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Sweatpants & TV | American Gods, Season 1, Episode 6: “A Murder of Gods”

By Emily Parker


If you’re behind, here’s where you can catch up:
Episode 1: The Bone Orchard
Episode 2: The Secret of Spoons
Episode 3: Head Full of Snow
Episode 4: Git Gone
Episode 5: Lemon Scented You

This week, we dive in to the question of what we REALLY worship in America as Shadow and Wednesday run from the new Gods and continue their quest.

Crossing the border.

Coming to America

In this week’s cold open, we are watching a number of immigrants cross the border from Mexico into the U.S., led by “The Coyote.” The group waits for nightfall, then prays together. The Coyote warns them that the river is strong – if they can’t swim, they can’t go. We see a man with a crucifix tattooed on his forearm exchange a look with his wife. The man hangs back as the group begins crossing. As he struggles and slips under the water, a hand reaches down to grab him and help him to shore. The stranger walks the rest of the way on the surface of the water. Just then, border patrol happens upon the group and, without asking questions, simply starts gunning them down. The immigrants flee in terror. Mexican Jesus is shot through both palms as he raises his hands in surrender, and again through the heart before he collapses.

A modern crucifix.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you…”

We cut to Shadow and Wednesday walking down a dark road, making their way back to the hotel from the carnage at the police station. Shadow is berating Wednesday for never telling him anything. Mr. Wednesday is vague as usual. Shadow says he saw Laura, in his room.

“Your dead wife is back, you say?”

“Your dearly departed has departed, and I suggest we do the same.”

Back at the hotel, the two find Shadow’s room trashed and empty, as expected. Wednesday suggests that they leave immediately, and that the dead don’t come back for no reason. As they leave, his ravens squawk at him from atop a railing. As he pulls the car out, Wednesday sees Laura chasing them in the rearview mirror. He turns up the radio.

Shadow and Wednesday get the hell out of Dodge.

“Chop, chop, Ginger Minge, let’s go!”

Laura questions the hotel clerk about the whereabouts of her car. He says that the police have impounded it. She asks where the police are, and Mad Sweeney chirps from behind her. “Police are dead. First piece of luck I’ve had in days.” Laura and Mad Sweeney team up to steal a car out of the hotel parking lot.

“I’m the dead woman. Where’s my fucking car?”

“Did you just name-drop Jesus Christ, like you know a guy who knows a guy?”

As luck would have it, the car they’re (poorly) trying to steal is Mr. Salim’s taxi! Mr. Salim puts a stop to the theft, and has overheard that Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun. He lets on that he is looking for a Jinn. The three of them strike up a bargain and form just about the weirdest, most amazing team in the universe – Mad Sweeney will tell Salim where the Jinn is, and any other God he pleases if he drives them all to Kentucky.

“Please stop stealing my cab.”

A shitty little shiv…

Back in the Cadillac, Wednesday is chattering on about the dead, when Shadow reveals that he’s still bleeding from having been stabbed by the mutant tree. Wednesday says he knows a charm that can fix everything. When he sees how bad the wound is and that there is something moving inside it, he pulls over immediately. With a little light and a little vodka, he manages to heal Shadow.

“Excuse the cold hands…”

“That’s the spirit. Fuck those assholes.”

We cut back to the dead wife, the leprechaun, and the cabbie, driving cross-country. Sweeney is being a jackass as usual, but Laura and Salim are becoming friends. They discuss having left their old lives, and how they won’t miss them, but their faces betray them. I’m really enjoying the rapport between these three, though. Laura loves to torture Mad Sweeney, and Salim is very funny in his own right.

Laura: Mind if I smoke in here?
Salim: I would rather you not.
Laura: You’re really going to be precious? Because it smells like someone took a shit in the backseat.
Salim: Someone DID take a shit in the backseat.

The cigarettes are probably an improvement on the way Laura smells, at this point.

“Are you dead? You smell dead.”

Salim and Laura talk of praying for another life, and Salim says he never prays to ask God for anything, only to thank Him. And to find the Jinn. “We know each other. And I want to know more.” Sweeney snorts. “Did you have a genie in your bottle? Did you rub one out of him, darling?” Vulgar prick. As Mad Sweeney sleeps, Laura diverts the car to Indiana, not Kentucky.

“Welcome to Vulcan, VA.”

In Virginia, at the Vulcan ammunition factory, a cheery foreman leans against a faulty railing and tumbles into a vat of molten metal below; a sacrifice to the bullet gods. Shadow and Wednesday roll into town, which is eerily quiet, and patriotic. They’re just in time for the foreman’s funeral.

An example of the fine citizenry of Vulcan.

“If I know my friend, someone got tossed into the volcano…”

Mr. Wednesday points out that it’s less of a funeral than a celebration of sacrifice. The faulty railings claim someone a couple of times a year. “It’s as good as throwing them in intentionally,” Wednesday quips.

Vulcan presides over…whatever this is.

Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen) is holding court with all of the scary townspeople, who seem to be giving the dearly departed foreman a 200-gun salute. “Please, go in peace!” Vulcan barks, by way of dismissing them. Shadow takes cover in the car as the bullets rain down from the sky around Vulcan & Wednesday. The two old Gods greet each other.

Vulcan: What do you need from me, big daddy?
Wednesday: I need you to believe in me.
Vulcan: Always have.

“Call me ‘big daddy’ again.”

“This ain’t good lighting for you, love.”

