‘American Gods’ Episode 5 Talk-Back: We Are the World

American Gods. Starz

Vinnie: Maybe it’s just because I’m speaking as someone working in a dying industry (fun start!) that needs to adapt to new trends, rely on internet presence and Brand Strategy to survive, but after five American Gods episodes I think I’m firmly #TeamNewGods, no? Not that I’m anti-immigration—I’m woke, Drew, I waited like a full 24 hours to tell someone my opinion on that women-only Wonder Woman screening—but I feel like if these Old Gods just put a little effort internet building up their Brand they wouldn’t be dying off in the woods and trolling the bottom barrel of Tinder for vagina snacks. This week’s entry, which was animated because that’s the prestige TV trend now, was the most depressing, a family crossing the “land bridge from Siberia,” finding out America actually suuuuuuucks, and their god just sort of…dying from lack of interest harder than Warner Brothers’ King Arthur franchise. But like, come on, Siberian deity, put up some billboards. Write some branded content. Hire a social media intern. You don’t even have to pay them.

I guess it just comes down to that great, cosmic question: Do you want your beliefs to turn into Gillian Anderson dressed as David Bowie or Ian McShane dressed as a sweaty, homeless drifter?

Drew: Oh. My. God. Five episodes in, Vinnie. It took me five episodes of American Gods before I was so hold hard that this show may as well been that Odin missile dropping on North Korea that also shits teddy bears, sparkles and rainbows. THIS episode was the show I signed up for in American Gods, starting with that credit sequence that yes, apparently you’ve all seen, but it wasn’t on the Starz screeners, so indulge me for a moment while I gush about it.

Like, okay, besides it looking dope, can we read some things into this intro? Like, is there going to be a GOD OF PHARMACEUTICALS? Is it Buddha? That makes sense because I used to get my off-brand Adderall in Chinatown from legit a guy named Doctor Who, and there were a TON of Buddha statues in that hood.

My kinda god. Starz

Oh, and the idea that the American Eagle is just the head of this larger totem of god. There’s so much textured imagery here: you can read it as “Yeah! America is at the top! WE’RE NUMBER 1!” or feel that knife twist of having appropriated the Native American totem. It even looks, at certain points, like it’s own neon shower of a missile being launched into space.


Vinnie: I loved, loved the conversation between Laura and Shadow—partly because Ricky Whittle does great buh-whaaaaa? face and Emily Browning is fantastic at displaying the not-quite-there emotions of the recently deceased—but mostly because Shadow is just so much more confused about his wife fucking Dane Cook than he is that she rose from the dead (I’ve come to terms with how much writing about American Gods requires writing about Dane Cook’s penis. I am the Dane Cook’s Penis god, these recaps are my altar, your Twitter @’s sustain me). “Why’d you have to fuck Robbie?” Shadow asks, a split second away from showing her that Youtube video of all the jokes Dane Cook stole from Louis C.K.

Drew: I’m feeling REAL uneasy about Laura here. We finally see the dynamics of their relationship as it stands now (as opposed to before prison), and my god does she seem like the most manipulative, selfish kind of partner. This might seem like a weird jump to make, but I think Laura Moon has got a little Zoe Barnes in her. Last week, I cited Noah Hawley’s menigerie of female characters, but our (spoiler alert!) also deceased Ms. Barnes from House of Cards had that same kind of cool, calculating gaze to her. And, as we know from last week, we can’t blame Laura’s lack of loyalty or (ability to make a human expression, for that matter) on her post-mortem state. She was always over it. She always ran a little cold and withholding. Between the two of them, I wonder what Shadow and Laura ever actually had to say to one-another that wasn’t either a) planning to knock over a casino or b) the word “puppy.”

But, yes, somehow it works. Because Shadow, isn’t going to be a pushover about this Robby stuff, or because he finally has the one thing Laura has ever craved, but either way, you can tell that their relationship has just shifted in a MAJOR way and even the ever-confident Laura is taken, albeit slightly, off-guard by it.

Vinnie: I also really like that “dude, you were in prison  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯” is not a terrible excuse. I know Shadow is the definition of the stoic TV leading man meant for something more but still…13 months, “a baker’s year,” is a pretty long time to wait.

Drew: I think Shadow’s bigger thrust (lol, now I’m picturing his o-face, but we’ll get to that later) is: out of all the men to cheat on him with, did it HAVE to be his best friend? Which honestly, is the more valid point. And the one she can’t really answer besides the classic excuse of “He really wanted to, and then we did it and then after we did it, so why not keep doing it?” And again, subtle but important point about this “air clearing” between the two lovers: even when Shadow brings up that specific final phone call to Laura, she’s not like “Oh jeez, yes, Robby’s naked ass was definitely one foot away from me when you last heard my voice.” I mean, give the girl props: she’s ICE-COLD. And not just to the touch!

