AMERICAN GODS Episode 6 - 'A Murder of Gods'
"People believe things, which means they're real. That means we know they exist. So what came first, gods or the people who believed in them?"
Well, that escalated quickly.
No, seriously, I mean what the fuck?
This week's episode title is pretty literal. Gods can totally die, let us show you how.
"A Murder of Gods" was also the most overtly political the show has gotten thus far. In the "Coming to America" prologue, a group of Mexican men, women and children attempting to cross the border get gunned down (along with their Mexican Jesus, who ends up splayed on the ground, hands and side pierced with bullets) by a shadowed posse, rosaries wrapped around semi-automatics engraved with slogans like "THY KINGDOM COME" spraying bullets with the word "VULCAN" etched into the bases. Unsubtle? Yes. Do I mind that the show is saying very unsubtle things about how the supposedly Christian far-right treats those from abroad seeking shelter and succour? Nope.
Before we get to that though, Shadow is still hurting from his battle with the CGI tree monster from the last episode and seems to have a part of it burrowing around inside his torso. Wednesday explains, as he removes it in a scene that made me squirm and make squeaking noises whilst looking at the screen from between my fingers, that this is Mr Wood. In the book, Mr Wood was one of the human "spooks" who did the grunt work for the new gods, in the TV series he is apparently a former nature god who, when the Industrial Age began, sacrificed the forests and became, in Wednesday's words, "something else". That something else being a part organic part synthetic CGI horror and this scene was so gross, I cannot even.
Once that is out of the way, they drive on to Vulcan, Virginia, a sinister town full of sinister white people, with a big ammunition factory, where the town leader is a grizzled sinister white man called Vulcan. Now, some book purists mewled about the TV show featuring a god who wasn't in the book but (1) I suspect Vulcan is so not the only one we'll get and (2) it acually makes perfect sense. I know I keep harping on this, but the book came out nearly twenty bloody years ago. America has experienced a few cultural shifts since then, and one of them is what feels like a massive uptick in people's awareness of America's gun culture. It makes total sense for Vulcan, the ancient Roman patron god of fire and associated activities such as metalwork and forging, to have an incarnation in America where he's the boss of a terrifying redneck town where a few workers die in unfortunate accidents at ammunition factory every year, and people celebrate funerals by firing guns into the air.
[Sidebar: one of my favourite things this episode was Shadow's facial expressions and body language as he reacted to everything in Vulcan, from being the only black person in a very white and scary-looking town where one of the local heritage sites is a literal fucking hanging tree, to his incredulity at Wednesday having anything to do with Vulcan who is clearly not to be trusted, to what Wednesday does to Vulcan in their final scene of the episode.]
Unlike some of the other old gods we've met so far, Vulcan is doing pretty well for himself. As he says, "I franchised my faith ... You are what you worship. God of the volcano. Those who worship hold the volcano in the palm of their hand. It's filled with prayers in my name. The power of fire is firepower. Not god, but god-like. And they believe. It fills their spirits every time they pull the trigger." It's not explicitly said, but I wonder if we are meant to infer that Vulcan took the offer that Mr World and Media made to Wednesday in the previous episode, or if he simply adapted in a way that Wednesday and some of the other old gods either wouldn't or couldn't.
Whatever the case may be, Vulcan agrees to forge a Very Important Sword for Wednesday, but after it's done and he cheerfully admits that he's ratted Wednesday and Shadow out to the new gods and bad shit is on its way to Vulcan, Wednesday decapitates Vulcan with said sword and pushes him into a vat of his own molten metal, and then to add insult to injury he pisses into the molten metal too, whilst "Laying a curse on the whole fucking thing". I'm very curious what properties the bullets forged from that metal will have, and hope that we get to see Vulcan (the town again) to see the pay-off for this scene.
So Wednesday and Shadow now have a sword that can kill gods in their mitts, and that's pretty much it for the A plot this episode. The B plot involves Laura and Mad Sweeney (I am going to have a lot of trouble calling them their names, rather than Dead Wife and Ginger Minge, by the way) and reintroduces Salim from Episode 3, which I was delighted about. Sweeney has decided that since the only way Laura will voluntarily give him his lucky coin back is if she doesn't need it anymore, he is going to take her to Kentucky because there is someone there, possibly a Jesus, who can resurrect her properly. The cab they try to steal belongs to Salim, who has been on his own little cross-country journey, trying to find the djinn, and they all end up together.
I will be honest, not a whole lot happens story-wise here. We already know that Sweeney is belligerent and wants his coin back, that Laura was aloof and detached even before she was deceased, and that Salim is a sweet-faced doe-eyed cherub of a man, too good for this sinful world. But it's still fun to watch, especially Laura casually threatening to remove Sweeney's lips if he calls her "cunt" one more time.
While Sweeney's asleep in the back of the cab, Laura and Salim divert the road trip back to Laura's home town so she can stare inscrutably through the window of her family home for a while, and then the three of them go back to the amazing alligator bar because it would be a shame to not utilise that set in another episode. Sweeney taunts Laura about her newly discovered active switched-on love for Shadow, bringing us to this little monologue:
"Why do men like anal sex? Because women don't. Your kind of love, dead wife, is the grandest butt-fucking of them all. You can love somebody even when you know they don't like it, even when you know they don't want it. That's some profound knowledge for you right there, wrapped up in a quaint sexual metaphor." I don't think that was as clever as Sweeney or the show writers thought it was, and neither did Laura apparently, because she just shrugs and replies "I don't know. I really like anal sex."
By the way, one of the most quietly impressive things about "American Gods" so far for me is the make-up job on Laura. They are doing a seriously excellent job of making her look dead. Reanimated and functioning, but fundamentally dead.
I'd previously thought there would be 10 episodes this season but I was wrong, it's eight. Two more to go!