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TV Review: American Gods (Season 1, Episode 5)


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This week's episode of American Gods, "Lemon Scented You" builds on plot, past and present with the return of Shadow’s dead wife and the first meeting of the Big Bad.

The opening, once again retelling a story of ancient mythology, has connection to the power in being remembered and the death of being forgotten. These are all the things that Mr Wednesday seems to be struggling to stop himself. One side of storytelling that American Gods does wonderfully is the parallel of old and new narratives against each other and here, that parallel is obvious.

Last week’s episode had Laura’s story play out for the audience and in episode 5, Shadow and Laura finally get their reunion.

Ricky Whittle and Emily Browning play well against each other – life and death, passion and calm, acceptance and denial. And the relationship of Laura and Shadow is strangely healthy. They speak about what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking; they listen to each other and try to understand.

Shadow’s reaction to seeing Laura, alive and well on the end of his motel room bed, is equal parts genuine and hilarious because honestly, after everything that Shadow has seen since he left prison, how else could you determine what is real and what isn’t?

Laura, despite episodes of this growing idea of who she was as a person prior to death, comes across as reasoned and understanding in the strangest way. She’s honest and you can see her side of everything just as much as you can understand Shadow’s pain and distress.

And more to the point, Shadow seems to understand, which is nice to show whilst not diminishing the hurt and emotional turmoil that he is going through. He doesn’t ignore how she has made him feel, even with the shock of getting her back from the death, and the story allows Shadow to have that pain.

Shadow is the light in Laura’s world, the point that she can see most clearly, and is a beautiful sight to behold. Perhaps it’s love or maybe it’s something to do with the fact she is back from the dead, but honestly, think about how rarely black men are shown to be positive images of life and love on screen.

And then think about the love that Shadow is shown on this one show.

However, to be honest, American Gods has done quite a good job at giving multiple races, multiple histories and mythologies a voice that they wouldn’t otherwise get and have them all be treated with the level of respect they all deserve.

Emily Browning plays Laura with an expression that could either fall onto the side of emotionless or controlled. Personally, she seems controlled calculating in the same way that Mr Wednesday is and just as quick.

She weighs up her options when Mad Sweeney comes for his coin and takes control. Whether this is something that will work out for her, remains to be seen but there is no denying the strength and intelligence that Laura has.

Gillian Anderson steals the show as Media, dressed as David Bowie. She speaks of the New Gods and Mr World’s plan to stop Mr Wednesday. She speaks of mass hysteria and the power in panic – another reflection of the original story and the power of the many. And then, as Marilyn Monroe, she is gold on a grey cell.

Ian McShane continues to encompass the role of Mr Wednesday. He plays coarse and seemingly careless – but nothing is. It’s McShane’s delivery that makes Mr Wednesday appear wise in the most calculating of ways. He knows how much to share and what roles to play. It’s incredible to watch.

This is the episode we get a glimpse of our main antagonist – Mr World. And it is with him, that you see for the first time Mr Wednesday experiencing fear. It’s Media that sees everything, that knows everything.

Here is the first time the audience sees the old and new clashing and truly understands what this war is about. It's not necessarily about not old vs new, but individualism versus mass production. Meaning versus the occupation of time.

But even as Mr World and Media speak of this bright and shiny future, their brutality is shown through those that are murdered at their hands in the most grotesque and violent of ways.

American Gods continues to build on this epic of gods in the modern age with brutality and horror making it difficult to decide whether the future is as wonderful as Mr World would want you to be believe.

American Gods is available on Amazon Prime every Monday. 

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