After a stunning fourth episode to this fantastical series, we have episode five: Lemon Scented You. While the episode is again of high quality, it lacked the thrust of the episodes that have proceeded it. A hell of a lot of narration, but few hooks to grab onto to allow yourself to be pulled into the swirling world of American Gods.
The episode reverts to its format of introducing a God as a prologue, we are given an intricate animation of what I’d assume is a Native American God. The story, which is one of the highlights of the episode, is animated with mock wooden figurines representing the story of a God lost to the ravages of time. It’s a compelling way of presenting such a story, by having this story lost in time told not through humans but through a representation of them. Again, the graphics are fantastic and this short animation would do well as a standalone piece of art. At the end we are warned that ‘Gods live and Gods die’, an ominous sign for episodes to come.
The episode itself resumes from the end of the previous one, where Emily Browning plays a not-quite-alive Laura Moon. Git Gone proved a testament to Browning’s portrayal: building up a no-nonsense and matter of fact character, and we – and Shadow – have no option but to accept her dead aliveness. Later in the episode, it is in her interaction with Mad Sweeney that brings the episode’s pace back up to speed. I’m definitely hoping for more interaction between the two, with Sweeney’s fun nickname of ‘dead wife’ for her.
Our favourite God baddies are back this episode, and their relationship with each other is becoming more clear. Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), Media (Gillian Anderson), and the new addition of Mr. World (Crispin Glover) all do a great job with their characters. It is only, perhaps, Anderson’s slightly jarring English accent in the style of Bowie that I found a bit questionable. These interactions set up their interesting relationship, but they seem to ruin the flow of the episode a bit, as well as reducing their mysterious threat. They are just Gods like the others, we discover. Either there is a bigger baddie to come, or these characters are going to have to provide a new found excitement to the climax of this season – not that the actors seem unworthy of doing so. Mr. World, as a new character, played a strangely soft spoken and compelling while repulsive character that tries its best to come across as ‘human’. He quietly speaks, ‘you’re a person. I love people’, doing his best to convince you of this. They seem a strange nuclear family, this trio – with the young and bitter Technical Boy as would be son of strict Media and quietly dangerous Mr. World. It will be interesting to see how the story continues from this point, as the character’s over exposure feels like a neutering of their power. It is difficult to feel scared of a teenage boy who is scolded by a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like.
What their meeting with Mr. Wednesday and Shadow does indicate is the psychology of the Gods. The assertion from Wednesday shows the fault lines between old and new: that Old Gods had a relationship with the humans who worshipped them, that they ‘gave back’. These new forms of worship are completely one sided, and it’s difficult not to argue that we do indeed worship them: our technology, our media. Even now you’re reading this review on a device of your choice, after watching or thinking of watching American Gods. As Mr. World says, ‘they get a choice, of course, of course, but they are buying salsa.’ It’s a frightening prospect.
Image: Amazon Prime Video