The Beguiling Man.
There isn’t any breath between this episode and last week’s, opening on where Shadow is being held. A man named Mr. Town (played by the amazing Dean Winters) has our hero held in an electrical torture device, determined to draw information from him as they travel on a train.
This episode is set up with all our characters on separate tracks all converging towards the train: Laura and Sweeney, and Mr. Nancy and Wednesday. The majority of this episode is focused on Laura and Sweeney, and Shadow’s past, which I really appreciated. It’s a quieter episode (save for the end), and while the pieces with Laura and Sweeney aren’t in the book, the show is so much more better for it.
The Jinn and Salim are also heading out on the road for a specific item: Gungnir (aka Odin’s spear). As I’ve said before, the continuance of their relationship is new to the show, and it brings a richness that is well appreciated. Salim comes along, as he tells Jinn, “I believe in you, and if belief is what you need, let me help.” So much about this show is about belief, and to have them drive off before we are presented with the roadtrip of Laura (the woman with no beliefs) and Sweeney (the man with conflicted ones), provides an excellent contrast.
We spend a great deal in flashback as Town picks Shadow’s brain about why Wednesday would want him as a body-man. We spend the time learning about Shadow’s life in America when he and his mother move there after living abroad. The story follows that of the book, as we learn that Shadow’s father isn’t in the picture, and Shadow’s mother believes her son has a great deal of light in him, and she is called to spread the message of peace–as, “most things people believe in the world are lies.” Shadow struggles to adjust, getting into fights and finding it hard to make friends. He is a lonely, frustrated teen, who wants desperately to understand what his mother sees in him, and what she sees in the rest of the world.
A strange man gives Shadow the coin that starts him on the path to learn how to do his tricks–and the smart viewer might sort out what that means. However, for Shadow, it’s a mere distraction to his mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer.
It’s her death, leaving him alone, that made him stronger, he believes–but light makes him stronger, as well. While all of this was in his head, Town simply keeps telling Shadow that the old Gods don’t deserve him–but the New Gods do.
Still, he refuses, and Town takes it badly, leaving Shadow to be tortured more.
While this is occuring, Laura and Sweeney are driving towards him, bickering and struggling to find some middle ground between one another. Laura is still in denial over some of what she’s done and how she’s hurt people, but Sweeney refuses to cut her any slack, which is one of the reasons they work so well together. Each of them is willing to push and pull against each other, unwilling to let each other bullshit, especially when that’s what they love to do.
While changing a car tire, it’s revealed that Laura’s starting to lose some of her strength–which leads Sweeney to reveal that he might know someone in New Orleans that would be willing to give her her life back. It’s clear he’s so in love with Laura that it’s going to be his downfall if he doesn’t get himself in control or Laura doesn’t wisen up to the situation; she still seems so completely unaware.
When they hit a dead end, Laura seems to give up, which gives us the beautiful visual of her laying in a field of flowers. Sweeney convinces her to continue, as he wanted to save someone as well, and uses his own ‘back door’ through the Hoard to get them directly on top of the train. In thanks for his help, Laura breaks the handcuffs off his wrists, which is a damn metaphor if there ever was one.
After this, all hell breaks loose. Laura and Sweeney start killing Mr. Town’s goons one by one, in some really creative ways–it’s clear that both of them are enjoying themselves–something that Shadow does not like to see when Laura finally busts through the door to save him, crushing a man’s skull beneath her boot in the process.
Of course, the story doesn’t simply end here, as I haven’t mentioned anything with Mr. Nancy and Wednesday, yet. Their part in this episode was small, but it was all about Wednesday using his car to set up the train crash to save Shadow, not realizing that Laura and Sweeney were already up to the task (or did he…?). This of course causes a massive train derailment, which we end our episode on.
Oh…and in non main-story news? Bilquis has rejected working for Mr. World for good (in a seriously emotional scene), and Media refuses to face Technical Boy until she gains a better handle on how things work within faster technology.
This episode, paired with the season premiere, packed a lovely one-two punch of energy and story into our series. The plot moved forward even as we learned about Shadow’s past–more than we have ever known before.
Again, one more solid showing.