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).
Man, this episode is exactly what I wanted to see coming out of last week’s episode. While, on the whole, I liked last week’s episode quite a bit, I did feel like it didn’t progress the overall plot forward enough, instead focusing most of its time developing Shadow’s backstory some. Muninn, thankfully, does the exact opposite; quite a lot happens in this episode and much of it is really exciting. We’re introduced to New Media, Sam Blackcrow, and Argus and a whole lot of pieces are moved around the metaphorical chess board as the season continues down its current path. I really, really, really dug this episode. A lot. (NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE WITHIN THIS REVIEW!)
Episode 2×03: Muninn (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Deborah Chow) As he is tracked by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), Shadow (Ricky Whittle) makes his way to Cairo, thanks to a ride from Sam Black Crow (Devery Jacobs). Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) slyly gains Laura’s (Emily Browning) help in forging an alliance with a powerful god. Mr. World introduces Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) to New Media (Kahyun Kim) and assigns them a very important task.
I’d say this episode pretty much confirms those rumors about Gaiman being unhappy that season one of American Gods departed a bit from the events of the book as nearly half of this episode is stuff that didn’t happen in the book. This isn’t a bad thing at all; in fact, I like that the show is continuing to branch out from the source material. There is so much stuff in American Gods that wasn’t explored in the novel but can be explored in the TV show, so I am very happy with the show taking the occasional detour from the book. That being said, is this detour worth the time spent on it? Yeah, I’d say so. (Spoilers for episode 2×02!)
Episode 2×02: The Beguiling Man (written by Tyler Dinucci & Andres Fischer-Centeno, directed by Frederick E.O. Toye)
Promising vengeance for the death of a beloved old god, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) begins preparation for a great battle. Meanwhile Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) chase Shadow’s (Ricky Whittle) diminishing light after his disappears. The Jinn (Mousa Kraish) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) set out to retrieve the Gungnir spear, and Shadow encounters an associate, Mr. Town (Dean Winters), of Mr. World (Crispin Glover).
It’s been nearly two years since the first season of American Gods aired its final episode and a lot has happened behind the scenes. In November of 2017, original executive producers (and showrunners) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left the show after reported disputes related to the budgeting of the season. From there, Jesse Alexander was hired as showrunner and, with the help of Neil Gaiman, retooled the second season of the show a lot, tossing out the six scripts that Fuller and Green had written. For a while, everything seemed to be going fine until reports emerged in September of 2018 that Alexander had been fired from the show and the finale had gone through seven different drafts and everything was in disarray. Gaiman and various members of the cast and crew have disputed these reports, but, nonetheless, to say that the show has been mired by behind-the-scenes drama would be an understatement. Many were worried the second season of the show would never see the light of day, and if it did, that there would be a noticeable drop in quality from the first season. Well, it’s March 10, 2019, and the first episode of the second season of American Gods has premiered on Starz and I’m happy to report that there is no noticeable drop in quality and the show’s just as good as ever. (NOTE: Spoilers for episode 2×01 follow!)
Episode 201: The House on the Rock (written by Jesse Alexander & Neil Gaiman, directed by Christopher J. Byrne)
Following the epic showdown at Easter’s party, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) continues his quest to pitch the case for war to the Old Gods with Shadow (Ricky Whittle), Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plans revenge and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) goes on the hunt for Media. First stop — the House on the Rock, where Shadow is taken “backstage.”
Season two of American Gods has had a pretty tough time getting to our screens. Originally renewed shortly after the first season began airing, season two suffered numerous production woes – first, the loss of its original two showrunners, Michael Green and Bryan Fuller; then the hiring and subsequent (reported) sacking of new showrunner Jesse Alexander; and, finally, countless delays to the show actually arriving on our screens. For a while, it seemed as though American Gods would never return to TV again or, if it did, it would return in a state that was dramatically less spectacular than its original season was. Well, thankfully, season two of American Gods officially premieres on STARZ this Sunday, March 10. STARZ has provided critics with the first two episodes of the season – and I have seen them – and I am happy to report that the show has, indeed, returned – and it’s returned without a significant drop in quality! (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Full, spoiler-filled reviews of each episode will be available on the Sundays that they air.)
Starring Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, “American Gods” is a one-hour drama adapted from Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel about a war brewing between Old Gods and New Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two the battle moves inexorably toward crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide. While Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge on Cairo, Illinois: forcing Shadow to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice.
After last week’s less than stellar episode, American Gods is back with another strong, engaging episode. And just in time, too, as it’s the season finale. And, boy, it’s quite an epic one. All the various plot threads of the season come together in one big cluster as it all leads to the house of the goddess Easter. In Come to Jesus, written by Bekah Brunstetter, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green and directed by Floria Sigismondi, it’s the eve of war and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) must recruit one more Old God: Ostara, ne Easter, Goddess of the Dawn (Kristen Chenoweth), but winning her over will require making a good impression, and that is where Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) comes in. (As always, this review will contain spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk.)(more…)
Well, we were bound to encounter a less than stellar episode eventually, and A Prayer for Mad Sweeney is that episode. It’s certainly not bad; in fact, it’s very enjoyable and if it were placed anywhere else besides as the penultimate episode of the season, it would raise from less-than-stellar to good. The problem is that this episode is essentially one long detour from the main plotline right before the season finale. It’s a great story that’s well told, but placing the episode this close to the finale was a mistake. Written by Maria Melnik (and Michael Green and Bryan Fuller) and directed by Adam Kane, A Prayer for Mad Sweeney tells the story of how Mad Sweeney came to America. After her reunion with Shadow (Ricky Whittle) ends far too quickly, Laura (Emily Browning) turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life, and back to Shadow. Mad Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) long, winding, and often tragic past is explored. (As always, this episode will feature spoilers. You have been warned.)(more…)
At the end of A Murder of Gods, Laura tells Salim that life is great. And, to be honest, that’s really indicative of this episode. Life – and all that one can do in life – is great. And this episode is great, too. Written by Seamus Kevin Fahey, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green and directed by Adam Kane, A Murder of Gods picks up shortly after last week’s Lemon Scented You left off. On the run after the New Gods’ show of force, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) seek safe haven with one of Mr. Wednesday’s oldest friends, Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen), God of the Fire and the Forge. (As always, this review contains spoilers! So, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, you’ll probably want to see it before you read any further.)(more…)
What do you get when you put the leaders of two warring factions of gods together in the same room? Perhaps it would be something like what happens in Lemon Scented You, the latest episode in STARZ’s hit adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. After the backstory-heavy episode last week, Lemon Scented You kicks things up a notch when the leader of the New Gods, Mr. World (Crispin Glover), finally meets with the leader of the Old Gods, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). Written by David Graziano (teleplay) and Bryan Fuller and Michael Green (head writers/showrunners) and directed by Vincenzo Natali, Lemon Scented You picks up from where the past two episodes have left off: Shadow (Ricky Whittle) walks into his motel room and finds his dead wife, Laura (Emily Browning), waiting for him on his bed – very much not dead. Shadow’s emotional reunion with his wife is interrupted when he and Wednesday are arrested and kidnapped by the New Gods, led by the mysterious Mr. World. (Spoilers ahead!)(more…)