After years of development, the adaptation of one of Neil Gaiman’s most notable works has made it to the small screen. To prepare, I re-read the novel and his recently released Norse Mythology (definitely recommended). There will be some book discussion but I’ll reserve the spoilery talk for my fifth thought, which will always be dedicated to talking about adaptation choices. In this episode, everyone is on a road trip; Shadow and Mr. Wednesday head to Virginia to recruit a gun-crazy Vulcan, while Laura, Mad Sweeney, and Salim go back to Indiana for some reason. Beware, spoilers for the episode will follow.
1. All the Jesuses
The show is holding true to Mr. Wednesday’s promise of multiple Jesuses back in episode three. The Mexican immigrants’ version hits all the highlights: helping people in need, walking on water, and then sacrificing himself (although a bit unceremoniously). The more intriguing part of this scene, to me, was the crosses hanging from the shooters’ guns. I’m curious to see the version of Jesus that they worship, because it’s obviously not the one they just filled with bullets coming across the border. In addition to those two, there is the Jesus that Mad Sweeney supposedly knows, and who he’s convinced Laura to go see about a resurrection. Given that the show has had such strong social commentary, I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the show’s unique take on America’s most prominent god.
2. The Odd Couple… Plus Salim
For a show with only eight episodes, I’m surprised we got an episode with so much wheel spinning. The B plot with Laura, Mad Sweeney, and Salim felt completely superfluous, other than to fill in a couple plot holes like the location of Mad Sweeney’s coin, and why in the world Salim was smiling after getting his identity stolen. In general, I like the pairing of Laura and Mad Sweeney. While not in the book, it feels organic because of how intrinsically linked they are, and their two strong personalities complement each other, and make for very entertaining interactions. The show seems to be taking a page from “Preacher”‘s Tulip and Cassidy, and that’s a good thing. I just wish they had found a better way to explore that relationship, or at least given them something better to do. Having to show Laura working through moving on from her old life felt out of place after seeing her back story in episode four. That Laura wouldn’t have had this much trouble letting go, and definitely wouldn’t have needed the pep talk from Salim. This diversion did, however, give us another visit to Jack’s Crocodile Bar, and one of the best shots of the episode in the sunrise scene at the end, so it wasn’t all bad.
3. Shadow Is Still In the Dark
One of the worst sins a show can commit is making a character dumb for the sake of plot, and it really seems like they are doing that with Shadow. Maybe he doesn’t know who Grimnir is another name for, or what the significance of the name Wednesday is. Maybe he hasn’t noticed the two ravens constantly tailing him, or connected that with Mr. Wednesday’s missing eye. But Mr. World and Media named him last episode in their pantheon-merger pitch, and for Shadow not to realize who Mr. Wednesday is, or at least have an idea, is unforgivable.
4. Vulcan, Virginia
The A plot in this episode was also a bit of wheel spinning, since it’s just Mr. Wednesday trying to recruit another old god. However, there were so many great little moments, that I didn’t care. Having the Roman god of fire and the forge be an ammo manufacturer is perfect, because Vulcan (the city) is the personification of America’s gun worshiping culture. Director Adam Kane really makes us feel the same unease that Shadow is feeling as he reluctantly visits with Mr. Wednesday, now being the only person of color in the whole town. When Mr. Wednesday tells Shadow to take cover from all the bullets in the air, you can feel the double meaning behind the words as he looks around at the town as well.
In another case of a character being dumb for the sake of plot, why on Earth would Vulcan give Mr. Wednesday a huge sword, and then tell him how he had betrayed them to the new gods?! He deserved to be a one episode character for that blunder, although I’m sad to see him go. He was another interesting addition to the pantheon of old gods, and was genuinely terrifying without being an outright antagonist like the new gods.Continued below
5. Book Spoilers Ahead!
In another instance of the show improving on aspects of the book, I like how Mr. Wednesday is being more openly hostile towards Laura. It’s obvious that he’s trying to find any excuse to get Shadow away from her. And when her return from the dead comes up, Mr. Wednesday encourages Shadow to be skeptical of what he’s seeing, instead of being open to the possibility of the supernatural as he has advised in the past. This will make the reveal that Wednesday was behind her infidelity and death all the more satisfying, and not a last minute character redemption like it came off in the book.