The third season of American Gods came to quite an explosive ending last week, with Shadow holding Wednesday’s vigil on the World Tree. It’s an ending that was well prepared for, concluding a season that spent ample time building up Shadow’s struggles with his divinity, his desire for power, and the cyclical nature of him trying to escape Wednesday’s shadow, only to be drawn further into it. On the whole, it was the most consistent season of American Gods to date. While it might not have reached the same heights of past seasons, it maintained a level of quality that ensured the show never reached the same lows of past seasons. Now, with the future of the show in flux, it seems like a good time to revisit the third season, looking at what worked and what didn’t.
NOTE: There will be full spoilers for all three seasons of American Gods. Read at your own risk.
And with that, another season of American Gods comes to a close. Tonight’s episode caps off what’s been the most consistent season of American Gods so far—and what an episode it is. If last week’s episode felt more like a traditional season finale, then this week’s episode acts as a beautiful coda to the season, bringing many of the character arcs to a conclusion while throwing the narrative door wide open for the show to go in any number of directions. It raises more questions than it answers, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It straddles a nice line between faithfulness to the book and faithfulness to what the TV adaptation has become and I feel it works very well—even if there are some developments I’m not entirely sold on just yet. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review features spoilers for episode 3×10 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.
American Gods: Episode 3×10: “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree” Written by: Laura Pusey and Ryan Spencer Directed by: Russell Lee Fine Teetering on the edge of war and peace, the gods gather to mourn a loss. Bilquis’ divine journey brings her to an unexpected revelation, while Shadow finally embraces a destiny that could bring him either greatness or death.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve reviewed an American Gods episode—but that’s not because they’ve been bad. Episode seven felt the victim of quick edits (which were needed to remove Marilyn Manson from the episode) but largely served as setup (albeit good setup) for the rest of the season. Episode eight was extremely beautiful when it focused on Salim’s plotline, but then the stuff with Tyr, Wednesday, and Shadow felt a bit under-baked. The same remains true for this week’s episode. On the surface, it feels a lot like a season finale, wrapping up many of the season’s ongoing plotlines while setting up future ones. But it also reveals one of the season’s biggest problems: in its effort to juggle so many plotlines, it’s forgotten which ones are more important and needed more focus, resulting in a moment that should’ve been a big, explosive reveal landing with more of a thud. Still, most of the episode works very well. (4 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×09. Read at your own risk.
American Gods 3×09: “The Lake Effect” Written by: Laura Pusey and Damian Kindler Directed by: Metin Hüseyin Shadow has to decide the price he’s willing to pay for his idyllic Lakeside life. As Laura and her new ally close in on her target, Wednesday has to persuade Czernobog that it’s time to make peace with their enemies.
A lot happens in this week’s episode of American Gods. So much, in fact, that it feels like the episode is comprised of two different episodes that have been forced together. The first is the conclusion to the previous episode’s Bilquis (Yetide Basaki) arc; the second is a heist-themed episode seeing Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Cordelia (Ashley Reyes) finding dirt on Hutchinson (Sebastian Spence), Demeter’s (Blythe Danner) conservator. The combination of these two storylines creates a tonally weird experience, with the first half of the episode being emotional and philosophical and the second half being more comedic. This doesn’t result in a bad episode, though, just a somewhat uneven one. Still, there’s a lot of exciting highs to be found here. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review contains spoilers for episode 3×05 of American Gods. Read at your own risk.)
American Gods S03E05 – “Sister Rising” Written by: Damian Kindler Directed by: Nick Copus Shadow (Ricky Whittle) explores notions of purpose, destiny and identity with a newly enlightened Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). Elsewhere, Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) struggles with an identity crisis of his own. In his efforts to free Demeter (Blythe Danner), Wednesday (Ian McShane) asks a reluctant Shadow to assist in a new con.
It’s difficult to write weekly reviews of a serialized TV show. When writing a review, you typically want to be able to examine all aspects of the thing you’re reviewing. For a TV show or a film, you want to look at the acting, directing, and writing. That last element is particularly difficult when you’re covering a show that airs week-to-week as many of the episodes don’t have a self-contained narrative that can be evaluated; instead, you hope that what gets set up in earlier episodes is paid off in later ones. This is very true for American Gods—a show which has often been criticized for its slow-paced narrative. So, in that light, I don’t think it’s such a great idea to review each episode of the show the way I’d review an entire story. Instead, I am going to simply talk about what I liked and didn’t like in each episode, with an emphasis on what I hope to see the show do going forward. For this week’s episode, “Serious Moonlight,” there’s a lot to like. Sure, the episode still acts primarily as a setup for the rest of the season, but the individual events of the episode are pretty delightful—from finally getting a good glimpse at Lakeside to journeying to Chicago for a Slavic celebration. There’s a lot to like about this week’s episode and a lot to look forward to. (4 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review will feature spoilers for American Gods S03E02. Read at your own risk.
American Gods S03E02 – “Serious Moonlight” (written by Moise Verneau, directed by Julian Holmes) Shadow (Ricky Whittle) explores his oddly welcoming new town before heading to Chicago for a gathering of the Old Gods on Koliada, an ancient Slavic festival. At the Koliada, Wednesday (Ian McShane) reconnects with his oldest friend, and Salim (Omid Abtahi) mourns the unexpected end of his relationship with The Jinn. Shadow returns to Lakeside to find the town rocked by the disappearance of a teenage girl—and discovers that he himself is a suspect.
