This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Warning: contains major spoilers for American Gods Season 1.
A war is coming. The old gods and the new are preparing for battle. Both sides are recruiting soldiers. In the broadest of strokes, that’s the story of American Gods season one. In much finer strokes, it’s also the story of vagina nebulas, fire-eyed jinn, jellybean-defecating rabbits, David Bowie-Scully and Mexican Jesus.
Pitched somewhere between the above, here’s a recap of the major action so far ahead of season two…
“Your wife, she died in the early hours of this morning. It was an automobile accident.”
Small-time crook Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is days from release after serving three years of a six-year prison sentence for aggravated assault and battery, when his wife Laura (Emily Browning) dies in a car accident. Attempting to fly back to their Eagle Point home for her funeral, Shadow is delayed at the airport and on his flight meets the mysterious Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane), who offers him a job. The flight is grounded due to bad weather, and Shadow later runs into Wednesday in a bar, where he agrees to take the job if he loses a coin toss. Shadow uses a coin rigged for tails, but it comes up heads, and Wednesday seals their “compact” with three shots of mead.
“Ain’t you a little tall for a leprechaun?”
At the bar, Shadow meets another of Wednesday’s employees, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), who says he’s a leprechaun, picks gold coins out of the air and is blessed with good luck. Instructed by Wednesday to test Shadow’s mettle, Sweeney picks a fight and unwittingly gives Shadow his magic gold coin, breaking his lucky streak. He pursues Shadow to get it back.
At his wife’s funeral, Shadow learns from her friend Audrey (Betty Gilpin) that Laura was having an affair with her husband Robbie, who also died in the car accident. He drops Mad Sweeney’s magic gold coin onto the fresh soil of Laura’s grave, where it sinks down into her chest, resurrecting her.
“We are the future.”
On his way back from the funeral, Shadow is ambushed by Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), a vaping youngster who offers Shadow a job that he refuses. Technical Boy’s goons beat Shadow savagely and lynch him. He’s rescued by a mysterious figure that later turns out to be Laura, who has super-strength in her new undead state, which also causes her to see Shadow as a gold glowing light she’s able to follow.
“I’m the one they sacrifice to.”
In a shopping centre, Shadow is addressed by Media (Gillian Anderson) from a TV set in the guise of Lucille Ball from I Love Lucy. She also tries to recruit him but confused, he ignores it as just another strange dream. He and Wednesday drive to Chicago, where Wednesday tries to recruit the fortune-reading Zorya sisters and cattle-slaughterer Czernobog (all ancient deities) to his cause. Shadow bets his life against Czernobog joining the cause in a game of checkers but loses. He convinces Czernobog to have a rematch and wins, so the cow-killer agrees to join Wednesday but to kill Shadow when it’s all over.
Shadow and Wednesday pull off a scheme to rob a night’s worth of bank deposits. On Wednesday’s urging, Shadow makes it snow. At Shadow’s motel room, undead Laura is waiting for him. Laura’s backstory reveals her to have been a disaffected, lonely croupier who met Shadow when she warned him not to rob her workplace. Believing in nothing, she once tried to kill herself using bug spray in her hot tub. After years of marriage, a bored, unhappy Laura devises a perfect plan to rob the casino with Shadow, but the cops arrive and he takes the rap, going to prison. Laura says she’ll wait for Shadow but 13 months in to his sentence, starts an affair with Robbie, then ends it on the day they both die in the car accident.
“Get out of my house, you zombie whore!”
In the afterlife, the god Anubis tells dead Laura that as she believed in nothing in life, she will go to nothing in death, and is ushering her into the hot-tub where she tried to kill herself when the magic coin drags her back into her body on Earth. Laura rescues Shadow from being lynched, visits Audrey, and has her arm sewn back on. Funeral directors Mr Ibis and Mr Jacquel (Anubis) fix Laura up at their funeral home and Anubis tells her “when you are done, I will complete my task and deliver you unto darkness.” When Laura kisses Shadow, she feels her dead heart beat for the first time.
“You’ve gotten yourself mixed up in some really weird shit, Shadow.”
Shadow and Wednesday are arrested in connection with the bank robbery, following a tip-off from their enemy, Mr World. Media, in the form of Life On Mars David Bowie, pays a visit to Technical Boy and tells him that he has to apologise for lynching Shadow.
Shadow and Wednesday are about to escape interrogation at the police station thanks to the help of the spider god Anansi, when Media (in the guise of The Seven Year Itch Marilyn Monroe) floats in, with Mr World (Crispin Glover) and Technical Boy, who is forced to apologise to Shadow.
