In American Gods 1×05, Shadow Moon’s much-needed talk with his not-dead wife, Laura, is cut short when he and Mr. Wednesday have to face the consequences of their bank robbery. Or so they think. Wednesday and Shadow’s run-in with the law turns out to have been orchestrated by none other than Mr. World, Crispin Glover’s fantastically sinister New God, in an attempt to form some kind of alliance. With the help of Media, Mr. World presents Wednesday with an offer the New Gods believe he can’t refuse. But they underestimated our war-mongering hero.
Even an utterly killer showing from Gillian Anderson’s Media can’t sway the Old God from his planned war.
Through the first real meeting of the Old Gods and New in American Gods 1×05, viewers get a chance to learn a little bit more of what is at stake. In an unrivaled performance, Gillian Anderson’s Media spends her time in American Gods 1×05 attempting to fix others’ image problems. Whether it’s as David Bowie, trying to teach Technical Boy a lesson about putting the right face forward, or as Marilyn Monroe, attempting to appeal to Mr. Wednesday, Anderson’s Media is the star of American Gods 1×05. She shows everyone just how much power the real-world media has over all of us when it comes to seeing things the way they want — even if this New God winds up being unsuccessful in getting her fellow gods to play nice.
American Gods 1×05: Unresolved Issues.
Hey, baby. What the fuck are you doing here?
Following American Gods‘ detour to tell Laura Moon’s unique story of becoming a member of the undead, American Gods 1×05 picks up where episode three left off. Shadow returns to his motel room to find his supposedly dead wife waiting for him; and he has a lot of questions. Laura, on the other hand, seems to believe that her own situation is more important. She is, after all, miraculously back from the dead.
Too bad nobody told her that Shadow had seen plenty of miracles since escaping prison. Maybe she would have taken a different approach to the whole thing if they had.
Regardless, in Ricky Whittle’s most vulnerable, emotional portrayal of his character yet, Shadow Moon asks Laura for the story of her affair with Robbie. He learns a very condensed version of what viewers saw in “Git Gone,” taking it all with a certain sense of acceptance. But even that feeling is overshadowed by a combination of shock and hurt more than fitting of the situation. At one point, Shadow even curls up in the farthest corner of the room while Laura takes a bath — making herself warm for him — taking on the defensive position of a wounded child.
After hearing Laura’s story and trying to wrap his head around yet another strange happening, Shadow has a lot to think about. And a lot of questions. One thing’s for certain, though: By the time Wednesday knocks on his door, clearly hoping to break the little reunion up following a warning from one of us ravens, Shadow hasn’t come to terms with his wife’s infidelity in quite the way she’d hoped. While Laura’s otherwise tasteless, emotionless afterlife is literally filled with light when she’s around Shadow, he’s far from a certain about her.
In a rare moment of her own vulnerability, Laura asks Shadow if he’s still her puppy. His answer, following the briefest of pauses to consider, is a slight shake of the head and a “no.”
American Gods 1×05: Media takes on Technical Boy’s “image problem.”
Just as Shadow and Mr. Wednesday are taken into police custody, Technical Boy faces consequences of his own: He’s taken into Media’s custody. This is, apparently, supposed to be a punishment — a talk-to, if you will — for his decision to lynch Shadow instead of just chatting with him.
But let’s be real: experiencing the magic of Gillian Anderson’s Media-as-David-Bowie is far from a punishment. It’s a rare reward in a television landscape filled with letdowns. Believe the hype; Gillian Anderson’s Media is Emmy-worthy. Period.
In my preview for American Gods 1×05, I mentioned the higher plane of existence (fitting for a god) in which this particular persona exists. Each of Media’s lines is delivered with an aloof detachment. It’s as if she couldn’t quite care less about Bruce Langley’s tantrum-throwing, raging millennial of an immature god. She’s far more concerned with the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is, namely, presenting the right image on behalf of Mr. World, as well as to the world at large.
Littered with (sometimes slightly altered) Bowie lyrics, Media tells Technical Boy the dangers of “beating up the wrong guy” and the importance of belief.
Mass delusions are as old as I am. I was there when the martians invaded in 1938. What a panic. A powerful panic. Now there are starmen waiting in the sky. They believed it was true, and it was.
Media also reminds her companion that not everyone needs to believe to make something real, only “just enough. Maybe just one.” And it’s in creating the right image, in portraying the right character to one’s audience, that Media makes a believer out of all of us.
Anderson’s Media-as-Bowie embodies an almost preternatural stillness. Taking a look at any of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era videos, it’s almost impossible to distinguish some shots of the real deal from those of Anderson. But in the moment, there’s a subtle, disbelieving tilt of the head here or a look littered with warning there. Media’s still hiding out underneath of all of that wonder, much like there were still traces of something not-quite-right when she took on Lucy Ricardo in episode two.
But for all of “David Bowie’s” subtlety in American Gods 1×05, there’s the completely over-the-top behavior of Media’s Marilyn Monroe.
