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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Gods finally finds a plot driver within the “Fire And Ice”

Ricky Whittle in American Gods
Ricky Whittle in American Gods
Photo: Starz
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“So what? I’m supposed to go back to business as usual, knowing gods walk among us? I can’t do that any more than you can.”

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It’s not every day that a burning body drops out of the sky right in front of your car. But it’s not every day that you’re driving Odin to destinations unknown. After half a season of service, somehow, this is the moment Cordelia decides to have a breakdown and threaten to quit working for Wednesday. (I feel like it’s less the straw that broke the camel’s back and more exhaustion from constant straw production, but never mind.) Not that she has much choice on this empty stretch of road—quitting isn’t exactly practical, and Odin’s sense they’re being watched means he wouldn’t let her anyway. Better to get in the car and keep driving, leaving the body for the wolves and trucks.

Like last week, we’ll get back to this part of the story towards the end of the recap. But first, let’s check in with Laura and her plan to kill Wednesday. It’s one highly approved in Mr. World’s world. But Salim is not so sure. After all, he was a wheeler and dealer back home in Oman, and he knows a bad deal when he sees one. He does his best in negotiating hard terms in both obtaining Odin’s spear and post-murder protections. (Laura makes sure to add that all protections extend to Salim, Sweeney, and Shadow, just in case.) But Mr. World counters that if she fails in her mission, all three will die. It’s classic God stuff, straight out of the fairytale playbook. No business person would take such a deal, but Laura never did have a head for business, and in the end, she’s driving this project.

Shadow needs to deal with his discovery that Derek is Lakeside’s underwear-napper. He’s weighing his options, and Anne-Marie has noticed as he comes into the diner asking Mabel (Jane Spidell) if Derek’s around (he’s not). The town’s unofficial mayor scoops him up to take him to her store to pick up the skates he ordered. (Sam’s suggestion last week Marguerite teach him to ice skate was a good one.) But it’s really an opportunity to get Shadow to tell her about seeing Derek. Anne-Marie doesn’t need to hear all the details; she puts “jumping out of a window” and Shadow’s concern together and is already gently pushing to keep him from alerting Chad even before he’s even done telling her.

Shadow has recognized Anne-Marie’s playing, even if he’s not sure exactly what the game is yet. And after making noises suggesting she’s won, he turns up at Derek’s with Chad in tow. As half the town has conflated Allison’s disappearance and Derek’s panty thieving, Chad has too. But it’s a big stretch from stealing underwear to disappearing a whole person. Derek’s issues aren’t that he’s a psychopath. He’s just struggling to live a queer closeted life in a tiny white cishet town. Chad might not have been understanding in other circumstances, but with Shadow there and clear evidence this is not Allison’s kidnapper, he makes a deal to get Derek to stop.

It’s a good thing Shadow’s solved half of Lakeside’s mystery because there are bigger problems, namely Cordelia’s freak out has brought her to Lakeside. Shadow takes her in, mistaking her for wanting to quit working for Odin, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s wrong.

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Bilquis and Eugenia in American Gods
Bilquis and Eugenia in American Gods
Photo: Starz

When Odin pops round to pick her up, she packs her bags. But despite Odin’s warning that someone is killing his followers, Shadow opts to stay put and go on his skating not-a-date with Marguerite on the frozen lake. It goes swimmingly; the powers Shadow is coming into make staging a romantic moment surprisingly cinematic. But with great power comes great hallucinations, and his turn on the ice leads to visions of Ganesha pushing him towards the town’s sacrificial car and images of snow wights arising from the ground to kill him.

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Speaking of those coming into their own, Bilquis is now free from her past. With an open future in front of her, she consults her shells to see where her services are needed. The visions lead her to Chicago, and Eugenia (Sharon Hope), who at first rebuffs her. But Bilquis is not alone here; the Orishas are also at this birthday celebration for one of their devoted followers. Eugenia is not just a believer; she has been among them her whole life, even midwifing Shadow’s birth. It was she who helped his mother steal him away, rescuing them from Odin. She tells Bilquis that from here on out, her job is to protect Shadow Moon but also to help him by finding “the other.” Shadow is only one-half of the equation. Without the other half, the people will not come together. Finally, after a season and a half of aimless wanderings, not only do we have a show, we have a plot.

As for Odin and Cordelia, the two drive right at the problem. Thus far, the show has loudly hinted Johan (we will note the actor was carefully removed from his scenes and replaced by a CGI version of the devoted Odin follower housed within the skinsuit.) But it’s a misdirection. When Odin tracks Johan down to “the dentist,” Johan is in tatters with a blackmail note promising by the time Odin reads this, he’ll have “the son you hold most dear.” Tyr rolled out to Lakeside, and unlike Odin, he brooked no arguments, insisting Shadow come along for his protection. Perhaps the Norse god they worship in Lakeside wasn’t Odin after all.

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Stray observations

  • Bilquis’ visions mostly center on past images (the buffalo, Shadow’s birth, growing up, marriage, lynching, plus cotton and slavery) or present (1619, Chicago, Eugenia). But there are two shots of Laura with Odin’s spear, which speak to later episodes to come.
  • Salim did his best. But next time you deal with gods, you need a professional fairytale lawyer.
  • The scene with Eugenia dancing with her goddesses was so beautiful. More scenes like that, please.
  • I would not like to have sex in the snow, but perhaps upper northwesterners have different fantasies.
  • The ending track is such a fantastic Leonard Cohen number. It’s the title track from his 2016 album You Want It Darker, and I will now be spending all day listening to it.