So far this season American Gods hasn’t been shy when it comes to sociopolitical commentary. But this week they dialed it up to 12 (it’s one more than 11!) and the result is eerie.
“You already know my name”
When a couple of episodes ago Mr. Wednesday mentioned Mexican Jesus I wondered if this would be something that would be pursued later. Fortunately it is the case and this Coming to America segment deals with it.
And it’s exactly what you’d expect, considering how Wednesday describes Mexican Jesus came to the US. When that scene started I already figured it’d be that kind of episode but it doesn’t stop there. It also serves as a foreshadowing for the central conflict of this episode in a cool way.
There were things that I found a bit hamfisted on that scene, and the moment where the man asks Mexican Jesus his name didn’t feel right. Like the question didn’t make sense in Spanish at all. I don’t have the feeling it was a regional thing but more of a proper mistake, because the character actually mixes into one sentence the two usual ways you ask someone for their name in Spanish.
“What came first, the gods or the people who believe in them?”
It has to be mentioned that mostly everything we see in this episode is brand new. Except a couple of conversations, everything else didn’t happen in the book.
Still, the idea behind this episode came from Neil Gaiman. He didn’t write the episode himself because of his presumably insane schedule, but he gave the showrunners the idea. Apparently Gaiman ended up in a small town in Alabama some years ago. This town had a statue of Vulcan and a factory. He was told that accidents that killed people were frequent in the factory but paying for damages was cheaper than fixing the factory.
So this was added into the episode. With a small tweak, since Vulcan was the god of the forge he was also made a god of firearms.
And it works wonders, it’s single-handedly the most disturbing aspect of this episode. Seeing Shadow and Wednesday roll into Vulcan’s town (also called Vulcan, same with his factory) is odd and chilling. Everyone’s carrying guns, and dressed almost like nazis. It’s a bit on the nose but it does the trick. Shadow’s the only person of colour in that scene so it makes everything feel even more hostile. Especially with the lynching references.
The real pity is that this commentary in particular won’t go beyond this episode. I wish they had developed it further, because it could’ve been so much more. Though to be fair, Mr Wednesday pissing on the forge might be enough by itself.
“Please stop stealing my cab.”
The episode alternates Shadow and Wednesday with what’s going on with Laura. But these scenes were more refreshing this week.
Laura has been grouped with Mad Sweeney and Salim. All the members of this mismatched trio want something, Sweeney wants his coin, Laura wants Shadow (even if she thinks he doesn’t want her) and Salim is seeking the jinn. So them travelling together makes all the sense in the world.
Their scenes together are a huge contrast to the rest of the episode. They’re relaxed and there’s some humour to them, especially in Laura’s threat to Sweeney after she gets fed up with him calling her the c-word. And it’s also interesting seeing characters so different bonding together over the course of a road trip. Especially since over those conversations they share their vision of the world, or offhand comments in the case of Mad Sweeney.
But in a way, it’s disappointing that this episode didn’t really move the plot forward. It felt like a small detour, like when you leave your house to do something important, but you realise that you’ve forgotten your wallet or phone so you go back for it. I also felt that the Vulcan sideplot could’ve been much more than what it turned out to be.
This episode was a bit of a missed chance. I still enjoyed watching it but it was a bit of a misstep, they could’ve done so much with it. Especially because this season of American Gods only has two episodes left.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.