“We’re not here to fight.”
The new gods—Mr World, Media and Technical Boy—propose a merger with the old gods. They’ve been recruiting old gods and rebranding them for the modern world and they offer Wednesday a missile that would ensure everybody knows his name and bows to him in prayer. He refuses, and the new gods massacre the entire police station on their way out, leaving a sinister tree that stabs Shadow in the gut.
Having discovered Laura’s empty grave, Mad Sweeney tracks her down to recover his magic coin. Its enchantment means that he can’t take it from her and she must give it willingly. She refuses and he says that he’ll wait until her dead flesh drops off her bones and then take it as her days are numbered. He calls her Dead Wife, she calls him Ginger Minge, and they steal a taxi, driven by Salim, a Muslim immigrant we met in one of the Coming To America story segments, who is searching for the jinn he fell in love with. Mad Sweeney tells Laura he can take her to someone who can resurrect her permanently, without the need for a magic coin.
“What came first, Gods or the people who believe in them?”
Wednesday removes the living shard of tree inside Shadow’s gut, and they go to visit another old god, Vulcan. He pretends to agree to join Wednesday in the fight against the new gods, but has already betrayed him and made a deal with the enemy to be worshipped through guns and bullets. Wednesday asks the god to forge him a mighty sword, and when Vulcan presents it to him, he uses it to cut off Vulcan’s head and kick him into a fiery pit.
A flashback episode tells the story of Essie Macgowan, an Irishwoman played by Emily Browning sentenced to transportation for stealing who brings the old Celtic gods to America through her stories. In prison, Essie meets Mad Sweeney, whom she keeps alive across the ocean by telling tales of leprechauns, leaving offerings to him, and passing down folk superstitions. When Essie dies, it’s Mad Sweeney who comes to take her to her death.
“Tell him it’s done.”
Laura decides to let Salim go in search of his jinn, and steals an ice-cream truck, which they crash due to a white rabbit in the road. Laura’s magic coin is flung from her body in the impact, which kills her permanently. Mad Sweeney, feeling guilt for having killed Laura and Robbie in the first place—running their car off the road on Wednesday’s orders—returns the coin and brings Laura back to life. Wednesday was also the one who ruined Laura’s perfect robbery plan and orchestrated Shadow going to prison. He needed him to have nothing left to lose, Mad Sweeney explains to Laura.
“This is all too big, too much going on at once. We should start with a story.”
Shadow and Wednesday have new suits made by the spider god Anubis aka Mr Nancy, who tells them the story of Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), the love goddess whose power waned but who accepted the new gods’ offer of restoring it by using dating apps as an altar on which she would be worshipped. Bilquis absorbs her lovers into her vagina, where they live on floating in a space-like void. Anubis tells Wednesday that as the new Gods have a queen, he also needs one. Wednesday and Shadow go to visit Ostara (Kristin Chenoweth), the goddess of spring. They arrive mid-celebrations on Easter Sunday when Ostara is hosting a party for many incarnations of Jesus.
“You weren’t murdered. You were sacrificed.”
Laura and Mad Sweeney arrive at Ostara’s, where Mad Sweeney has told Laura she can be resurrected. Laura learns that because she was killed by a god—Wednesday—Ostara can’t resurrect her. (“That is a death without undoing. Not by my hand, anyway.”) Having learned the truth about Wednesday’s involvement in their lives and her death, Laura asks to speak to her husband.
“Tell them we’ve taken the spring. They can have it back when they pray for it.”
Wednesday tells Ostara to reclaim her worshippers from Jesus, and her festival from Christianity by causing a famine and forcing people to sacrifice to her for the return of the spring. She refuses initially, but when Media (in the guise of Gone With The Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara), Technical Boy and a version of Mr World arrive at the party with a gang of goons, Wednesday kills their men by drawing down lightning from the sky and she does as he suggests, sending a famine across America. Shadow, who earlier told a Jesus that he didn’t think he knew how to believe in anything, finally understands that he’s in a world of gods, and says that he has faith. Wednesday reveals his true identity to Shadow. He is the ancient Norse God Odin.
“You wanted a war, you have one.”
The season finale ends with a procession of ancient deities piling into Wisconsin tourist attraction The House On The Rock for a pre-war summit. One such is love goddess Bilquis, who has been told to repay her favour to Technical Boy by seducing (we assume) Shadow and absorbing him into her void.
Season one also features several beautifully told ‘Coming To America’ immigrant god stories weaving in Danish, Egyptian, Arabic, Mexican and many other nation’s deities.