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Wrapped in this beautiful and weird show—and damn, is it visually gorgeous—is a very basic theme. Religion and the gods rely on humans. Human memory, to be exact. A god does not exist without the human mind, and the gods are fighting for that mind-share. Today, we are besieged with stuff to keep our minds and our wallets occupied. Every single person on this planet is a potential consumer. Some cling tighter to their gods, some believe in the prosperity gospel, which allows them their gods and their stuff. Some drop the gods altogether.
The opening scene of Episide 5 reminds us that America had gods long before the European folk got here. Animation—again, gorgeous!—tells us the story of a Astula and her tribe moving east across the Siberian land bridge, bringing their god Nunyunnini, trailing behind the woolly mammoths. Their god kept it 100, telling the holy woman that escape from the cold and starvation would mean death. Astula is gored on a the buffalo god of an established tribe, who then kill all the adults and adopt the children.
The gods are great. But people are greater. For it is in their hearts that gods are born. And to their hearts that they return. Gods live, and gods die.
Children don’t have good memories, so their Nunyunnini is left to rot, consumed by the trees in the forest. Forgotten.
When I first saw the title of this episode—Lemon Scented You—, I thought it was referring to Laura Moon, dragging along her fly paper. Dang, how she must stink as she sits in Shadow’s motel room, waiting. Shadow’s reaction when he sees her is the greatest, “Oh, hey girl. Whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck…” face I’ve ever seen. What is Laura Moon playing at? Does she want forgiveness? Redemption? Does she think Shadow’s dick is going to bring her back to life? Her attitude is still shit but at least Laura knows herself. Why did you fuck Robby, Laura? Dead cat and wine. If I had a dollar…
The thing about dead bodies is that they are cold. Laura takes a warm bath, but Shadow doesn’t take the bait. “Are you still my puppy?” “No.”
Mr. Wednesday has access to those ravens from Game of Thrones, and one shows up, snitching on Shadow. Mr. Wednesday comes to room 55 to break up whatever is happening, noting the smell of cat piss and oven cleaner. Blue lights start flashing. The fuzz! Someone has ratted out Shadow and Mr. Wednesday for the bank robbery. The evidence against them is quite damning and presented in high res images.
Technical Boy is snatched leaving a club, for a “meeting” with Media. If Neil Gaiman had written American Gods in 2017, Technical Boy would have almost certainly been named DJ Technical Boy and been on the main stage at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival.
Can we stop for a minute and talk about Media. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Who knew that Gillian Anderson dressed as an aqua-clad David Bowie was my kink! If there was a god who looked like this, I would drop my atheism and become a devotee.
Media tells Technical Boy he needs to consider his brand, how the world sees him and how the still unseen Mr. World sees him. She demands he apologize to Mr. Wednesday and Shadow for hanging Shadow from a tree. Mr. World wants peace because it appears he is on his way to winning and you don’t want to make Wednesday a martyr. But Technical Boy is incensed, reminding Media that Mr. Wednesday is playing Pokemon Go, and the monsters he is collecting are the old gods.
Not everyone believed.
Not everyone had to. Just enough.
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow are separated in interview/observation rooms at the police station. Shadow demands a lawyer, while Wednesday tells the god’s honest truth (recruiting gods for war). Which is the funny thing about religion: to non-believers, your religion sounds nuts. So who ratted them out via FAX? Someone powerful with access to technology and satellite images.
Mad Sweeney has been waiting in the motel parking lot for his chance. He needs that coin, lodged in Laura’s abdomen. But the dead wife has super hero strength and messes Mad up but good. The best part of this scene is that Mad repeats the best line, “Give me my coin, cunt.” Laura figures out Mad Sweeney can’t take the coin back; she has to give it. Mad Sweeney tells Laura that Wednesday is a god and that Shadow shouldn’t trust him. At least this gives Laura some purpose: protect Shadow. Of course, she can only protect him for so long because eventually her flesh is going to fall off the bone, especially if she keeps parboiling herself in the bath. Mad Sweeney jumps Laura, “drowning” her in the tub, as cops burst in to stop him “murdering” a dead woman.
The lady detective puts Shadow and Wednesday in the same room, hoping they will converse and figure out their story. Wednesday knows something ain’t good and uses a spider friend to unlock his cuffs. Something big is after them, and here it comes. Media literally floats in, dressed as Some Like It Hot Marilyn. Did you ever wonder what really happened to Ms. Monroe? CIA spook jabbed a needle into her eye.
In walks Mr. World, wearing a wool overcoat, three-piece suit, and fedora. Crispin Glover vibrates and whispers with menace while using conciliatory words. Mr. World knows Shadow because he understands people. People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully? Also, hey Shadow, this is the face you make you when you masturbate, the same face as your mom. Cold! DJ Sulk comes in to apologize for lynching a dark skinned man. Technical Boy realizes how this looks in today’s America. The kid is an asshole but at least he is woke.
The new gods are not there to fight; they are there to help the old gods find a new audience. Not a truce but a merger, like champagne and potato chips (Amy adds this to her list of crap to try). They are offering to make Mr. Wednesday a refreshed, a lemon-scented you.
Mr. World breaks it down like this: Brands—gods—are different. Individualism is a useful heuristic, but in the end, everything is all systems. It’s a single product, manufactured for a global market. Is this why Oracle is named…Oracle?! They offer Mr. Wednesday North Korea. I guess that’s better than Florida? The world is your oyster, old man. Mr. Wednesday wasn’t born yesterday and compares himself to the irritating piece of sand, around which the oyster forms its pearl. The pearl is pretty, but the oyster is still trying to rid itself of it. The old guys give people meaning, but the new gods only occupy people’s time.
“Is this real? Did that just happen?”
“It’s still happening.”
Something is amiss in the police station, and Mr. Wednesday and Shadow get the hell out of there. Lights flickering to reveal a scene of blood and destruction, even Wednesday looks horrified, and you know he has seen some shit. The camera zooms in on a knot in the wooden desk. It’s the eye of Nunyunnini. Wood sourced from FSC certified forests bring the consumer peace of mind and the spirits of the old gods, bent on murder. The tusks of Nunyunnini are now tree branches, growing and stabbing Shadow on the flank. RUN!
The cops who nabbed Mad Sweeney arrive at the station and can see something bad is going down inside. Mad Sweeney watches from the back of the cop car, kicks out the window and makes a mad dash for it, but not before nailing himself on the balls. Bad luck, this one!
Back inside, Laura breaks free from her drawer in the morgue, grabs some clothes and leaves the station. Find Shadow, Laura. Tell him, “You in danger, girl.”
Final random thoughts:
All photos courtesy of Starz.
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