Gaiman’s fantasy epic continues – ever so slightly – in the second episode of this intriguing television drama. With a strong theme of race, and racism, throughout the second episode, producer writer Bryan Fuller is shown to not be weary of featuring difficult subjects within the context of the series.
From the slave ship opening, where the show introduces the creepy spider god Anansi, the episode continues the central theme of Shadow’s race, and the oppression he faces through the other characters he interacts with. With the last episode ending with his lynching at the hands of the technological boys goons, the theme resonates strong throughout this episode – and is further capsulated in the final twenty minutes under the scrutiny he faces from new character Czernobog (Peter Stormare).
However for all its strength in holding such a powerful theme, episode 2 lacks in plot progression. Continuing from after effects of the lynch attempt, Shadow is beginning to realise the potential danger he faces as part of Wednesdays company. With the pair finally hitting the road together the episode seemed to be leading somewhere but then stumbles in one location for the final third of the episode – losing its pacing in the process. The episode does give tidbits into the broken relationship between Shadow and his wife – and more importantly how he sees her now – but that takes a backseat to exploring the relationship between Shadow and his employer. Out of the two, Wednesday does seem to the more intriguing character – showing a subtle distaste for technology that could be seen as a wider issue in the context of the series.
With beginning to understand the world he has entered, Shadow encounters two new characters that pose him different threats. The aforementioned Czernobog, with his uncomfortable job and chilling stature is a threat based around the idea of size and violence, while Gillian Anderson’s Media poses larger questions in her reveal. Out of the two, Stormare is given more screen presence in his introduction, hinting at his racist undertones and his distaste of Shadow and Wednesday. However, with the more spectacular sequence, Anderson is allowed to fully engross the viewer within her short sequence – with the television crew making one of the most clever scenes involving multiple television screens to serve as a catalyst to her power. Both are worthy additions to the roster, but episode 2 struggles to reveal anything substantial with regard to both.
In the sub-plot that began in episode 1, Goddess of Love Bilguis continues her lustful advances on willing individuals. With her apparent unhappiness at the situation she finds herself in, could this subplot tie into the wider context of the shower at a later date. With the show holding such a premise anything is possible, but the establishment of this character hints at a larger role to come.
Episode 2, like the first, is still seen to be establishing mysticism and characters into the context of the show. Unafraid to carry heavy themes, the show is mature in what it presents but lacks a consistent pace that halts in the final third. With two established actors in supporting roles, American Gods highlights its credibility as a large scale American series. With a gutter punch of an ending, episode 3 cannot come quicker.
Overall – 6/10