When Media catches up to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday, she makes a grand entrance: floating into the room. At this point, Ricky Whittle’s complete loss of calm is exactly what everyone is likely experiencing.
Shadow is equal parts terrified, shocked, surprised, and in awe. Emphasis on the complete awe, I’m sure. Shadow can’t seem to wrap his head around the idea that this is the same black-and-white “I Love Lucy” he’d seen previously.
Same, Shadow. Seriously. Same.
Gillian Anderson’s Marilyn Monroe is completely different from her Lucy Ricardo; and both are so far removed from her David Bowie that it’s impossible to come to terms with it. Each new character is nearly completely devoid of any attributes of those that came before. But if viewers watch closely enough…there’s just that slightest bit of the true Media shining through. It’s in the change of voice from Marilyn Monroe’s high-pitched, airy feel to the deeper, more sultry sound as Media is about to make her final exit in American Gods 1×05. And there’s just that extra something in the fidgety movement that smacks of the previous Lucy character…even if it’s still not quite the same as before.
How a single actress can pull off each of these unique personalities remains a mystery. Perhaps it has something to do with the gods.
American Gods 1×05: The image proposal.
Wouldn’t you like an upgrade? A new lemon-scented you?
If Mr. Wednesday’s goal is to be remembered so he can stay powerful, then certainly an image upgrade — courtesy of (the) Media — ought to be exactly what the doctor ordered, right?
Despite Mr. World’s attempt, through what should have been a completely irresistible presentation from Media,
Odin Wednesday refuses the New Gods’ offer of a “merger.”
We want to help you find your audience.
Wednesday isn’t swayed by flashy, technicolor stories and doesn’t want followers who are, either. Nope. He wants to go back to the old ways, to gain followers by giving them meaning. But people, even those who have seen their own miracles (looking at you, Shadow Moon), aren’t so easily convinced to believe these days.
See also: after trying to pull his old man con with the authorities, Wednesday actually tells a cop the real story…and is less believable with his truth than with the ramblings of a supposedly insane old man.
Which brings up an interesting point: Wednesday knows how to play the image game when it means successfully pulling off a con. (And Ian McShane’s bumbling idiot impersonation is even better in American Gods 1×05 than in the series premiere.) But when it comes to accepting the way Media and Mr. World want to permanently manipulate people’s view of him…that’s where he draws the line. The media manipulates celebrity images all the time; apparently, for an Old God, this is a step too far.
Regardless, he wants to earn his believers through his planned war — not through Media’s hype.
That’s all you do: occupy their time. We gave back. We gave them meaning.
More on American Gods 1×05:
- I promised there were actual unicorns for Gillian Anderson to compete with in American Gods 1×05. I didn’t lie. Readers, I’ll never lie to you. Remember that.
- Dear Gillian Anderson: Please feel free to blow me a kiss and knock my teeth right out of my mouth any time. XOXO, SML.
- Spoiler alert: Laura Moon is completely bad ass.
- Bruce Langley’s Technical Boy is so perfect. He’s such a sarcastic little asshole. Brilliant work. I particularly liked his not remotely sincere apology. So much for doing as Media says.
- “Hang a dark-skinned man. Ooof. It was in very poor taste. We’re in a weird, tense place racially in America, and I don’t want to add to that climate of hatred.” Technical Boy said all the right things…Too bad he didn’t believe a word of any of them.
- Speaking of race relations: “Now, Nancy: He comes at all of this from a specific vantage of the bitterly dispossessed. Which, normally, I would take with a grain. But I have to admit: having seen the rope burns around my friend’s neck…” Anyone want Orlando Jones back as Mr. Nancy, like, yesterday? Or is that just me.
- “This man is older than you will ever be. He has wisdom, has knowledge, which is different. Which you would know if you had either. This man deserves our respect.” Mr. World: totally creepy…and totally not-at-all sounding like Mr. Wednesday’s actual enemy here. Hm.
- Also on Mr. World: How does Crispin Glover manage to be so sinister while also being so hilarious? The salsa rant, folks. Epic.
- It’s funny how, in my review of episode four, I said Laura wasn’t just the dead wife anymore…And then Mad Sweeney came at me in American Gods 1×05, calling her “Dead Wife” as if to tell me, “girl, you thought.”
- Wtf with the evil tree, guys? Wtf. With. The. Tree. (Insert Ricky Whittle’s epic “wtf” face here.)
- “The gods are great, but people are greater. For it is in their hearts that gods are born. And it is in their hearts that they return.” Possibly American Gods 1×05’s most meaningful line.
That’s it for American Gods 1×05. Make sure to keep catch the final three episodes of American Gods season 1 on Starz.
Which image will the Media distort next? And will Shadow Moon ever figure out who Mr. Wednesday is? Hint: His real name was literally right in front of Shadow’s face during Media’s presentation…1 of 1