This week, Shadow’s reunion with his dead wife is interrupted when he and Mr. Wednesday are kidnapped by the New Gods.
“The Gods are Great, but people are greater.”
In this week’s cold open, Mr. Nancy tells us of an ancient race crossing over the land bridge from Siberia. Atsula, Shaman of an ancient tribe, buries her infant daughter. When they reach the new lands, there is no food. They turn to their mammoth God for strength and protection. The God shows her what to do, and warns her that escape from the cold and starvation will come at a terrible price. As their hard times wane, so too does their belief in their God. Eventually, He is entirely forgotten.
“Hey…baby. The fuck are you doing here?”
Cut to Laura, waiting in Shadow’s hotel room. She invites him to sit. He refuses, jumping right into the discussion at hand – her affair with Robbie.
“I waited 13 months. A baker’s year!”
She admits to the affair, but says the more important thing is that she’s back, and not dead after all. Shadow disagrees. “No, you rising from the grave is about par for the fucking course lately; don’t change the subject.” He demands to know what happened, and she fills him in on all of the dirty details. I love how honest Laura is in this scene. She doesn’t pull any punches or sugar-coat anything, or try to lie.
Laura talks about the night she died. “Then I was…somewhere. Then, I was in a box.” She sends Shadow out for cigarettes and gets into the bathtub. I can’t help but think that’s a bad idea considering her condition – she’s basically making soup out of herself.
“I’m sure there are things about our marriage that we’re going to have to work on.” “What, like you being dead?”
Shadow returns with Laura’s cigarettes to find her soaking. Laura explains that she’s heating herself up in case he wants to touch her. Shadow is unimpressed. She emerges from the tub, all autopsy scars, and kisses Shadow. She seems to fill with light and her heart beats, once, before she pulls away in surprise. “I felt something. I felt, like alive.”
Meanwhile, a raven has knocked (pecked?) on Mr. Wednesday’s door to deliver a message. Wednesday seems alarmed. Or, he seems about as alarmed as he ever gets.
Laura thanks Shadow for her “present” – Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin. Shadow remarks that someone is looking for it. “He can’t have it,” Laura says. “It’s mine now.” Laura asks Shadow if he is still her puppy. Shadow smiles tenderly at her. “No. I’m not.” FUCK. YES. Go, Shadow! Before Laura can protest, there’s a knock at the door.
“I DO have questions. I’m making a list. A LONG list.”
It’s Mr. Wednesday, feigning insomnia. He invites Shadow out for a drink, but before Shadow can decline vehemently enough to get rid of him, the two are arrested for the bank robbery.
We cut to Technical Boy leaving a club. He gets kidnapped before he can get to his limo by none other than Ziggy Stardust. Okay, it’s Media in disguise. “Oh, you pretty thing, you,” she purrs. She scolds him for lynching Shadow and suggests he apologize. Needless to say, he’s not thrilled about that idea.
Meanwhile, back at the police station, Shadow and Wednesday are being interrogated. The lady cop seems more interested in the broader picture of what the hell is going on, than in the bank robbery. Someone powerful dropped the two into the small-town country policemen’s laps, and she’d like to know why. True to form, Shadow remains silent and requests a lawyer, and Wednesday rambles like a crazy person, doing his “addled old man” schtick.
“You two have VERY extravagant enemies…”
The lady cop offers to cut Shadow a break if he fills her in on what’s really going on, which gets his attention. “Why is the same company whose tech found Osama dropping two no-name grifters in our lap?”
“You’re the dead wife. Gimme my fuckin’ coin, dead wife.”
We cut back to Laura, who has been waiting in the hotel room. She finally gets out of the tub and dressed, just as Mad Sweeney kicks down the door. Laura flicks him against the wall with her superhuman strength. “You mean MY fucking coin.” He argues that the dead can’t own things, and pisses and moans about it a bit. Laura proceeds to beat him mercilessly and torture some information out of him. Mad Sweeney warns Laura not to trust Wednesday, whom he refers to as “Grimnir”, one of Odin’s names.
“I’m going to reach up under those ribs, and I’m going to pluck that coin out of you like a berry.”
Sweeney tries to bribe Laura with as many “just as good” gold coins as she wants, and when she doesn’t go for it, he points out that while he can’t take it from her (she has to give it freely), he could just wait until she rots and retrieve it from the pile of bones that’s left. He roars with anger and holds her under the water in the tub just as the police burst in. In a tremendous middle finger to him, Laura plays dead and the police haul Mad Sweeney away; too shocked, I imagine, to notice that Laura has been dead a long while, and that he was “drowning” a corpse. Under the water and out of sight of the cops, Laura smiles to herself.
“See that little spider? He’s a friend of mine.”
Back at the station, in a highly unorthodox move, the lady cop has put Shadow and Wednesday together so they can talk. The second she leaves, Mr. Nancy has freed Wednesday from his cuffs. Shadow grabs him and demands answers. “Who are you?” Before Wednesday can reply, they hear a struggle in the next room, the lights go out, and Marilyn Monroe opens the door. She vamps for a moment by way of introducing the man of the hour, Mr. World. Gillian Anderson must be having a blast playing all of these pop culture icons.
“You’re a person. I know people. Everything. About all of them.”
