♦Tripwire Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE takes a look at the fifth episode of American Gods, which is on Starz in the US tonight and on Amazon Prime from tomorrow Monday in the UK…
American Gods Episode 5
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Stars: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover
After a brief hiatus of sorts last week – with a time shift story that brought us up to date with Laura Moon’s (Emily Browning) story and her sudden appearance at the end of Shadow’s bed – we are back up and running with the continuation of Shadow’s story and his entry into a world that is becoming more and more magical and less and less real with each passing day he spends at Wednesday’s side.
And, once again, we have a prologue scene hurling us back into the past, and this time a more ancient past than we have witnessed in previous series. It would seem all roads lead not to Rome, but to America. We witness a nomadic hunter/gatherer tribe (utilising CGI to present this ancient world to great effect, reminding me of the stop-motion films of Laika Entertainment in the design aesthetics used in creating this primal world and its inhabitants; it’s wonderfully done) whom in following the roaming mammoths end up in ancient America. Gods live and sometimes new gods are taken up, and in doing so, some gods die. Hell, you only need to look to Neil Gaiman’s recent Norse Mythology to realise how few stories of a once healthy, dominant pagan religion have been lost. The existing stories of Norse mythology seem to suggest they were but the tip of a once mighty iceberg of tall tales and godly goings-on. But then, like other pagan religions before them, they fell apart, in some part, to a lack of a centralised base, and a loss of believers; the central conceit of this series’ narrative. A trick quickly learnt by our more modern Judeo-Christian religions.
And, while the same eerie, slow strings accompany many of the scenes in this episode suggest a melancholy pace, the narrative of this week’s installment suggests otherwise. A lot happens as we witness the return of Gillian Anderson’s ‘Media’ in a couple of iconic guises immediately recognisable, just as her I Love Lucy debut in episode 2. Anderson is clearly revelling in this part, and who wouldn’t. She does a mean… no, I’ll let you all witness who she crops up as this week for yourselves, but each icon she choses to impersonate is spot on. She brings a smile to a show purposefully devoid of cheery moments.
Oh, and we do finally get Crispin Glover’s Mr World in all Glover’s signature creepy, quirky magnificence; Wednesday’s ‘extravagant enemies’, as an arresting cop puts it, while hauling Wednesday and Shadow’s collective asses into clink after a very specific and very correct tip-off from said enemies. Mr World is somewhat of the CEO of this new pantheon of modern media gods, making an offer to Wednesday very much out of today’s media Nathan Barley-like thinking: a complete rebranding and a, quite literal, relaunch. He is a mystery to us all, being a new edition to the show and not appearing in the original novel. As such, his motives are rather opaque, and while the upstart amongst his ranks, the The Technical Boy, shows all the arrogance disrespect and fashion sense of a scally from Stretford, Mr World shows a respect for his elders which seems out of keeping with his otherwise villainous nature. Glover brings a sense of the unexpected with him that will, no doubt, keep us all guessing, which is part of the fun of the series too, right?
Ye, gods, just read those names back to yourselves: Anderson, Glover and let’s not forget Lovejoy’s Ian McShane, a great actor in his own right. This is a series that boasts some of the best scripts as well as the best cast too. We’ve been veritably spoilt up to now. And, fair does to Hollyoak’s Ricky Whittle for holding his own throughout it all. Broody, moody and just enough confusion to everything.
Add to this the further adventures of zombie Laura Moon and the ever-violent, ever welcome intrusion of Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), still on the lookout for his lucky charms, and you have one of the best episodes so far.
This is a series beginning to build, as plot lines and characters split off and sometimes threaten to collide at times. But not quite yet. The old gods are walking the earth, scraping by on even the slightest of energy derived from would-be worshippers, as we have already seen with Bilquist in previous episodes. Meanwhile, the new, techno-savvy gods of modern America are on the rise.
American Gods episode 5 is on tonight on Starz in the US and from tomorrow Monday in the UK on Amazon Prime