Shadow and Wednesday seek help from a powerful old friend while three unlikely travel companions set on a journey to gain what they lost.
Beware the Goddess of Spoilers…
A Dead Wife, an Unlucky Leprechaun, and a Gay, Muslim Taxi-Driver Walk into a bar…
(Unoriginal opening, I know, but I couldn’t help myself)
Still looking to get his coin back, Mad Sweeney returns to the hotel to find an angry and exasperated Laura. Shadow was hastened away by Wednesday and her car has been towed by the police, leaving her unable to follow. Sweeney offers Laura an opportunity to meet a god who will resurrect her in exchange for his Lucky Coin back. The two look to steal a cab, but the owner catches them in the act. In the first bit of good luck Sweeney has had in some time, the owner is Salim (the traveling salesman from “Head full of Snow”) and he overheard their conversation. He is on the road looking for the Jinn. Sweeney offers to tell Salim where his lover is if he takes him and Laura to Kentucky.
Salim and Laura bond on the drive. Both are looking to reunite with their former loves who have seemingly moved on without them and are unsure of their purpose in this new life they have been given. With encouragement from Salim and some not so nice, but truthful words from Sweeney, Laura fully releases her feelings for the family she had before she met Shadow. “Life is great,” Laura says to Salim as he finishes his morning prayers and echoes the sentiment back.
A Chamber Full of Prayers
Wednesday and Shadow quickly hit the road after escaping the police station filled with dead cops. While high-tailing it out of dodge, Shadow confesses to Wednesday he saw Laura in his hotel room. This turn of events genuinely shocks Wednesday. This is a complication he didn’t see coming and he speeds the car away before Laura can catch up to them.
The next morning, the two men arrive in Vulcan, Virginia, the home of the god of fire and forge. This old god has done extremely well for himself by aligning his powers with guns. Portable, handheld volcanoes. In a picturesque small town full of American flags, men and women enjoying open carry laws, and Nazi-like imagery sits Vulcan’s bullet manufacturing plant. “The power of fire is firepower. Not God,” Vulcan waxes poetic “but godlike. And they believe. If fills their spirits every time they pull the trigger. They feel my heat on their hip, and it keeps them warm at night.”
Wednesday and Vulcan embrace as old friends while Shadow treads carefully. He is the only black face in a town full of white, armed people. At Vulcan’s taxidermy and rifle adorned home, Wednesday quickly gets a promise of allegiance from Vulcan and a new sword forged in the fires of Vulcan’s plant. As soon as the new blade is complete, Vulcan reveals he has sold them out to the New Gods who are on their way.
But there is no coning a con-man. Wednesday knew where Vulcan’s real loyalty lay. Wednesday beheads Vulcan and pushes him into a vat of molten lead so it looks like the New Gods killed Vulcan for aligning himself with Wednesday. He then curses the plant by urinating into the vat.
This week’s “Coming to America” focused on one of the many Jesus’ in existence and ties into the theme of guns and “their America” as Wednesday referred to the town of Vulcan. As a group of Mexicans cross the Rio Grande in the dark of night, one man is caught in the undertow of the river and begins to drown. But his faith saves him as Jesus comes to his rescue.
Just when we think this will become a story of how the Mexican Jesus comes to America, it quickly devolves into a horror show. A group of extremists arrive brandishing rifles ornamented with bible quotes and crucifixes. These men gun down the unarmed men and women as well as the Mexican Jesus who was protecting a family.
When I first heard about Vulcan and his role for the series, it struck me as odd that he would be an Old God (the character of Vulcan, while mentioned in the book, was created strictly for the show). The extreme gun culture seemed to be a fairly new thing, like Media and Technology, growing over the last 30-or-so years.
Vulcan’s soliloquies of guns should have been the tip off (and probably was for Wednesday) he aligned himself with the New Gods. Vulcan had taken the offer of rebranding Wednesday turned down.
Another clue as to Vulcan’s coming betrayal was the story of Mr. Wood Wednesday was telling Shadow while pulling the tree parasite out of his abdomen. The Old God sacrificed his trees to the lumber industry to remain powerful.
As much as I can appreciate American Gods for not shying away from controversy, it feels like they could have done a better job of making their statements on xenophobia and gun violence.
The southern town of Vulcan and the crucifixion imagery of the Mexican Jesus were done with all the subtly of Thor’s Hammer. It may have been water-cooler levels of shocking, but it starts more fruitless arguments than discussions. The pen is only mightier than the sword when it is wielded properly.
It is a disturbing statement. A group of people gathered in prayer in hopes of finding a better life are murdered by those proclaiming to worship the same God and commit these acts in his name. I really don’t want to meet their Jesus.
For those of you thinking the “Coming to America” opening was over the top, it isn’t too far off the mark. Immigrant hunting is a real thing in border towns.
Till Next Week!
About the author: The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale