Spoiler Warning: Mild Spoilers for Wonder Woman follow in first paragraph.
Near the end of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, there’s a point when Diana makes the decision to devote herself to protecting humanity, despite their propensity for killing each other; she believes she — a god — is meant to spend her life in this selfless service. In Neil Gaiman’s book and this American Gods adaptation, the supreme beings we meet are less altruistically motivated, wrapped in the endless conundrum Wednesday repeatedly proffers to Shadow: If gods exist because people believe in them, what came first, gods or people? And if people stop believing, do gods cease to exist?
As wise, old Wednesday has also previously mentioned (“You’ve got your White Jesuit style Jesus, your Black, African Jesus, your Mexican Jesus and your swarthy Greek Jesus.”) this week’s Coming to America vignette brings the immigrant sacrificial son along on an promising journey across the Rio Grande. Mexican Jesus’ crucifixion goes a little differently than white folks might recall from bible study, but in the end his wounds — inflicted by men armed with weapons bearing words from the Lord’s Prayer — are similar. Thy will be done, indeed.
Gods require sacrifice, it seems, and Mr. Wood’s (god of forests) attempt to take Shadow as his is thankfully thwarted by Wednesday’s healing touch. In return, a god wants Shadow’s undivided attention, asks that a man believe in him instead of his dead wife’s ghost. Reunited ravens (Huginn and Muninn) urge Wednesday’s quick takeoff, while another amusing group of road-trippers round up and head in a decidedly different direction to see a man (*coughJeremyDaviescough*) about a resurrection. If anyone can give Wednesday’s wonderful wordsmithery a run for the money, it’s the twofer team-up of I-Will-Take-No-Shit-from-Anyone, Laura Moon and the marvelously madcap, prolifically profane Mad “Give-Me-Back-My-Coin-Cunt” Sweeney. Forced to share a cab by its on-a-mission owner, Salim — aka not Ibrahim bin Irem — the trio heads out for parts Kentucky; Sweeney promises he’ll tell Salim where to find his Jinn (“I’ll find you a whole murder of gods, demi and otherwise, every goddamn one of them.”).
In an hour positively packed with ponderous pontification, the visuals of Vulcan, Virginia spoke louder than bombs. Next in Wednesday’s line of defense is the god of Volcanos, updated by weaponry, guns in every residents’ red arm-banded hands. Fed (again) by alarmingly acceptable human sacrifice, Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen) is thriving on his believers’ devotion. The town celebration (/funeral) gives new meaning to “Happiness is a warm gun”, and since what goes up must come down, the gun god’s lofty ego suffers the death blow by his own fool creation … reminds me of a biblical story I once heard (god loses his son to the people he made). With Odin’s curse upon Vulcan’s virulent vat of ammunition, we can only imagine the kind of damage those bullets will do.
“This ain’t Kentucky”; no, it’s Jack’s Crocodile Bar, where Sweeney and Laura continue their endless banter; in between bandied barbs, he slides seeds of doubt under a dead wife’s cold skin. Back on the road, a stop at dawn’s break, three travelers ponder their respective beliefs, or lack thereof. With this deeply thoughtful series posing question after relevant question about the things, the people, the gods we put our faith in, there’s no walking away from a single episode without pondering our own.
What a wonderful pairing, short though it was, Wednesday and Vulcan, McShane and Corbin Bernsen — who was a solid delight his entire time onscreen — was. It felt for the first time that Wednesday had an equal (though of course, he didn’t). Both Czernobog and Zorya Vechernyaya were great with Wednesday, and I’d put Vulcan right up there with them as excellent Wednesday friend/foil.
Fuller and Green’s immigrant Jesus is a stroke of brilliance considering current events, as was the whole town devoted to guns and ammunition and a god of weaponry — complete with human sacrifice. I mean, that’s just what we do, isn’t it?
Super curious whether Laura will actually be resurrected? Her story here is all off book, and Emily Browning has proven a wonder, so I could see the show keeping her character around. The question also is: Will Shadow continue to be distracted by her, and what will he do if she does come back to life?
