“This is the god-killer. It doesn’t exactly come with an instruction manual.”
Gather ’round, worshipful readers, because the American Gods season three penultimate episode is a doozy. It skips any historical background and jumps straight to Cordelia, nearly having a head-on collision with Betty the Cadillac. (Don’t drive distracted!) The radio is bleating on about the new “state of the art life management system,” Shard, which obviously, is the New God’s app. After an exceptionally nice dissolve into a hell of a pancake sequence, Cordelia meets up with Odin to head out to Chicago, where he’s planning a face-off with the New Gods.
Chicago takes the two of them right back to the three sisters, now down to two. While Cordelia’s up on the roof with the Midnight Star Zorya Polunochnaya, Odin tells Czernobog he’s going to cancel the war. This is no face-off, but “Peace Talks with World.” Czernobog smells a rat but can’t put his finger on it. He goes outside to the roof to pray to Zoya, and her star shoots over the sky, revealing... a billboard for Shard. It’s the sign he needs.
But the bulk of this week’s episode is spent in Lakeside, where Shadow has arrived back in time for the End-Of-Winter Festival. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible time to be celebrating; Derek’s body has just been found. It looks like suicide, and Chad is devastated, telling Shadow the kid was doing well in therapy, hadn’t missed school. But when Allison’s coat is tucked away in Derek’s things, Chad reels. Did they misread the boy so badly? Or this is a second murder? Shadow is convinced it’s the latter. He tells Marguerite as much and confesses in between episodes he went to Florida to find her son, Sandy. He came up empty, and worse, Darren (Sandy’s father) claims the kid never came to live with him. That means we have two missing kids and one dead one. But Marguerite pushes him away. She doesn’t want to see what’s happening.
Her refusal to deal with the truth doesn’t stop Shadow. As he sits back in his apartment listening to the recording he accidentally found of Sandy in the car several episodes ago, his visions lead to those historical issues of the Lakeside City Journal Marguerite lent him. Viewers might recall, last time he leafed through them, Shadow vaguely noticed a much older case of a missing teen. But what catches Shadow’s eye now are the dates. Sandy “left” just before New Years’. Allison disappeared on Dec. 30, as did the kid in the older case. There’s been a missing kid at the end of December going back decades — not every year, but close enough. Shadow brings the list to Chad, but Chad pushes him away. He doesn’t want to see what’s happening.
Anne Marie’s been running this joint for ages, wouldn’t she, or anyone else, picked up on it? Why, Anne Marie is out here insisting the festival goes on as planned despite Derek’s death. As she tells Shadow to forget all the tragedy, he spots Ganesh, this time in ice sculpture form. Like at the lake, another coin rises through the ice. Last time, it surfaced behind the back tire. This time it falls into Shadow’s hands heads up. He puts together the message — the trunk. The ice is creaking out on the lake, and the car is frozen shut, but Shadow pops the trunk anyway, where Allison’s body lies. Before he can do anything more than stare, the ice gives way. Dragged down by the weight of his coat, Shadow watches the ghosts of the Children of the Lake arising from the cars below. Is Odin’s son the town’s next sacrifice? No, the Orishas are with him, standing above, willing him to swim back up.
Shadow pops up awake from a fantasy of Marguerite in the hot tub and finds himself at Anne Marie’s. No one should be surprised by the revelation that she’s a Norse goddess and the one who murders these kids. She takes a child every few years and grants the prosperity of thousands of residents in return. Anne Marie admits she didn’t choose to bring Shadow here; Odin called in a favor she couldn’t refuse. But she’s not going to take him down for figuring out her secret, as long as he lets it go.
But Shadow isn’t that kind of person, and we all know it. But just as Shadow realizes the danger, a perfectly timed interruption happens. Shadow’s presence has led to at least one resident opening their eyes: Chad, who storms in, gun brandished. One man with a gun is no match for a goddess. But Shadow is, and he grabs a knife off the wall—the same one used by the Norse gods to murder the native gods of this land. He slices her throat, and her blood turns to fire, burning the cabin with her inside. It ends the murders, but also the town’s good fortune. As Marguerite packs to go, she leaves Shadow her car.
While Shadow is solving cold cases, Laura’s lessons with her new toy are not going well. She’s so bad at throwing Odin’s spear, Doyle takes pity and hands her the lucky coin. (It’s a loan, he says. We’ll see.) It’s a good thing Browning has such chemistry with her new partner since awkwardness doesn’t begin to cover her next request. It being (very possibly) her last night on Earth and all, she’s looking to get laid. Laura changes her mind pretty quickly, though, realizing this is another bad habit, using sex to drive away anxiety. And besides the last time she had sex, it was with Robbie just before she died the first time. So maybe sex right now would be a bad idea. Doyle suggests instead she focus beyond the end. What will she do after killing Odin? Go bowling? Get a tattoo? Skydive? Laura’s never tried the last of those, so it seems the most sensible. After killing a god, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane should be a walk in the park.
The place Odin chooses for the showdown with World is Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Mr. World strides in bold as brass, but he’s not here for peace. He’ll take this as a surrender, thank you very much. Odin seems genuinely taken aback and decides to call off talks for the day rather than respond.
As they leave the planetarium, Laura walks up and raises the spear. Her aim is true, and she is lucky. Odin is dead. In Lakeside, Shadow looks up and sees the crows arrive.
- This episode was so stuffed we didn’t get much face-hugger time with Technology Boy other than a cursory scene where he demands Artifact One.
- Here’s hoping for more Tech Bilquis in the finale.
- “You’ve been trying out a few new looks.” Too bad the show felt it had to go back to Glover for this showdown.
- I’m already in love with Laura and her new Leprechaun. They need a nickname.
- That spear-throwing lesson between Rheon and Browning in the old church is about the hottest thing since Shadow danced to “Poison.”
- One assumes the fantasy of Shadow as a personal trainer married to Marguerite with a baby was Anne Marie’s offer of “a happy life.”
- I didn’t expect American Gods to go full police procedural on us this episode, but it did solve the Lakeside storyline in under 44 minutes—such an efficient genre.
- Episode 9 lead death, straight Game Of Thrones-style! Watching American Gods right itself like this continues to delight me, as does seeing it find its way back to the original narrative.