American Gods episode 6 finds Shadow and Wednesday running from the frying pan into the fire as they reconnect with an old friend in “A Murder of Gods.”
After last week’s episode of American Gods, Shadow and Wednesday are on the run from the law. They’re looking for help and shelter from an old friend of Wednesday’s. Meanwhile, we catch up to Mad Sweeney as he catches back up with Laura Moon, and they both catch a ride with a certain taxi driver we met a few episodes back.
“A Murder of Gods” is the most political episode of American Gods so far. It concerns the kind of America we’re building for ourselves, and the gods we create and destroy along the way. Episode 6 introduces a character who isn’t in the book: Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, the forge, and volcanoes. His addition is a commentary on America’s obsession with guns. They’re practically a religion of their own in some parts of this country. Now that attitude is even more entrenched than it was when the book was published, in 2001, at the dawn of a fresh, new millennium.
American Gods episode 6, “A Murder of Gods,” begins with the latest coming to America story, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. This story could be happening right now, at this very moment. Somewhere in Mexico…
Somewhere in Mexico …
Via con Dios
A group of people readies to make the dangerous Rio Grande crossing with a prayer. The guide warns the current is swift and deep in the middle, so anyone who can’t swim shouldn’t even try. They all wade into the river, swimming as it gets deeper, and finally coming to the bank on the other side, in America. As they wait for everyone to cross, one man goes under. He’s drowning, his hand reaching toward the surface in desperation. Miraculously, a hand reaches down into the water, pulling him to safety. His savior, standing on the surface of the river, walks serenely to the shore. The people watch in awe.
"You saved me. Thank you. What is your name?You know my name."
Suddenly, the bank is bright with floodlights from a pack of SUVs. A border patrol shoots into the crowd. One man holds a rifle decorated in silver filigree, “Thy Kingdom Come” etched on the barrel in capital letters. It’s a massacre. The savior stands in front of the people, arms flung wide, trying to protect them. The man with the silver rifle shoots him, once through each hand, and through the heart. He lies on the bank, his blood on the stones. A god is murdered.
A murder of gods
We find Shadow and Wednesday back on the highway, running from the new gods’ police station massacre. Shadow wants to know what just happened. He doesn’t believe what he saw. They killed all those cops. Wednesday says it was a warning to him, and a sacrifice for themselves. Shadow if he means a sacrifice for gods, and Wednesday gets fed up. What’s it going to take for him to believe Wednesday?
It seems like Shadow is almost ready to accept his new reality. He believes his dead wife is back, but the rest of it? He’s still not there. Shadow seems suspicious that this god stuff all might just be another of Wednesday’s cons, or maybe just a straight-up lie.
As they drive down the highway, Wednesday blabs about all the charms he knows. Shadow asks if he knows one to stop bleeding. Wednesday looks down, realizing Shadow was injured during their run-in with the new gods. Luckily, he knows a charm that can heal with a touch.
The wound is infected, in a way. But this is no normal bug squirming under Shadow’s skin. Wednesday lays on his hands as Shadow writhes in pain, and he draws it out, a huge, insectile parasite, like Alien and Wrath of Khan rolled into one, but worse. The old man throws it onto the asphalt.
"It’s all so #$%&ed up.Religions inspires, in those who fear nothing, fear of the gods, and using that fear requires a certain element of #$%&ed up."
Vulcan, Virginia is the happiest place in America. Its citizens smile as they go about their business during the day. Life is good in the bullet factory. But today, there’s an accident. A rusty walkway railing gives way, and a man falls backwards into a vat of molten metal.
When Wednesday and Shadow drive into Vulcan they are greeted by empty streets. Shadow wonders where everyone is. Wednesday explains.
"Everyone in this particular town is a dedicated citizen, dedicated to one sticky belief: America. Their America. There aren’t just two Americas. Everyone looks at Lady Liberty and sees a different face. Even if it crumbles under question. People will defend the warm, safe feeling their America gives them. They will defend it with bullets."