American Gods is one of my favorite TV shows. Its quality isn’t always consistent and there seems to be a lot of turnover in front of, and behind, the camera, but there’s nothing else like it on TV and I find myself returning to it time and time again. Its source material being so fantastic helps a lot, of course, but I still find much to enjoy in Starz’s TV adaptation. So, naturally, I was beyond excited to see what they’d do with season three. With another round of cast and crew shakeups, season three had a lot working against it. But it was said to be adapting one of the best parts of the book (the Lakeside arc) and featured a slew of new and exciting cast members, so there was still much to be hopeful about. And, having seen the first four episodes, I’d say that hope is fulfilled. The third season of American Gods feels simultaneously familiar and new—it’s identifiably the same show we’ve fallen in love with but it’s bursting with new energy and momentum. It’s not perfect, but it’s a promising start. (4.5 out of 5 wands)
(NOTE: This review strives to be as spoiler free as possible. There may be mentions to information officially revealed in trailers and promotional material, but no major plot points will be discussed.)
American Gods – Season Three Following his discovery last season that Mr. Wednesday is his father, Shadow attempts to break away and assert himself as his own man. As he settles into life in Lakeside, he uncovers a dark secret while exploring questions of his own divinity. Guided on this spiritual journey by the gods of his black ancestors, the Orishas, Shadow must decide exactly who he is—a god seeking veneration or a man in service of the “we.”
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this second season finale of American Gods but I can pretty confidently say it wasn’t this. And I mean that in the absolute best way humanly possible. The summary provided for the episode was just vague enough that all anybody really knew when going into this episode was that many of our characters would be reeling from the events that happened at the end of the previous episode and that Mr. World and New Media would launch some kind of attack on the nation at large. Aside from that, it was really anybody’s guess. There were certain things that could be inferred based on a basic knowledge of the novel and from events from earlier in the show’s history, but much of this finale was genuinely surprising and very satisfying. (Spoilers for the season 2 finale of American Gods, as well as the novel, follow!)
Episode 2×08: Moon Shadow (Written by Aditi Brennan Kapil and Jim Danger Gray, directed by Christopher J. Byrne) In the aftermath of Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) death, Wednesday (Ian McShane) has disappeared, and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) is tormented by the night’s events. Those that remain witness the power of New Media (Kahyun Kim) as she is unleashed, and the nation is enveloped in a state of panic brought on by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), who cunningly illustrates the power of fear and belief.
I’m on record as not loving last season’s A Prayer for Mad Sweeney. It’s not that it was a bad episode or anything, but it was the penultimate episode of the season and, instead of focusing on setting up the finale in any meaningful way, it spent all of its time on a flashback sequence that was only tangentially connected to one of the characters. It was the story about how Mad Sweeney came to America – but the character didn’t actually appear in the flashbacks until the very end of the episode. Instead, it was basically thirty minutes of the story of Essie McGowan – an interesting story but the definition of padding out an episode. Had this not been the penultimate episode of the season, I might not have been as disappointed by it, but since it was, I really didn’t dig it. So, hearing that the penultimate episode of season two was going to be another one that primarily focused on Mad Sweeney’s backstory, I was a bit skeptical about it. I went in expecting it to be another episode full of padding that didn’t really set up the finale at all. Boy, I was wrong. This episode perfectly balances the flashbacks and the present-day scenes, making sure the flashbacks actually seem related to what’s happening in the present day scenes – and then using those present-day scenes to raise the stakes for the finale in surprising and exciting ways. (MAJOR spoilers follow)
Episode 2×07: Treasure of the Sun (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Paco Cabezas) In Cairo, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) entrusts Shadow (Ricky Whittle) with the Gungnir spear. Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), plagued by the cries of Banshees, recalls his journey through the ages as he awaits his promised battle. Once again, he warns Shadow about Wednesday. Meanwhile, Laura (Emily Browning) receives sage advice from Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey), and Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) finds an audience.
Season two of American Gods seems to be establishing a pattern in which one episode moves the plot forward quite a bit while the next episode slows things down for a more introspective look at the characters. This episode is an example of the former. It’s another episode where a whole lot happens, but it also leaves plenty of room for some truly beautiful character moments. If you’ve been waiting for this second season of American Gods to reach the heights of its first, I think you’ll be very pleased, indeed, with this episode. It’s an absolutely stellar one – and it might be the most visually impressive episode of the season – aside from the premiere, of course.
Episode 2×05: The Ways of the Dead (Written by Rodney Barnes, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield) Steeped in Cairo’s history, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) learns the ways of the dead with the help of Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) and Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). In New Orleans, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) introduces Laura (Emily Browning) to old friends who share their world of voodoo healing. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) embarks on a road trip with Salim (Omid Abtahi) and the Jinn (Mousa Kraish), and they have a challenging discussion about faith. Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) discovers an opportunity to draw new worshippers that might give her the power to break free of Mr. World (Crispin Glover).
American Gods continues its second season with another very good episode. While last week’s episode moved the plot along at a pretty speedy pace, this week’s episode slowed things down a bit more with a more introspective episode, filled to the brim with conversations about religion and faith, as well as renewal. Like I said, it was a pretty good episode. (There will be spoilers ahead!)
Episode 2×04: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Written by Peter Calloway and Aditi Brennan Kapil, directed by Stacie Passon) While Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) take a secret meeting in St. Louis, Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) arrives at the funeral home in Cairo, where she engages in a debate with Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) and Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes). Laura (Emily Browning) rejoins Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and Tech Boy (Bruce Langley) pays a visit to his first worshipper (Andrew Koji).