Vinnie: Just moments after Shadow and Laura share a technically necrophelic kiss, the police arrive to arrest Shadow and Wednesday for bank robbery. This all turns out to be a part of the New Gods’ plan, which brings up a few questions. Is there not a god of police? I feel like we really need to define what makes a “New God.” What’s the difference between popular and worshipped? I use GIFs a lot, is there a GIF god? And if Mr. World is just god of everything, the Google God, why do we have all these other gods under the New God umbrella? IS THERE AN UMBRELLA GOD?

Drew: I think Mr. World is more like the Internet God. Is he married to Media? Is Technology Boy their son?  Because I kind of love that idea.

So, follow this metaphor: Crispin Glover, Vinnie’s new BFF, is the God of the Internet. And, just like V.M. Varga in Fargo, being able to use the Internet to gather intel on people makes you SUPER powerful. But! There are always going to be outliers: guys like Mr. Wednesday or women like (old) Chief Gloria Bugle, who exist outside the system and become the irritating sand that creates an oyster pearl. Remember, Mr. Wednesday—who, at this point, the jig is up and we can call by his true name, Odin—doesn’t drive on highways. He doesn’t use cell phones. He, again, JUST LIKE (old) Chief Bugle, finds the idea of incorporating with a larger entity to be the definition of anathema. I mean, or so he says.

Vinnie: Sorry pretty much none of these questions matter, nothing else at all really matters, honestly, because here’s Gillian Anderson dressed as David Bowie, something I think me and my personal diary entries from 2002 are actually owed royalties for.

Drew: Oh I fucking know how you feel. David Lynch owes me lunch at this point for carrying that Twin Peaks torch for so long that my skin of my arm now slides right off the bone, like Laura Moon’s will during a hot summer day. (Oof, thanks for that visual, Leprechaun Pornstache.)

And also, YES PLEASE to Dana Scully playing like, every single pop culture icon over the course of this show. I would really like it if they could find a way to incorporate some even weirder ideas for the corporeal form of Media in each subsequent episode. Like maybe next week she shows up as Amythest from Steven Universe.




Hola, creeps! Fox

Vinnie: I like how Starz’s official description says “Media assumes whatever form will deliver her message most effectively and is often personified by iconic celebrities.” Nothing says “demanding an apology” like Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie. Who can forget that classic Bowie hit, “Say Sorry for Your Lynchings.” I think it was the B-side for “Hang on to Yourself.”

Drew: May I just say what a DELIGHT it is to watch Gillian Anderson have fun in a role? She and Elisabeth Moss, man…I don’t know why the two of them don’t take more…whimsical, let’s call it….sides more often, because they both have a levity to them that doesn’t often get to shine in the roles they choose. Come on ladies! Get weird with it!

Vinnie: You may have noticed there’s a lot going on in this show right now. Which is why I cherish the simple joys, like watching Pablo Schreiber as the world’s tallest, unluckiest leprechaun getting his ass kicked by a zombie while yelling “you’re an asshole, dead wife!”

Drew: I did like the ass-kicking, which felt not so much deserved by Mad Sweeney the character as it does residual schadenfreude we feel from this actor’s performance in Orange is the New Black. And, let we forget, IRL Pablo Schreiber is Liev Schreiber’s half-brother, and I would pay approximately a GAZILLION dollars to watch a match between Ray Donovan and a large-ass leprechaun.

As someone who isn’t the world’s biggest Laura Moon fan (can you tell?), I was also happy Mooney, while getting his ass kicked and arrested for murdering a dead woman (lol), still found a moment to gloat about Laura’s eventual demise. We are getting this theme about the Gods (is Sweeney a God, even? UGH! SO UNCLEAR!), where the battle may have been lost, but as long as they walk away with a GREAT exit line, they’ll be fine.

Like, how mad is Mr. World when Technology Boy steps on his exit line? MAD ENOUGH TO PUNCH TWO OF HIS CONCEPTUAL TEETH OUT! Kid’s gonna have to smoke so much synthetic weasel fur or whatever to make that pain go away. Quick question: can New Gods get dry sockets?