American Gods Season 1 2017 Corbin Bernsen (Vulcan) – episode 106 (Official image 137bc9a7-ec8d-493d-ba3b-69c2d4124fb8 via Starz)
They start to see people lining the streets. Every single one is armed, but not many are about. Wednesday says that means it’s either radiation or a funeral. Then they look up the street to see most of the town is marching down the street in front of them. It’s a funeral, or rather, Wednesday tells Shadow there’s been a sacrifice to the volcano, and Shadow, shaking his head, asks if he means human sacrifice. He does. Wednesday’s talking about the accident at the foundry. They happen a few times every year, but it’s too expensive to fix everything. The old man says they may as well just be throwing them straight into the fire.
A taste of honey
Vulcan stands in front of the crowd giving a rousing speech. The people cheer, and in unison, shoot into the air. “Please go in peace!” cries Vulcan. Wednesday warns Shadow to take cover. Vulcan and Wednesday greet each other heartily as a rain of bullets falls around them.
"I need you to believe in me."
Vulcan tells Wednesday he hears he’s starting a war, and the old man explains the new gods are taking honey from their mouths.
"I’m not starving for a taste of honey.The rest of us areLet’s get you something to eat."
Vulcan takes Wednesday and Shadow back to his posh man cave for libations, but offers none to Shadow. Instead of the bottle Wednesday brought as a gift, he pours some from his cellar. He explains why his little town is such a great place to live. People tend to behave if they know they’re being watched. Wednesday asks how Vulcan got this gig, and he answers “Sacrifice.” Wednesday says they don’t sacrifice to him anymore.
Ian McShane (Mr. Wednesday), Corbin Bernsen (Vulcan), Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon) American Gods Season 1 Episode 6 2017 (Official image 72924832-c500-4e53-9d10-a0c71a1a5bfe via Starz)
"But they could and they don’t. But you could sacrifice yourself. You’ve done it before.And the world opened up to me. It’s since closed."
Wednesday looks through the window at what Vulcan calls a hanging tree. Noticing, Vulcan asks if he’s ever seen a hanging.
"Then you’ll know it’s a terrible way to find your faith. Faith doesn’t have to leave the faithful dangling."
Vulcan explains that he franchises his faith. That’s where all this power comes from. America worships the power of a volcano they can hold in their hands. He brandishes a handgun, telling them it’s filled with prayers in his name. They believe every time they pull the trigger.
A pledge of allegiance
Wednesday asks if he’ll come to Wisconsin, stand beside him, and let the world open to them again.
"I was on the bus before you painted it yellow. When do we leave?"
With that, Wednesday asks a favor. He wants Vulcan to forge him a blade in his volcano. Of course, Vulcan agrees enthusiastically, saying he’ll make a blade worthy of a god.
While Vulcan’s at work, Shadow asks why Wednesday trusts this guy. Wednesday explains he knows who he is and who he’s always been. He can depend on that. But then Shadow asks if Wednesday told Vulcan about his lynching, because he knew. Cryptically, Wednesday replies that the people who hung him also knew.
"That’s kind of a personal #$%& you to you.The personal #$%& yous to me didn’t stop there. I’ve been thinking of a personal #$%& you retort, and my friend here’s gonna help me make it."
Vulcan forges the sword, and gets back to talking about sacrifices, telling Wednesday he could use a blood sacrifice. He asks Wednesday why he’s doing what he’s doing. Wednesday just wants everyone to get what’s theirs.
"Seems like the right thing to do, for you."
Wednesday asks if he told them they were here. Vulcan sold them out. The new gods are on their way. He was advised it was best if he stayed neutral. Because Vulcan’s got a great thing going in America. Each school and movie theater shooting is a prayer and a sacrifice to him. And every one just makes them pray harder. Wednesday asks if that’s how he franchises his religion. Vulcan says he never needed his religion to be moral. But Wednesday argues all religions need their martyrs.
