Beginning with a tongue in cheek western-style sequences in which we see a band of weary travellers attempting to cross a deep river to safety on the far bank, this episode again takes aim at various failings of American society through the medium of religious iconography both modern and ancient. As the group of fatigued refugees are crossing one begins to drown in the rushing waters and is rescued by a man, whose long hair and beard and ability to walk on water will make him instantly recognisable as one of the great folk heroes of The West (yes, ladies and gents, it's our very own Jesus Christ). Jesus is subsequently gunned down by border patrol as an unwanted illegal attempting to trespass on the sacred soil of the US of A, an uncannily prescient statement on American politics. From there the episode continues with the story of Wednesday and Shadow, who confront the god Vulcan, Roman god of fire who has in the present day found new expression as a manufacturer of bullets, fitting perfectly into his new role as the frontman for this new American obsession. The show hammers home its politics, by having Jesus killed by this ancient god, whose immoral opportunism has seen him continue his former position of power. We see the cynicism necessary to cement himself in the new world, the cruelty requisite to survive in a country that, despite technological innovation, has never really cast off its former brutality. There is an undeniable link between the old and the new and a continuity of hate, violence and other immorality, alongside, one assumes, certain positive traits.
We also check in again with Laura, Mad Sweeney, and Salim. The unlikely trio are now on a quest, brought about by Sweeney's desire to retrieve his coin from Shadow's rapidly putrefying wife. Emily Browning's Laura provides a complex anti-hero, a fairly despicable character whom we are nevertheless forced to support in her seemingly heartfelt mission to return to life and her love for her former beau. Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schrieber) is hilarious as usual, with his constantly referring to Laura as "dead wife" and also having one of the few tangible goals in the show. The show does seem to have an issue with pacing, surprisingly for something based on a book there are a number of places where they seem to detour from the central narrative with no clear indication that they will ever return. I am starting to think we might never see Mr. Nancy or Bilquis again. This week we met Vulcan, who we assume will not return, and the same fate has overcome several other characters. Partly this might be seen as a novel approach to storytelling, where the show is more like a road trip with various stops to marvel at another god or monster along the way. I would be more forgiving of this if there was a more solid central plot underlying everything. Ironically it comes down to a lack of faith that they know what they are doing with this story, that everything will be resolved, or the climax will live up to the buildup. Still plenty to enjoy, but I hope that in the following episodes things really start to kick into gear and brings everything together in a satisfying way.