Meanwhile, Mad Sweeney wakes up and figures out that they’re not in Kentucky. The three walk into the alligator bar where Shadow’s deal with Wednesday was first negotiated, and order drinks. Laura is looking for Shadow. Mad Sweeney is unimpressed. “I’ve only felt my heart beat one time since I died. When I kissed Shadow,” Laura says, sadly. “That doesn’t obligate him to feel shit, Sweeney points out. He further remarks that for Shadow, kissing a dead girl was probably fairly disgusting. “Well, maybe I should have had some gum,” Laura says.

A leprechaun, a dead wife, and a taxi driver walk into a bar…

“Faith doesn’t have to leave the faithful dangling”

Back at Vulcan’s place, Vulcan is proving to be a fairly unabashed racist toward Shadow; showing off his “hanging tree” and refusing to pour him a drink. Shadow is not amused.

Wednesday laments that nobody sacrifices to him any more. Vulcan explains that he himself has franchised his faith. “You are what you worship,” he says. “God of the volcano. Those who worship hold a volcano in the palm of their hand.” He brandishes a gun. “It’s filled with prayers,” he whispers, gazing at the chambered bullets. “In my name.”

He goes on for a few disturbing moments. “They feel my heat on their hip and it keeps them warm at night,” he says. To break the tension, he fires a bullet into a stuffed deer’s head mounted on his wall. “God bless the believers,” Wednesday says, sourly. It’s a fairly heavy-handed commentary on gun culture in the United States, but definitely effective.

Vulcan is not a nice guy.

“Forge me a blade in the heat of your volcano.”

Wednesday starts the “come with me to Wisconsin” pitch. Vulcan readily agrees. Wednesday asks Vulcan to forge a blade for him, for the upcoming battle. “I’ll make you a blade worthy of a God,” he says. Vulcan leaves the room. “Do you trust him?” Shadow asks. “I know who he is, and I know who he has always been,” says Wednesday. “I can depend on that.”

Wednesday needs Vulcan more than he needs to trust him.

“Fuck those assholes.”

Meanwhile, Shadow has discovered that he can close his eyes and see Laura, wherever she is. She’s in Indiana, saying goodbye to her family. “You can see her,” Mr. Wednesday says. “The question is, can you let her fade away?”

Laura watches her family through the window.

“Every bullet fired in a crowded movie theater is a prayer in my name.”

Back at the force, Vulcan is making a blade like no other. “I should have given you a gun,” he tells Wednesday. They speak of blood sacrifices. As he polishes the blade, Vulcan lets on that he told the new Gods that they were there, and that they’re coming. He has sold them out. Vulcan says he’s been advised it’s best if he appear neutral. “Neutral in the face of injustice is on the side of the oppressor,” Wednesday says. It seems that despite the fact that Vulcan was not offered as sweet a deal as North Korea, he has nonetheless taken what was offered. The new Gods have brainwashed him, playing on his insecurities.

Being a God is a cutthroat business.

Wednesday tells Vulcan that he’s the martyr, not Wednesday. “You pledged your allegiance to me and forged a blade.” Before Vulcan can respond, Wednesday has taken up the sword, slashed Vulcan’s throat, and kicked him into the vat of molten metal. “Oh, shit!” Shadow cries, as Wednesday hands him the blade, and proceeds to piss on Vulcan’s remains. The metal sizzles and turns blood-red. “I’m laying down a curse,” he says coldly. “I’m cursing the whole fucking thing.”

Wednesday lays down the curse.

Elsewhere, Salim is praying to Mecca. “Allahu Akbar,” he says. “God is great.” Laura corrects him.Life is great, Salim.” He smiles. “Life is great.”

Stray Observations:

  • In the “previously on”, they quote Mr. Wednesday as saying “you say merger. I hear…war.” The line was actually “I hear exile.”
  • In a smashing example of irony, the border patrol agent in the cold open had a gun whose stock was engraved with a cross, thorns, and “Thy Kingdom Come.” Presumably, the other side of the stock reads “Thy will be done”?
  • A “coyote” is a person who smuggles Mexican nationals across the border into the U.S. for a fee.
  • The imagery of the modern crucifixion in the cold open was purposely done to evoke the traditional Catholic “bleeding heart”. The sacred heart is a widely practiced Roman Catholic devotion, taking Jesus’ physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity.
  • Laura asks the hotel clerk where her car is, but I was a little lost here – when did she have her own car? Audrey drove her in Audrey’s car, up to the point where she was kidnapped by Ibis & Anubis, but did she go back at some point and get her own car? Did she have one? I’m unclear on this. If she had her own car, why borrow Audrey’s?
  • Mad Sweeney snaps at Laura as he’s saying she needs to resurrect, “Why don’t you put that on your fucking scales and weigh it?” Indicating that the Egyptian version of judgement day we saw for Laura & Mrs. Fadil is THE version of judgement day, for everyone?
  • Vulcan, traditionally, is the ancient Roman God of fire, metalworking, and the forge.
  • This is the first I’ve noticed that even the stools in the alligator bar are alligator skulls. Nice touch.

Wednesday cuts Vulcan down.

Quoth Mr. Wednesday:

“What came first, Gods, or the people who believed in them?” – Wednesday on the origin of the Gods.

“Religion inspires in those who fear nothing, fear of the gods, and using that fear requires a certain element of fucked up.” – Wednesday on why things are so fucked up.

“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.” – Wednesday on patriotism.

Join us next week for Season 1, Episode 7: A Prayer For Mad Sweeney.

All images: Sweatpants & Coffee / Emily Parker

Emily Parker is a musician, writer, and avid reader who started Bucket List Book Reviews, the ‘1,001 Books to Read Before You Die’ project. For Sweatpants & Coffee, Emily hopes to inspire the reading of the classics by a whole new audience by only reviewing the really good stuff.

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