It is fair to say that American Gods as a series has been something of a patchwork. Some fantastic scenes, some great moments, but with a central plot that is weak at best and non-existent at worst. It has taken me until now to truly appreciate this show for what it is. It is unconventional in a more fundamental way than might be apparent in earlier episodes. I must admit that this is entirely my failing and not the shows. With the introductory sequences showing various gods coming to America, in the odd interludes involving Bilquis, even in some of the sequences with the new gods, there has from the beginning being more of a collage or mosaic feel to the show, rather than the more typical plot structure where characters are all introduced to provide something to the narrative. The show is best understood on a thematic or emotional level, rather than the typical soap-opera interpersonal drama that we are used to. That is not to say that the show has not suffered a little from poor character development, it has, but rather that they may be attempting something different than most shows.
All that being said, this episode was perhaps one of my favourite of the entire series. We follow two interweaving stories. One of a young Irish girl several centuries ago who is transported to America and her travails in the new world; and a second with Laura and Mad Sweeney. In the historical tale the girl is met by Mad Sweeney, and Emily Browning is helpfully cast as the Irish girl to make clear the comparison between the past and present tales. I found the story of her plight, her trip to America, failures and successes very powerful. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the anachronistic 50's soundtrack lends the whole thing a Tarantino-esque style. The present day story of them was less engaging, and this is where I feel that the show has fallen down for me. Having never read the book I will have to go out on a limb and suggest that the central plot of Wednesday and Shadow (barely even referenced this week) is fairly inconsequential. It is a means of introducing us to these various characters, whose lives and stories are the real focus. Unfortunately, in this type of episodic show, which almost demands that there is plot progression each week, it can seem drawn out or as though nothing is happening. This has been my experience for a number of episodes. Last week it became clear that the show is not really about that plot at all, at least not entirely, but rather an exploration of what gods are, what makes people believe or keep their faith, and what happens when people no longer believe. All of these ideas have been present to some extent in the show, but television is not the ideal medium for discussions of this kind.
This is definitely one of the best episodes. Great chemistry between Emily Browning and Pablo Schrieber is a joy to behold again. Both threads of the story land with an emotional weight that has been lacking thus far, and it sets up a great finale at the end. Definitely excited to see how they manage to bring this bizarre experiment of a show to a close.