American Gods S2E1 Review: House on the Rock

reviews, TV

House on the Rock

Warning: Spoilers

So after almost a year of waiting, we’re finally back with Season Two of American Gods! Given all the upheaval during production, I was more than a bit nervous going into this new season–the loss of not only showrunner Bryan Fuller, but actresses Kristin Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson made me worry the show was going to suffer in a way it couldn’t recover from. However, I can report that at least within the first two episodes the show is as strong as ever, even with the notable absences of our Easter and Media (more on that later).  After laying out the skeleton of the story within Season One, it seems the show has truly decided to delve into the complexities of the novel–and while it isn’t sticking entirely to the script, the soul of the story is still there.

We open with Technical Boy, my beautiful, petulant, ridiculous manic New God, attempting to help out Mr. World in the basement of Black Briar. Both Bruce Langley and Crispin Glover continue to be perfect in their roles, with Glover especially continuing to chew scenery, giving off a sense of slow building menace in every line.

They part ways quickly, as Mr. World tasks Technical Boy with seeking out, “his best salesman” — Media. So this will be the way they deal with Media’s recasting–having her missing for a set period of time before reappearing in a new form.

Surprising no one, Mr. World has the ability to pull strings within the government and demands that the “Eyes of Argus” [Note: Argus was the ‘All Seeing’ God in Greek Mythology] be used to help him.  He is truly the one behind the power in America, and the President is a cardboard cutout. …given the current state of things in America, I’m not sure if I’d be more or less scared with Mr. World in charge, really.

One of the great things the show introduces this season is a map of the USA, charting the path of our groups moving about the highways. Within one car we have a group that definitely aren’t going to get along well: Mr. Wednesday, Mad Sweeney, Shadow Moon, and Laura Moon. As the days progress and the seating arrangements shift, the only thing that stays consistent is the awkwardness, resentment, and Sweeney being an utter jerk through it all. Laura looks worse for wear, and it’s clear she is still searching for answers to her current situation, while trying to reconcile with Shadow.

Leaving Wednesday aside, the dynamic between Shadow, Sweeny, and Laura is such a strange triangle of anger, resentment and hope–all three are struggling to reach for things they don’t truly understand, or even dare to hope for. Their dynamic is my favorite in the show, and I’m glad that these early episodes are choosing to highlight it in the best way.  

[As a side note, most of this episode takes place at the House on the Rock–a real place, and where they actually shot this episode. It’s a weird tourist trap, and definitely one you should checkout online]

Bilquis is already at the Rock, looking to have a bit of a ‘meal’…but our Jinn is there, working as security. As a lesser God,  it makes sense in this context. I’m glad they’ve expanded both his role and Salim’s, as he’s back as well, having found the man he loves. I genuinely love how devoted he is to the Jinn. It’s a pure sort of faith, and it’s clear out of all the people we’ve met on the show, he’s the best of them.

Instead of taking the main entrance into House on the Rock, Wednesday has Shadow attempt to pick the lock on the gate–but luckily Mr. Nancy is there to open it for them instead. He’s as fast talking as ever, calling Sweeney out on his shit, and calling Laura “Roadkill Rhonda” of all things–I love it. We also find out how they are currently dealing with Easter’s disappearance. It isn’t as good as the Media explanation. Apparently Wednesday ran over too many rabbits? …okay. That works, I guess? (not really).

While all the Gods are meeting at the Rock, Laura, Salim and Sweeney are told explicitly they aren’t invited to the party–hell, Wednesday tries to get Laura to leave Shadow alone for good (not because he actually cares about the man, of course), but she promptly tells him to fuck off.

While they won’t stay a trio for long, the banter between Sweeney, Laura, and Shadow is amazing. It’s clear there is tension between all of them, and I just adore it–it’s a real change from the books, but one of the most welcome ones. This is what I’ve been missing in my life since the show went off the air.

If you had forgotten from last season, we are reminded that Bilquis is working for Technical Boy and the New Gods–it makes sense, in a way. While she’s an Old God, she is one of love and desire, and that is something that will always exist…and will always find a way to survive.

Each of the Gods (and Shadow) are given a coin that allows them to gain a fortune from one of those creepy-old-timey fortune teller machines before heading into the back room of the Rock. Shadow’s card says: Every ending is a new beginning. Your lucky number is none, your lucky color is dead. ..well, I suppose that means Laura is his lucky color?

In typical fashion, Laura wants a fortune as well, so Sweeney gets her a coin–but really it’s a waste, as her fortune is blank. While Salim thinks it’s because she’s dead (therefore has no future), Sweeney says he’ll write her a future, as all his luck is hers. Have I mentioned how much I love them? Because I do–so , so much. Their dynamic is something we never received in the books, and now I can’t imagine American Gods without it.

Besides Mr. Nancy (who has some amazing banter with Shadow), Czernobog and Zorya Vechernyaya (the Evening Star) is here, as well. A fun little reunion, right?

They enter a room with a carousel, and it’s genuinely  one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Wednesday speaks about how these tourist traps are the places in America that have the true power in our country–not churches. It’s like going to look behind a curtain and seeing the real magic in the world. This is something that was pulled straight from the book, and I’m glad they kept true to that idea.

As the carousel starts to spin, things get really trippy, and Shadow ends up waking upon a shore covered in skulls. Bilquis informs him that this is the past–they are basically walking in the backstage of Wednesday’s memories, where all the Old Gods have gathered to hear Odin out.

Bilquis makes a plea that they should adapt or die–use technology to gain people back to their side–which is an interesting idea, if we didn’t know who she was truly working for. Durga (a Hindu Goddess) isn’t so interested in fighting at all, and wants to wait, not sure any side can get them to act in the right way.

But Shadow…ah, Shadow speaks up and says he believes in Odin, that he’s finding his faith again because of him…which seems to sway more than a few of the Gods. When all is said and done they end up in a small greasy spoon diner, eating a big buffett. I love the idea of Gods just acting like normal people, enjoying really good junk food.

Things aren’t going entirely well at the diner, though. Despite her attempts to mend things, Shadow still won’t talk to Laura. Bilquis (who clearly is leading the New Gods straight to our ‘good’ guys), tries to make friends with Laura, and it doesn’t go over that well–Sweeney looks entirely concerned over the entire situation.

Despite how much he tries to deny it, Sweeney clearly cares about Laura, and no where is that more evident when Shadow finally does go talk to Laura, and Sweeney decides that this would be the best time for him to start drinking heavily.

Laura for her part, doesn’t attempt to win her husband back–just tries to warn him about Wednesday. She doesn’t explain his hand in her death, but does her best to dissuade Shadow from continuing to follow him, instead try and believe in her–but Shadow chooses Wednesday.

It’s so interesting; Laura has faith in no Gods, believing only in the idea of Shadow…but Shadow doesn’t believe in anything but Wednesday. And then there is Sweeney, just wishing Laura could believe in Gods, so she might be like the woman he loved. It’s a sad line that can be drawn between all of them.

There’s no more time for interpersonal drama, as Mr. Town shows up (more on him next episode), and has a team of snipers start taking down people within the diner. It’s an excellent, well executed scene; my heart was in my throat the entire time. By the end of it, Zorya has been killed and Shadow’s been captured.  Whatever peace there was has been shattered…and I have a feeling that things are going to get a great deal more difficult for our characters from here on out.

 

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