A Tale From The Old Country
♦Tripwire Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE casts his eye over this week’s episode of American Gods, on Starz tonight in the US and on Amazon Prime in the UK from Monday…
American Gods Episode 07
Director: Adam Kane
Writer: Neil Gaiman, Maria Melnik
Stars: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover
Another ‘time-out’ from the ongoing road trips around America of recent weeks, with another time shift to another age and the tale of one Essie Tregowan, an old world Irish lassie with a head full of pagan stories and pagan rituals as real to her as Christ and prayer is to many today. This is a story that illustrates her undying devotion to the ‘Little People’ of old Ireland while also reminding us that America was once a dumping ground for our great unwashed and unwanted. It is also a story of what a woman must sometimes do to get along in this world. But, with Emily Browning doing double shift in this episode, playing the similarly ‘no-nonsense’ Essie of the past as well as Laura Moon in the present, one has to wonder whether her strained relationship with travelling companion, Mad Sweeney, is merely happenstance and not something more. And not for the first time do we feel the hand of a greater force guiding them across America.
Cast mostly in the past, this is a wonderful, bitter-sweet tale of one woman’s journey across the globe and up the social ladder of acceptability. There’s something of Defoe’s Moll Flanders about her; an independent woman in an age when women were not be be as such. Essie holds the self-same pragmatic state of mind that Laura does to. She will dust herself down, roll up her sleeves and do what must be done. While Shadow seems to still struggle with the magic encroaching on his life, Laura (and Essie before her) do not.
Although Essie Tregowan’s story may well be warmly remembered by readers of the novel, on screen and with a somewhat incongruous soundtrack featuring early rock and roll, jazz and blues – and thereby a departure from the original orchestral-like scoring of Brian Reitzel – on the small screen it is given space to breathe and to encapsulate the story not only of an early immigrant of the New World (coming from Ireland, it would seem, whereas the Essie of the novel hailed from Cornwall) but also off how the stories and ways of the old country travel with us all and fade with us too, should we allow them to. America, the New World may not seem to have any time for the myth and magic of pagan rites and rituals, but they haven’t all quite given up the ghost yet.
Once again, Emily Browning is the focus, and steals the show with little to actually say, given the story is narrated while recording this tale, by the bespeckled Mr Ibis (Demore Barnes), whose hand we have seen record the coming of the gods to America in past episodes. The ending is rather touching but an inevitability given the ear her story is set in.
Tregowan’s story – while fictional – is the story of many an American settler. She may have arrived by penal transportation (and not just the once!) but she rose through the ranks as I dare say other young woman may well have done too. Malcolm X may have become infamous for claiming to desire equality by ‘any means necessary’ back in 1965, but he wasn’t the first to live by that ideology because of social inequality and imbalance. Tregowan – and for that matter, Laura Moon, – also seem to be cut from the same cloth.
With the odd, dramatic time shift back into the present and a catch up with Laura, Mad Sweeney (whom we learn a little bit more about as a once mighty king and who reminds us, as if we need reminding at this stage, that stories change and with them the characters in those stories) and Salim the taxi-driver, we are reminded of the main story which is itself set upon a certain path. Literally and metaphorically. Where that path will lead (Wisconsin?) isn’t yet ready to be answered. But, it’s a fun ride while it lasts. And, as the news of a second season on the cards, that road seems to have a long way yet to wind. And, I for one, am happy to join that ride. It’s just a shame that it’ll be coming to an end all too shortly.