Enter Mr. World (a very creepy Crispin Glover), who apologizes for not having reached out to Wednesday sooner. He kisses Wednesday’s ass, then tries to introduce himself to Shadow. “Don’t talk to him,” Wednesday snaps. “He doesn’t have to,” Mr. World croons, as he passes his hand over Shadow’s handcuffs and they snap open. “I already know you,” he says. Mr. World proceeds to recite a number of very unsettling facts about Shadow, and his mother, who “had 86 sexual partners throughout her life.”
“We’re in a weird place, racially, in America.”
A very surly Technical Boy is brought in to apologize to Shadow and Wednesday. He concedes that lynching Shadow was “in poor taste.” Mr. World grabs him and slams him on the table. “Would you like to hit him a bit?” He asks Shadow. “Knock out his front teeth?” Shadow declines. Technical Boy is both a brat and an idiot, for displeasing his boss, and it’s interesting that he’d piss him off at all, considering how terrified he seems to be of Mr. World. He visibly cowers in his presence.
“A truce implies that we were at war. You might have been, but I wasn’t.”
Given permission to sit, Technical Boy gives a bored and forced speech suggesting a merger between the old Gods and the new. It’s kind of a bullshit offer – they offer to help Wednesday “find his audience”, and flatter him. Wednesday balks. Mr. World loses his shit a little.
“SPICY! MEDIUM! CHUNKY! They get a choice, of course! OF COURSE! But they are BUYING SALSA!” He’s making the point that a God is a God is a God, no matter which flavor you’re buying. Media puts on a little presentation to help convince Wednesday – they propose giving him North Korea to rule over. “Can you imagine! 24.9 million people!” Mr. Wednesday instantly recognizes their offer for what it is – bullshit.
“You say merger. I hear exile.”
Wednesday quite rightly declines their offer to be the “God” of North Korea. “It’s not our fault they found other ways to occupy their time,” Media pouts. “That’s all you do,” Wednesday says. “We gave back. We gave them MEANING.” Mr. World starts to leave, and Technical Boy questions why he’s letting Wednesday go. This kid never learns! Mr. World reminds Technical Boy that Mr. Wednesday deserves their respect. Technical Boy laughs, making an even bigger fool of himself than he was before. “Fuck respect,” he sneers. Media blows a kiss that knocks his two front teeth out after all. “I’m not your enemy,” Mr. World whispers as the trio leaves.
“It’s real. It happened. It’s still happening.”
Shadow and Wednesday escape to find the police station in shambles and everyone dead. As the patrol car carrying Mad Sweeney pulls up, Shadow and Wednesday try another escape route, and they’re being chased by some kind of mutant tree. They kick down a back door as more police enter through the front. They’ve left Mad Sweeney unattended, who promptly escapes as well, but not before racking his balls pretty well on the door frame of the police cruiser.
Elsewhere, Laura awakens in a morgue, bursts out of the drawer with her superhuman strength, and escapes herself.
- Are “goodbye blow jobs” a thing? Laura was hilarious with the delivery of that line. “He was upset, so I decide to give him a little goodbye blow job. Y’know, one last time, with feeling.”
- The raven who visits Mr. Wednesday is presumably Huginn (thought) or Muminn (memory) – a pair of ravens in Norse mythology who fly all over the world and bring information to Odin. I thought also of Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty – could her pet raven have been a nod to Odin?.
- I’m not even sure the late David Bowie would have been able to catch all of his own lyrical references upon a first viewing. I counted six, although there may have been more – I am merely a massive Bowie fan, not an expert:
“Oh, you pretty thing, you…” (references “Oh, You Pretty Things”)
“You’ve got your transmission and your live wire, but your circuit’s dead…” (first part is from “Rebel Rebel”, second part from “Space Oddity”)
“…beating up the wrong guy…” (“Life on Mars”)
“There is a terror in knowing what Mr. World is about…” (a play on the real lyrics from “Under Pressure”, although interestingly, that was done by Queen and featured David Bowie, rather than being a solo effort.)
“putting out fire with gasoline” – (“Cat People”)
“Now there are starmen waiting in the sky” – (references “Starman”)
- The cop says that they caught Shadow & Wednesday because they got a fax. “It hasn’t been turned on since…I don’t know. Since fax machines.” Isn’t it a tad odd that the Gods of new technology would use a fax machine? A sense of irony, perhaps.
- Mad Sweeney and Laura together are a hoot. Sweeney screeching “You’re an asshole, dead wife!” as he is dragged away by the police was classic.
- Media as Marilyn makes reference to having been murdered by the CIA, a classic Marilyn Monroe conspiracy theory.
- Mr. World’s inventory of “things about Shadow” is pretty funny. Incidentally, Shadow’s blood type is B+, and he cannot abide the tines of two forks touching.
- The morgue attendant appears to be looking at pictures of ponies on his computer.
Quoth Mr. Wednesday:
“Come on, one drink. Well, that’s a lie. Five, six drinks.” – Mr. Wednesday on the cure for insomnia.
“What is that smell? Cat piss and oven cleaner?” – Mr. Wednesday, on what Shadow is hiding in his room (Laura.)
“I was recruiting a tired but still vital God of Death into a war against the new Gods, who very rightly fear him as much as they SHOULD fear me, but don’t, yet.” – Mr. Wednesday on what he was doing in Chicago.
“Now, the leprechaun; he’s been against all of this from the get-go, but he’s at a disadvantage being as he is a fucking idiot.” – Mr. Wednesday on Mad Sweeney.
Join us next week for Season 1, Episode 6: A Murder of Gods.
All images: Sweatpants & Coffee / Emily Parker