American Gods: “A Murder of Gods” Review

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

New characters, new stories, and fresh material for Neil Gaiman book veterans made this week’s episode of American Gods a novel experience for all the viewers. How did it measure up to other episodes? Read on for a review of the sixth episode of American Gods!

While the book from which American Gods draws is chock full of source material, a television show can still move through (and run out of) material relatively quickly. Luckily, Gaiman’s universe has the potential for growth and room for expansion – which is exactly what “A Murder of Gods” set out to prove this week. The introduction of Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen) was an interesting one, showing an old god that evolved to become just as relevant as the new gods to today’s society. It also became a not-so-subtle commentary on American culture and how America can be perceived in such a wide range of ways by different people. This commentary and the evolution of Vulcan felt like the quintessential message communicated in the original book and fell perfectly in line with the concepts put forth by the television show. Book fans (myself included) can be fairly harsh critics when it comes to messing around with something they know and love. However, “A Murder of Gods” was a wonderful surprise with its new material so flawlessly integrated into the material already present!

Other new material brought a leprechaun, a djinn’s lover, and a dead wife together on their own road trip. It sounds like the start of a joke, especially since they may or may not have walked into a bar together. (Hint: They did.) Relatively minor characters in the whole scheme of things, combining them and giving them their own subplot was actually a stroke of genius because “A Murder of Gods” connected characters is a much needed way. Introducing so many different religious figureheads independently can sometimes make American Gods feel disjointed or confusing, but throwing even minor characters together into a unified subplot begins to make the universe more cohesive. Characters come into their own when they are afforded the opportunity to interact with one another. Operating alone puts characters, whether they are human or deities, into a bit of a vacuum. Strength and depth of characters and their stories can shine when they have foils to oppose them and traits to compare and contrast to. “A Murder of Gods” was a beautiful step forward in understanding and exploiting this.

But what about the main characters? Originally, I was on board with the journey of Shadow (Ricky Whittle) with Wednesday (Ian McShane), but the importance of Shadow is beginning to be called into question by this week’s episode. He was originally portrayed like the “every man” character, thrust into the unknown and unexplainable. He was the audience’s foot in the door. His stoicism in the face of the strange was at first understandable. It’s acceptable to believe a man fresh out of prison is not easily perturbed. However, with each episode the oddities have increased and become more obvious. Denial is no longer an option. Yet Shadow’s response has been disappointing. He appears to be disbelieving and astonished, but he questions far less than the “every man” likely would. And thus, I begin to question his motivations for sticking around, especially when the original deal he set with Wednesday in the first episode would allow him to step away from the situation. What is Shadow getting out of the deal when anyone else in the same deal would have likely gone their own way by this time? I need more from the character of Shadow by this point. What purpose is he really serving in the grand scheme of things? It feels like he is supposed to be central to the story, yet somehow he is falling to the wayside and you begin to wonder if his presence is necessary to the story told in “A Murder of Gods” (or the overall story at this point).

So how did things go this week, overall? Last week’s episode was a step forward in story development and purpose, but this week, “A Murder of Gods” fell back into the old habits of god introduction. There is a rich history to dig into and plenty of deities to throw into the mix, but it can grow tiresome if the story itself doesn’t feel like it is moving along. Despite that flaw, this week’s episode of American Gods was entertaining and left things with a sense of cohesion beginning to form. Pieces are beginning to come together, albeit slowly, and we can trust that new pieces placed in the story and old pieces moved in different ways can still be rewarding!

Watch American Gods on Starz on Sunday nights at 9pm! There are three episodes left to enjoy this season! Where do you think it’s all heading this month?


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