"That’s your role in all this?No, it’s yours. You pledged allegiance and forged a blade. And they killed you for it."
With that, he slices off Vulcan’s head, breaking in the new blade. Vulcan falls backward into a vat of molten metal. Not finished, Wednesday lays down a curse. Because all these bullets are going to the new gods.
Coin and Carpet
In the parking lot of the Starlight Motel, Laura watches Wednesday and Shadow drive away in their Caddy. She wants to go after him, but her car is gone. Ends up the police towed it, because it belonged to the dead woman they found in Shadow’s tub. Of course, Laura is the dead woman, and she wants her car back.
Right then Mad Sweeney returns, newly escaped from his not-quite-arrest (the arresting officers having been killed in the new gods’ massacre back at the station). He has an idea. Since Laura won’t give the coin back, he wants to make her not need it anymore.
"Like my friend, Jesus Christ, the only thing you need, dead wife, is resurrection.Did you just name drop Jesus Christ like you know a guy who knows a guy?"
American Gods Season 1 2017 Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney), Emily Browning (Laura Moon) episode 106 (Official image d72b9eff-6540-4edf-adad-798476d97f78 via Starz)
Sweeney suggests they steal a car and heads for a mangy old taxi. Laura objects to his choice. As they’re arguing, they’re interrupted by a gunshot. It’s Salim, the sweet Muslim immigrant we met in New York. Salim wants his cab back. He noticed Sweeney said he’s a leprechaun, and wonders if they know where to find a Jinn. Sweeney tells him they’re going to Kentucky, where there’s a whole murder of gods.
They drive, Laura in front with Salim, Sweeney sprawled out in back. Salim tells them he was scared of New York City and everything in it, but he’s not afraid anymore. When Sweeney notices that the cab license says Ibrahim, and not Salim. Salim explains it isn’t his cab, but he didn’t kill the old driver. He imagines the old driver was given a new life, just like he was. At this point, finally tells him his name is Salim, or rather it was Salim. He doesn’t know what his name is now.
Laura realizes she’ll never be seeing her mother again and she lights up a smoke. Salim asks Laura if she’s dead, because she smells like it. Although it might be the cigarettes. She tells him she used to pray for another life. She prayed for her family would die in an accident. Salim doesn’t ask for things when he prays. He gives thanks for where he is at this point in his life, and for knowing his purpose. He needs to find the Jinn, because his old life is over, and the Jinn is his afterlife. They knew each other in New York. Now he wants to know more.
In the back seat, after he finishes spewing rude comments, Sweeney falls asleep, and Laura directs Salim to drive west, away from Kentucky, into Indiana.
Mad Sweeney wakes up in Indiana. They’re back at the casino where he first met Shadow. Over drinks (one of which is a coffee for Salim), they talk about shame. Sweeney’s saying obnoxious things about her dead smell, but Laura doesn’t care. She doesn’t have a use for shame.
Sweeney tries to convince Laura to give up on Shadow, because now he’s Wednesday’s man. He’s got a new life, and she’s dead. He’s really very rude about it. But Laura is not convinced. Shadow made her heart beat.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, Wednesday’s concerned that Shadow is distracted by Laura, the wife he lost twice. So Wednesday tells him to close his eyes and concentrate on her. He can see her. She’s in Indiana, at her parents’ house, watching them from outside a dark window. She doesn’t even feel the cold, but maybe it’s that cold is all she feels. Wednesday asks if Shadow can let her fade away.
Life is great
Laura, Sweeney and Salim are back on the road. Salim stops at sunrise to pray. Laura smokes. Sweeney waits. Salim finishes and looks back toward Laura.
"God is great.Life is great, Salim-not-Salim.Life is great."
Life is great. So is this show. Meet me back here next week to find out where Shadow and Wednesday go next in episode 7 of American Gods.