American Gods is back for episode 5, “Lemon Scented You.” This week, Laura warms up, Shadow and Wednesday go to jail, and Media tries on Marilyn Monroe.
After taking a look back last week, American Gods catches up with Shadow as he returns from robbing a bank with Wednesday. After Laura’s attempt at reconciliation is rudely interrupted by the police, Wednesday and Shadow end up in jail. Someone turned them in. And then, they’re kidnapped, without leaving the police station. Mr. World wants to introduce himself and make a little sales pitch.
The two best things about this episode are Gillian Anderson and Gillian Anderson. Sure, Shadow —and us along with him — manages to learn a little more about his new weird reality, and that’s definitely interesting. But Gillian Anderson appears as both David Bowie (in the teal Ziggy Stardust suit with the short red hair) and as Marylin Monroe (in the iconic white dress from The Seven Year Itch) and it is everything.
First, let’s go back to the beginning.
Coming to America: Nunyunnini
In the mists of pre-history, a group of people came to America, walking over frozen land bridges. Like everyone to come after, they brought their god, Nunyunnini. When they arrived, the land was no better than the place they came from. There was no food, but there were other people who offered to share sustenance. But Nunyunnini’s people brought something else to the new world, in addition to their god. They brought war.
Astula American Gods episode 105 (Official image 6268ec33-c095-4171-be39-bdf0870abf8a via Starz)
As the people settled into their new home in what would some day be called America, they forgot Nunyunnini. Or rather, their children forgot their parents, and with that, their god. And then they were forgotten too.
"The gods are great, but people are greater. For it is in their hearts that gods are born, and to their hearts that they return. Gods live and gods die, and soon enough Nunyunnini was entirely forgotten."
The conceit of Nunyunnini’s story is that starving humans would, upon encountering people with food, cut off the hand that tried to feed them. This reflects an ongoing theme in American Gods: war. As our gods make war on each other, so do we, because they are our creations, made in our image.
Still my puppy?
We join Shadow and Laura after the bank robbery, as Laura sits on Shadow’s bed, waiting for him to return. Although he’s definitely taken aback by her presence, it’s not the most messed up thing he’s seen that week, so he doesn’t freak out. Instead, he asks about Robbie, and about how they died. He wants to know if she was going to leave him for Robbie and Laura scoffs at the idea.
Laura draws a hot bath. She wants to be warm to the touch, in case Shadow is planning on doing that. All he has to say is he had a feeling he wasn’t going to see her again the last time they talked on the phone. There’s a big storm running across the country and nothing feels OK.
105 Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon), Emily Browning (Laura Moon) – American Gods episode 105 (Official image 4e79bacd-ce1e-4a39-ae3b-9d0496fe5210 via Starz)
They draw closer. Her heart beats… once. She feels alive. She asks Shadow if she feels alive to him. Shadow says yes.
"I do know that I love you. I had to die to know how much."
Laura tells Shadow he’s gotten himself mixed up in some really bad stuff and she’s going to watch out for him. She thanks him for her present, Mad Sweeney’s coin. Shadow tells her someone’s looking for that. Laura says they’re not getting it back.
"Are you still my puppy? No, I’m not."
Ouch. She really does deserve it, though.
Someone is watching the hotel from a car in the parking lot. Two ravens sit atop the sign for the Starbrite Motel, watching. One goes to Wednesday’s room to report back. The old man isn’t happy about what he hears.
Wednesday comes to Shadow’s room and asks if he wants to get a drink, and if Shadow has questions, maybe he can answer them. Shadow tells him he really needs to wrap his head around something he’s just seen. “I see you’ve seen something.” Wednesday nods understandingly.
And suddenly the night is alive with flashing lights and sirens. Shadow and Wednesday are arrested for bank robbery. So much for getting questions answered.
Oh you pretty thing
Technical Boy leaves the club, followed by the dragging drone of electronic music. As he walks back to his limo through the empty parking lot, the lights go out one by one. He looks down to see the same robot-y little helmet that attached itself to Shadow’s head in episode 1, when Technical Boy kidnapped him and subjected him to a vague and profanity-laced tirade. Now it’s Technical Boy’s turn for a telling off from Media.
Gillian Anderson stars as the New God Media in the critically acclaimed series American Gods. Media assumes whatever form will deliver her message (Official image AGS1_105_063016_0107_a_1200x1800 via Starz)
"Oh you pretty thing, you. You have an image problem. You need to think about your brand. How you want the world to see you. How you want Mr. World to see you. Tasked with asking a few questions, you hang a black man from a tree. You’ve got your transmission and your live wire, but your circuit’s dead."
Apparently Mr. World was not happy with this chain of events, and demands an apology. But not for himself. Media tells Technical Boy that he’s to re-gift that apology to Wednesday and his man Shadow Moon. Because before Technical Boy put his foot in it, Mr. Wednesday was suffocating, just smoldering, and then he came along trying to put out fires with gasoline. Mr. World wants him to apologize to defuse a situation that could blow up in their faces. TB argues that it was necessary, but he has serious doubts that an apology from him is going to do the trick.
Interrogation part 1
Shadow sits in an interrogation room as a police lady tells him it’s a very interesting story about how they caught them, across two state lines. Apparently some very big people have it out for Wednesday, and if Shadow isn’t careful, he is going to get hit by the shrapnel. Does his boss have enemies?
