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TV Review: American Gods (Season 1, Episode 2)


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American Gods steps up its game in episode two, bringing drama and blood and more gods to the craziness that has become poor Shadow’s life.

The episode starts as the last does – with a flashback to an ancient time. This one is 1697, upon a slave ship with a captured man praying to “Compe Ansai” to save him.

When Ansai – also known as Mr. Nancy - arrives (played by Orlando Jones), he takes full control of the scene. Where the space is brown and wet and full of despair, Ansai is tall and bright and brash.

Charismatic and angry, Ansai preaches about the future of black people in America, a wonderfully simple example of a race conversation in the modern day. This slave ship is the beginning of black oppression and Ansai acknowledges it – “you guys don’t even realise you’re black yet”, a powerful statement that is framed brilliantly with old jazz, reminiscent of the music that future slaves would create to get through day to day life.

Ansai, however, isn’t the only face of god that is introduced.

Episode one suggested a fight between the gods of the ancient world and the gods of the modern one, and here, that idea is solidified. We are introduced to Lucy Ricardo – or at least someone who wears her face – and speaks to Shadow in one of the more surreal parts when Shadow is out shopping for Mr Wednesday. She is a ‘modern’ god formed from the worship of television, a comment on our world today and a new kind of worship: “We are tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.”

Perhaps in direct contrast, we see the return of Bilquis. Although her scenes are short (much shorter than last time), she is very clearly a symbol of an old worship that never hasn’t left. A hope is that this will lead to an interest conversation into the idea of worship, as well as wonderful cinematics and some appreciation of the old gods.

Returning to our main duo, Shadow is having a hard time. He is clearly adjusting to the huge changes that have taken over his life. There is one particularly powerful scene that is almost entirely quiet, except for the score – this slow and smooth rhythm. Shadow is packing up the home that he and his now deceased wife, Laura, and it is a testament to Ricky Whittle’s acting skill that he can portray such an aura of grief with so few words.

Ian Shane is still a brilliant Mr Wednesday – engaging to watch and entertaining in his slick talking ways. Every interaction he has with other gods is fuelled with unspoken history and the impression of his careful and well planned game of checkers that will end, most likely, with Shadow getting hurt.

Their relationship builds in this episode. There’s a lot of time focused on travelling, of the two trapped inside a small car on the open road. Like an old-school road trip, Shadow and Wednesday bounce off each other like the best kind of bromance – bitchy, snarky and sarcastic. Ian and Ricky play off each other incredibly and seem to have a well-crafted idea of their characters, the world they’re in and how their characters work together.

In comparison to the first, this episode is far more coherent – no more strange jumps that feel out of place and drag you away. It feels more structured and every scene feels connected and flows excellently from one point to the other. Coupled with the increased detail to the storyline, the new instalment is a great improvement from the first episode.

The tense feeling is also something that part two attempts to increase and it succeeds wonderfully, managing to make even a game of checkers seem heart pounding and intense with a tight score and close up camera shots that hold the attention of the watcher.

Episode two of American Gods brings more of this heavy story to the focus, introducing more gods, more tensions and giving Shadow a better introduction to this strange world that he has found himself in.

New episodes of American Gods are available weekly on Amazon Prime. 

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