American Gods (Episode 3)

This post contains spoilers for Episode 3 of American Gods.

Again we were introduced to a couple of new characters: Death, the djinn, the moon lady, and revisited an old friend, namely Mad Sweeney. The opening scene was everything that the audience has come to expect from the series, with portentous overtones, the perfect juxtaposition of the mundane and the sublime with the deceased ascending to heaven up a vertiginous set of fire escape stairs outside her Queens apartment. There was always going to be some welching on the deal struck with Czernobog last week, but it was disappointing that it came down to a simple rematch. There is still little clear notion of why they are all heading to Wisconsin and this week we didn't see any of the technological gods set up previously. All in all it felt like things had stalled a little with many things having little impact on the major plot (aside from the final moments). Large amounts of set up for later events in the series I suspect.

I felt that things started to fall apart a little with the difficulties in balancing the various characters and stories. For one we didn't see anything of Bilquis this week, making her scenes in the first two episodes a set up that we are still waiting to be paid off. Likewise Anansi from last week. Occasionally, as with the djinn in this episode, the show is too mysterious and gives you too little motivation to really understand the characters. It is not that it is a problem that you are waiting for a resolution, but more that you are not even sure what the significance of what you've witnessed is. Mad Sweeney likewise gets such a short amount of screen time that it feels that they are skipping over a lot of stuff that should be important. Whereas in a book you spend a little more time with characters and get to know them, here there are so many walk-on parts that are hard to form any kind of relationship.

There is still plenty to enjoy about the show. The writing is strong with great individual scenes and I especially still enjoy Shadow and Mr. Wednesday's interactions where they discuss the line between fantasy and reality. The sudden bursts of extreme violence is also still there, which will please fans of exploitation cinema. The reaction to seeing a man speared through the head with a construction pole is one that can only come of such a peculiar show as this. Part horror, shock at the grotesque nature of his death, and amusement when considering Mad Sweeney's bad luck.

Again the cinematography and special effects were incredible. I especially liked the slow motion snowflakes forming and the miniature car driving over the marshmellows. They are sometimes in danger of appearing like the sort of blandly generic CG montages you see in various commercials, they do help to push the shows theme of everyday magic and beauty of the world around us. It sometimes struggles with more surreal imagery. I am thinking particularly of the flaming eyes of the djinn, which would be amazing when written down, but looks a little cheap when they attempt to show it on screen. The show has its own unique style that is part advertisement. I don't know whether this is some meta-commentary on television itself as a sort of modern deity (but perhaps I am thinking too hard about it).