Poor Laura having to deal with all the talk of her bad smell, what it must have been like for Shadow to kiss her… that comment Sweeney made about her cold tongue and cigarette breath was the one time she looked upset by things he’d said. Well, that and the c-word.
The visuals of the closing scene, and Salim’s, Laura’s and Sweeney’s closing actions — “God is great.” “Life is great, Salim not Salim.” Sweeney spits and kicks the dirt. — were a delight. The natural light was just gorgeous.
I assume all readers appreciate the whole Wednesday saving Shadow scene, its allegory. I love that header shot screencap.
In the first scene where Shadow and Wednesday are talking in the street, there is a mysterious figure lurking behind Shadow …
Music this hour:
Shadow to Wednesday, about what happened at the police station: “And then I get stabbed by Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree!”
Wednesday to Shadow: “Your dearly departed has departed, and I suggest we should do the same.
I’m not so young or so narrow to assume that the dead are dead and there’s no spectrum of spectral in between. In my experience. the dead that aren’t rarely come back without purpose.”
Laura to Mad Sweeney: “Well chop chop ginger minge, let’s go.
Mad Sweeney to Laura: “I’ve done the math. This times that equals you’re a cunt divided by the only way I’m going to get what I need is if you give it to me. equals the only way you’re going to give it to me is if you don’t need it. Like my friend, Jesus Christ, the only thing you need, dead wife, is resurrection.”
Laura: “Did you just name drop Jesus Christ like you know a guy who knows a guy?”
Sweeney: “I do know a guy who knows a guy and the guy sitting next to that guy is your guy.
Whatever this is doesn’t last long. Especially through a hot summer. Whatever this is goes to soup. And soup doesn’t win a husband back.
Why don’t you put that on your fucking scales and weigh it?”
Laura to Sweeney: “WTF are you? I mean, WTF are any of you, but first, WTF are you?”
Sweeney: “A leprechaun.”
Wednesday, responding to Shadow’s question about his wound (“Is it infected?”): “Well in a way, yeah. No doubt you met gentlemen in the slammer who slick their shiv with shit before they shank their rival. Well, that’s what we got here. A shitty little shiv.”
Wednesday to Shadow: “There’s always been a god shaped hole in man’s head. Trees were the first to fill it.”
Shadow to Wednesday: “This is all so fucked up.”
Wednesday to Shadow: “Religion inspires in those who fear nothing fear of the gods, and using that fear requires a certain element of fucked up.”
Salim to Laura: “You know what scares, me, I was scared of the black people, the way they stared at me, and I was scared of the Jews, the ones dressed all in black, with the hats and the beards and the side curls [Chasidim], I was scared of the sheer quantity of people, all shapes and sizes of people spilling from high, high filthy buildings onto the sidewalk. I was scared of the honking hullaballoo of traffic and I was even scared of the air. I’m not scared of anything anymore.”
Sweeney to Salim: “I’m genuinely terrified you’re never gonna shut the fuck up, Ibrahim bin Irem.”
…Oh, she’s a lepricunt.”
Laura to Sweeney: “If I hear those words come across your lips again, I’m going to rip them off your face.”
Sweeney to Salim: “Did you have a genie in your bottle? Did you rub one out of him darling?”
Wednesday greeting Vulcan: “Goodness gracious great balls of fire!”
Sweeney to Laura: “Why do men like anal sex? Cause women don’t … not like Ibrahim.
Your kind of love is the grand butt fucking of them all — you can like someone even when you know they don’t like it.
Laura: “I really like anal sex.”
Wednesday (foreshadowing) to Shadow about Vulcan: “I’ve been thinking of a personal fuck you retort, and he’s gonna make it for me.”
Wednesday to Vulcan right before he slices off Vulcan’s head: “You pledged allegiance and made me a blade, and they killed you for it.”
Shadow: “Holy shit, holy shit what did you do?”
Shadow asking what Wednesday is doing (peeing into the vat): “I’m laying down a curse, I’m cursing the whole fucking thing.”