Vinnie: “Is the character creepy or is the actor creepy?” is one of my favorite games to play with TV shows, so you know I enjoyed Crispin Glover’s introduction as Mr. World. In this case, I think the answer is both, a great blend of writing and performance that makes World unnerving even though he’s kind of making a good pitch to Wednesday. Although I’ve been in pitch meetings, and not nearly enough start with the words “this is the face you make when  you masturbate. Same as your mother, who had 86 sexual partners throughout her life.” I mean, A LOT of them do, but still not nearly enough.

Drew: Vinnie, I know that despite writing at a 30-year-old’s level (AT LEAST) you are actually significantly younger than that, so let me just straighten this out, Mr. (real) World style: every single job interview you will ever have, going forward, will include your potential employer reconstructing his entire face into pixels to show you what it looks like when you masturbate.

That line about his mom’s sexual partners, though? That’s inappropriate, and you could probably nail this guy on Inappropriate Workplace Conduct, depending on how good the HR department at New Gods Inc. He might have to take a Sexual Harassment Training Course for executives or something.

Vinnie: This entire interrogation room scene—which included Media as Marilyn Monroe because gods help us all Gillian Anderson has committed hard to this show—laid out a few things that made American Gods’ main storyline a little clearer. It’s not a war between Old Gods and New Gods, not yet; it’s more like a difference in opinion on how to run the start-up called The Universe. “We want to help you find your audience,” he tells Wednesday, a frighteningly familiar phrase, and offers to strap the name Odin to a line of rockets on their way to nuking North Korea as a PR move.

Oh, right, I’m also pretty sure this is the first time the show straight up said Wednesday is Odin. Wednesday = Wōden’s Day. His one son is Chris Hemsworth. His other son dated Taylor Swift and it was a whole thing.

Drew: Wait, does that mean Mr. Wednesday built ALL THE HOSTS? TWIST!

This is all to make up for the fact that I definitely have not seen one Thor movie and am really rusty on their backstory. (However, Vinnie is not mistakenly leaving out Thor’s other kid. He’s just…well, you’ll see.) V

innie: Knowing Wednesday is Odin kind of makes him that much more sketchy, though. At one point he tells Mr. World the Old Gods “gave back, gave them meaning.” Which, in the grand religious tradition, sounds kind of nice but is suuuuuper untrue? I’m pretty sure in the very first “Coming to America” vignette dudes were cutting out their eyes and mutilating each other in exchange for a slight breeze.

Drew: I mean, exactly. It’s kind of bullshit for Mr. Wednesday to trivialize what the New Gods do, because in actuality, the Old Gods gave back FAR LESS. All the stories about gods, what do they do? Act all Biblically mad, demand you sacrifice your baby, sacrifice their OWN babies…generally, act like fickle little assholes.

What do their replacements do? Well let’s see: my Waze God gives me directions with minimal ad pop-ups, my Spotify God let’s me listen on to whatever music I want (barring Taylor Swift, who is her own uncorporated Goddess) on UP TO THREE DEVICES and I don’t even have to cut off a finger in payment for this miracle. The God of RedTube.com gives me….uh, well, should I go on?

I’m so Team New Gods. Especially because Mr. Wednesday’s argument has a couple big logic holes. He claims he’s just a lone ranger, but he’s building up a WHOLE ARMY. That’s not what you do when you like, a grain of sand or whatever. And Mr. World is literally offering a truce…a merger that would allow Mr. Wednesday to get back his power while allowing for cultural advancement and achievements. There’s no downside to this deal, besides having Marty Mcfly’s dad and Marilyn Monroe pitching it to you in a police station full of desecrated corpses.

Hey, they even got their PowerPoint presentation to work! I can never get those things going!

Vinnie: For as much as I enjoyed this episode, it ended on kind of an anticlimactic thud. We’ve seen Laura rise from the dead like three different times already, there’s only so much satisfaction I can get from watching Technological Boy getting his teeth slapped out of his face, and the horrifying tree monster destroying the police station seemed like an idea picked from Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal leftover pile.

Drew: I dunno, Vinnie. I think this episode just rocketed this show into possible contender for greatness. At the very least, because we were gifted that moment of a disdainful Marilyn Monroe summing up American culture by sniffing “It’s not our fault they found other ways to occupy their time.”

And Mr. Wednesday goes “That’s all you do. Occupy their time. We gave back. We gave them meaning.” And I was like “Oh wow, sick pop culture burn. I cannot wait to go explore in my recap that is very important and gives my existence meaning!!”

Is that Bryan Fuller burning himself here, or us as viewers, or BOTH? Because hey, either way, the two of us—well three, you, me and Fuller—don’t focus on TV to occupy. It’s legit our OCCUPATIONS. ‘American Gods’ Episode 5 Talk-Back: We Are the World