connection in the Coming to American story of Essie Tregowan and Mad Sweeney, other than in Essie is taken, in the end, by a red-haired man.
- Mad Sweeney had a much narrower timeline in the novel. He had not seen his death prior to a war and fled the land. He was carried over in the same manner as all of the other gods: by their followers.
- There was no connection between Laura and Essie. They appeared to be separate entities entirely. In show, both are played by the same actress, indicating a possible inferred link or overlying layer between Laura, Essie and Mad Sweeney.
- As already mentioned, and thus I won’t elaborate, the “Travelling Trio,” now only a duo, never met one another as in-book characters, much less had such compelling intertwining. Thus, all interactions of Salim, Mad Sweeney and Laura, and even Essie and Mad Sweeney, are fabricated for the purpose of the show. Successfully, I’d say, but more elaboration on that later.
- On page, when Essie’s “time comes,” the red-headed man finds her in the garden, picking green beans, not peeling apples, as per TV. Yes, I can be that ridiculously minuscule. I could even be worse, but for the sanity of all parties involved, I reel it in.
The most distinguished occurrences of the episode.
First, I’d love to start off celebrating again that once again there has been more peen on-screen, but I don’t think it’s really a celebratory matter quite yet as it was displayed on a corpse, so… moving on.
The most obvious excellence was the interplay between Mad Sweeney and Laura and Essie. As mentioned, these are new-to-screen interlacings, but those that seem to tie up quite beautifully. At this point, we’re getting more developed characters than the book allowed for. And when I say that, I don’t say it for lack of Neil’s writing, because he actually has said there’s tons he had to cut out of the final version. What I mean is that we’re getting even further fulfilling, enriching characters. While the growth of the characters in the written American Gods is also a continuous, impressive development, that which we see in American Gods as a show is a brighter, more magnificent evolution. I had previously never recognized the potential for these stories to overlap.
Pointedly, Sweeney’s new narrative regarding Laura and Essie have attributed more personality to Sweeney than merely what we’ve previously read or perceived of him. He’s not just a belligerent, inflammatory jerkoff there to further the means to his own ends. There is, somewhere in his depths, in his chaos, a heart. And thanks to Essie/Laura, we see the tracings of that heart. The moment after the car crash in which Sweeney is screaming in Irish in the street, ravaged by conflicted inner-nature, we get to see more than the surface arrogance we so often associate with him. Instead, we begin to see his roots, his frustrations, and we can even taste some of his unwillingness to further this twisted gods’ game.
Emily Browning (Laura/Essie) was splendid and, as Essie, finally got to display more than what she is often typecast as, Laura included. She’s often utilized as a profound, lovely, troubled, depressed woman, whereas Essie is lively, provocative and full of belief. And truthfully Emily again nailed it. Facial expressions, conviction, tonal qualities, all of it. Hook, line and sinker. And to be honest, it actually took me a few minutes to even recognize it was Emily. Brava.
And finally, the Celtic compositions rolling in the background… Oh, I could inhale these soul-bending songs for weeks.
The more displeasing impressions of the episode.
Two things. Mild things. Possibly just Michelle things.
- As mentioned, I’m not huge on graphic or graphic-leaning car accidents for my own reasons/PTSD. This was a bit graphic for me, but I imagine was acceptable for most audiences. And by no means was this the worst depiction that I’ve seen.
- Another music gripe, but different than my normal selection. I found the 1950’s songs being played over Essie-era scenes a bit wild. I get why they did this as Mr. Ibis & Mr. Jacquel started the episode and with Mr. Ibis writing, but even the music they were listening to seemed to be mostly 1920’s era. Seemed a bit misplaced, but the songs at least fit the scenes and emotions.
Essentially, this American Gods is our extended cut. Not only an extension, but with new, invigorating additions while also mostly true-to-book.
That we continue to see these character/history-driven episodes that focus away from main characters and the plot-driven journey is actually heartening to me as a fan. Calculated details matter, including these changes that suggest more powerful origins and motivations exist. Mad Sweeney integrated into Laura’s timeline via Essie MacGowan/Tregowan? Masterful and innovative.