She’s asking because they were turned in via an anonymous tip that came in by fax, through a machine that hadn’t been turned on in years. The fax gave their exact location, including GPS and the VIN number of their car. Although the arresting officers are two country cops in the middle of nowhere, they were given some very high tech surveillance photos showing Shadow and Wednesday committing the bank robbery. So she’s curious and wants to know what Shadow knows. Maybe he’ll get leniency.
In another room, Wednesday plays senile. He tells the cop interrogating him exactly what happened over the last few days, about recruiting the god of death and a leprechaun.
Back at the motel, Mad Sweeney shows up, demanding his coin back from Laura. Of course she says no. To prove her point, she breaks various parts of Mad Sweeney that were not already broken, making him scream bloody murder.
Then Laura has some questions. She wants to know how Sweeney knows Shadow. Sweeney tells her he was hired by someone to pick a fight with Shadow to see what the guy was made of.
"He’s Grimnir, the dude he calls Wednesday. He’s a god. You don’t believe me.No, no, just processing. What else did god tell you to do?"
Mad Sweeney tells Laura not to trust Wednesday. Shadow trusts Wednesday, but he shouldn’t.
Laura’s next question is about the coin. He can’t take it from her, can he? She has to give it freely? She’s correct. Laura tells him there is no way she’s giving him her coin. Sweeney points out that she’s going to keep decomposing, and her body isn’t going to last. When that happens, he’s going to reach right into her ribs and pluck out the coin like a berry. But he doesn’t want to wait that long, and attacks her in a rage, trying to drown a dead woman in a bathtub. Good plan.
Just then the cops burst into the room, probably alerted by the other motel occupants after they heard Sweeney’s screaming. He’s like, no, she’s fine, see? But Laura plays dead, or rather, she stops playing alive, and they drag Mad Sweeney away in handcuffs.
Interrogation part 2
Back at the police station, they lock Shadow and Wednesday in an interrogation room, leaving the high-res images of the robbery on the table for Wednesday to see. But all Wednesday says is:
"If we don’t get out of here soon, they’ll be carrying out a couple of corpses. Those photographs are a particular god’s eye view of the world."
Then a tiny spider crawls through the holes in their cuffs and frees both of them. Wednesday explains that he’s a friend. Shadow gives him a strange look.
"The cop was right, wasn’t she? Someone big is after you and you’re afraid. Thought you weren’t afraid of anything. Who are you? Who’s after you? WHO’S AFTER YOU?"
They hear banging and shouts from outside their locked room.
"Someone you don’t want to let see your face until you’re ready to be seen."
Someone unlocks the door. It’s not the cops. It’s Marilyn Monroe.
Gillian Anderson as Media as Marilyn Monroe – American Gods episode 105 ee3200fe-ea59-4e95-a7d7-b8ff64abfad9 via Starz)
Mergers and acquisitions
Media floats into the room and speaks to them in a breathy whisper. Shadow asks Wednesday to tell him it isn’t real. He does not.
The mysterious Mr. World enters the room, all overcoat and fedora, apologizing to Wednesday for not reaching out ages ago, but he hadn’t see him.
Bruce Langley (Technical Boy), Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon), Ian McShane (Mr Wednesday), Crispin Glover (Mr. World) – American Gods season 1 episode 105 (Official image b6275def-9330-45bc-8feb-56596270844f via Starz)
"Not clearly, not like this, here, in person. You are huge. It’s a pleasure to meet you."
Then Mr. World notices Shadow, and Wednesday warns him not to say anything. But World says he knows about Shadow, and tells him intimate details about his life, and about Shadow’s mother. It’s all recorded in the book of life, he says.
Mr. World summons Technical Boy to apologize for the hanging, offering Shadow a chance to punch him in the face. Mr. World and Media want them to know the new gods just want to help, to find their audience. World says they were never at war. How about a merger?
"Wouldn’t you like an upgrade? A brand new lemon-scented you?"
Media gives an extensive sales pitch. Wednesday wants no part of it. He smells a con.
Then Mr. World and Media head for the door. But Technical Boy objects. He’s confused, because isn’t the goal to end Wednesday? Mr. World explains he’s giving Wednesday options. Everyone wants options. Also, Wednesday deserves their respect. He’s older than Technical Boy will ever be. He has wisdom and knowledge that TB will never have. When he laughs in Mr. World’s face, Media blows him a high-powered kiss that knocks out his two front teeth and leaves his mouth bloody.
Did that just happen?
As he backs out the door, Mr. World tells Shadow he’s not his enemy. The lights flicker again, and Shadow is alone with Wednesday.
"Is this real? Did that just happen?It’s still happening."
Shadow and Wednesday make their way out of the interrogation room toward freedom, and they see that the police station is a horror show of a wreck. A gnarly tree grows from a dead cop’s head and grabs for Shadow.
Outside the decimated station, a lone patrol car pulls into the parking lot. It’s the one holding Mad Sweeney in the back. Those two officers radio for help and enter the building. When Sweeney realizes they aren’t coming out again, he kicks his way free.
At a morgue not far away, Laura wakes up in a cold drawer, accidentally killing the attendant who’d come to investigate the banging she was making, trying to get out. She’s scrubbed clean, all her makeup gone. Laura finds the bag with her personal items. It’s marked “Jane Doe.” She takes it with her as she walks out of the morgue, naked and dead.
I hope you will join me again next week to see if Wednesday plans to take Mr. World on his bargain, and if Shadow’s dead wife can manage to rekindle their marriage. And maybe we’ll meet a few more American gods.