This review contains spoilers.
1.5 Lemon Scented You
It’s difficult for American Gods to get much better than it does in Lemon Scented You, if only because it provides viewers with everything they’ve been waiting for while also giving them something completely unexpected. The show features some spectacular acting heavyweights, and while they’ve all had plenty of chances to show off their skills, this week gives every major character in the show a showcase moment, and to list them all would be to do a straight recap of the show, minute-by-minute. Suffice to say, I could not be any happier with American Gods than I am this week.
The episode begins in a beautiful fashion. The first people cross the Bering land bridge into what will become North America. As they arrive, like the slaves or the Vikings, they bring their gods along with them. The people, hungry and cold and consumed by loss, turn to their god for protection and for inspiration. They survive, they thrive, but their mammoth god is quickly forgotten. Once forgotten, the old god turns to dust, crumbling to death where his people had abandoned his totem. Such is the fate of a forgotten god in this world, which is why Mr. Wednesday is so afraid of being forgotten.
Director Vincenzo Natali pulled off something incredible this week. He turned the scene of the tribes crossing into North America and turned it from mere CGI into something beautiful. It was harrowing, touching, and incredible to look at. His background in animation is readily apparent, and his ability to merge digital effects with live-action footage is second-to-none. For all the faults of his films, Cube and Splice have some amazing visuals, and his work with Bryan Fuller on Hannibal is some of the strongest chapters in the entire series. He’s given one of the better scripts of the series too, this week, and he makes the most possible of it.
It’s easier to do good work when you have good partners to work with, and in that sense Natali is given a wonderful script from David Graziano. The confrontation between Laura and Shadow is surprisingly touching; he’s less concerned that she’s back from the dead and more concerned about her infidelity with his best friend. After Shadow and Wednesday are arrested, Laura goes on to have a violent confrontation with Mad Sweeney, which features my second-favorite insulting nickname for Laura, “Dead Wife,” and a fight scene as good as the original introduction of Mad Sweeney and as funny as Laura’s destruction of Technical Boy’s faceless and nameless droogs.
And last but not least, there’s the interrogation room. Wednesday has a unique ability to know when to lie and when to tell the truth; he tries to be a doddering old man with Detective Buffer (Tracie Thoms) only to give up and tell the complete truth in an exposition dump that’s staggering to hear. Wednesday lays out the entire plot, word for word, and ropes in Shadow, Media, Mad Sweeney, Czernobog, and everyone else he can bring in, because it’s a rare instance where telling the truth only further serves to render him impossible to figure out. Turning to Shadow for help won’t get Det. Buffer very far, either, because it’s not long before a tree tries to attack Shadow, the lights go down, and in comes the New Gods.
I’ve been waiting for Crispin Glover to show up on American Gods. He’s the most fascinating character in the promotional material, and that’s before I was even aware of the character he was playing. Crispin Glover makes everything more interesting, and when he shows up in a crisp black suit with the floor lighting up beneath his feet like Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean” music video, he immediately takes command of the scene. He’s genial, he’s kind, he’s gracious and respectful to Wednesday, but when he gets angry, his outburst is all the more powerful because it’s not so much directed at his opponent, but at Technical Boy for sulking and pouting and not offering a genuine enough apology to Wednesday and Shadow.
I can’t say enough good things about the five actors involved in this scene. Ricky Whittle and Bruce Langley hold their own with Ian McShane, Crispin Glover, and Gillian Anderson, all of whom are tremendous performers. Gillian Anderson is the perfect person to take on the role of Media; her David Bowie is brilliant to behold, and her Marilyn Monroe is pitch-perfect because she’s not playing Marilyn Monroe. With her mix of catchphrases and the way she floats into the room on a cushion of air before casually revealing that the FBI had her murdered, she’s playing the ditzy-but-clever victim/sex goddess that the world has turned Marilyn Monroe into. It’s the Monroe of pop culture. And Mr. World is clearly the one pulling all the strings; his cartoon video offering Odin immortality in the form of a satellite missile attack on North Korea, turning it into the new Valhalla, is the perfect pitch by someone who doesn’t really know his audience, but is trying to.
As Wednesday says, the old gods had something to offer their worshippers, the new gods simply fill their time. They might offer Wednesday his own kingdom, but he sees it for what it truly is—exile. As he so cleverly puts it, they’re trying to turn an irritant into a pearl, and the pearl isn’t having it for one bit. The peace offer is rejected; Technical Boy’s teeth are an offering to the old god, but not one that will sway him in the slightest. Odin is clearly out to spill the blood of gods, and one way or another, he’s going to get it.
American Gods is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, with new episodes on Mondays