In American Gods 1×06, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) went in search of another potential ally in Wednesday’s war with the New Gods: Vulcan. Their trip to Vulcan, Virginia, named for and ruled by Vulcan himself, highlighted a very ugly fact. For some parts of America, there’s a disturbing obsession worship of, and obsession with, the almighty gun. And American Gods 1×06, much like the series’ second episode’s commentary on African American history, didn’t shy away from showing America’s dirty side. Even the “Coming to America” story in American Gods 1×06 was littered with bullets and blood, showcasing a particularly hypocritical side of America’s faithful population.
But “A Murder of Gods” wasn’t all serious business, either. While Wednesday and Shadow were off seeing Vulcan’s America, a rather mismatched group of characters was on their own road trip. Mad Sweeney, Laura Moon, and Salim found themselves in the bizarre situation of making their way across the country, all in search of something different. On their journey, a strange dichotomy was formed: Laura and Salim swore they were moving on with their lives (“fuck those assholes”), yet there was still a lingering longing for the past. That all may sound just as serious as the other themes explored in American Gods 1×06. But Mad Sweeney, Dead Wife, and Salim Not-Salim were also full of hilarious one-liners and a strange sense of a potential for camaraderie.
If a group as full of differences as those three can bond, maybe there’s hope for America yet. Maybe.
American Gods 1×06 went there.
Back in “Head Full of Snow,” Mr. Wednesday told Shadow Moon about the large number of Jesuses in America. One of them was Mexican Jesus, whose back he claimed was “as wet as the epithet suggests.” In American Gods 1×06, the “Coming to America” story showed Mexican Jesus’ immigration nightmare. His believers traveled through the darkest of nights and made it across dangerous waters to come to America.
Thank you, Lord, for giving me this chance.
Even as Mexican Jesus saved some of the immigrants from drowning, answering many of their prayers, he couldn’t save them from America itself.
Mexican Jesus could walk on water, just like any other, but he couldn’t survive America’s closed borders or internal hatred. When bullets turned men, women, and children into corpses, Jesus himself also took a series of bullets. But the white Americans shooting the guns were supposed believers, “THY KINGDOM COME” etched on their guns, even as they murdered innocent people.
This Jesus didn’t just die for Mexican immigrants’s sins: He was murdered as the result of white America’s hatred of “illegals,” and he sacrificed himself to keep his people safe.
As the “Coming to America” scene closed, one of American Gods 1×06’s most painfully beautiful images filled the screen: Jesus in a crucifixion pose, his bullet wounds marks of the stigmata. Crown and all.
Gotta love those guns and that “safety” they provide when children are murdered, simply for following their families to the supposed Land of the Free.
The NRA would really love Vulcan. They basically already do.
Once Shadow and Mr. Wednesday made their own journey through a dark night, escaping the New Gods they met with in episode five, it was time to get back to the business of finding allies in the war. Off to Vulcan, Virginia they went.
The place was old-time, “wholesome” America personified. The Partridge Family‘s theme, “Get Happy” played in the background as workers went about their business in a bullet factory. (Talk about creepy contrast when one of those workers was sacrificed to the volcano, falling to his fiery death before being turned into more bullets.) And then there were the images of the place itself: It was a classic downtown, full of gun-toting American “patriots,” wearing some nazi-looking armbands.
Add images of the American flag in front of every storefront, and you had a very certain type of American town. Everyone here was “…dedicated to one sticky belief: America. Their America.”
Forget the fact that their America was sustained by death and so stuck on worshipping the almighty gun that everyone — from grandmothers to children — was equipped with them.
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.
And Vulcan reveled in the power those guns and those believers in this type of America gave him.
It’s filled with prayers. In my name.
Lovingly stroking one of his many guns, Vulcan talked about how those prayers were uttered every time a bullet was released, as well as how they led to even more prayers.
I never needed my religion to be moral.
For if American Gods 1×06 teaches us nothing else, it’s that bullets have an almighty power in America. And that power, for Vulcan, was good enough to make him double-cross a supposed friend.
They gave me a gun. They put power back in my hand. And I’ve gotta tell ya: It feels good! Every bullet fired in a crowded movie theater is a prayer. In my name. And that prayer makes them want to pray even harder.
The “they” in question was, of course, the New Gods. They offered something similar to Wednesday; but he didn’t want it. Seeing what they did for the god of the volcano, perhaps that was for the best. Besides, as we learned when he healed Shadow’s weird wound, it’s not exactly like Wednesday is as weak as he might let on.
Regardless, when it came to Vulcan’s true colors, the warning signs were there all along. This was not one of the “good guys.” He mocked Shadow with an old hanging tree, knowing he’d been lynched. Vulcan also didn’t want to share drinks with Shadow. So, we’ve got a gun-toting racist in the South. Shocker.
Vulcan was antagonistic and overly proud of himself, right from the start. He was, quite obviously, no true friend to Wednesday — or anyone other than himself, for that matter. Thankfully, he paid for it. Wednesday used the blade Vulcan forced for him, labeled “fit for a god,” to slice his neck before kicking him into his own inferno. Just to add insult to injury, Wednesday even pissed on the molten lava, saying he was cursing the whole thing.
If only the same people who turn their backs when kindergarteners are slaughtered could be the victims of that same curse. But America, fuck yeah. Second Amendment! Woo!
Meanwhile, American Gods 1×06 was the beginning of the series’ second road trip. Who knew Laura Moon, Mad Sweeney, and Salim could work so well together?
I sure didn’t.
I’m trying to convince you to live. Real living, not whatever rot this is.
Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon have a delightfully antagonistic relationship, thanks to Laura’s possession of the leprechaun’s lucky coin. Add to that the calm, pious — yet kind of sick of America — Salim, and something magical happens. As the three unlikely companions traveled across America, they discussed everything from letting go of past lives, to love, to prayers. Although Laura had never really prayed for much, Salim had plenty of reasons to talk to his god:
I do not pray to ask God for things. I pray to thank God for bringing me where I am. To this time, to this place, where I finally know what I must do in this life. I pray I find The Jinn. He is my afterlife. I knew him. We knew each other. Now, I want to know more.
And then there was Mad Sweeney, in the backseat of the “toilet” of a cab, totally done with both Laura and Salim. Once the gang made it to the very bar where Shadow had once agreed to work for Wednesday, Mad Sweeney tried (for the millionth time) to talk Laura out of her lovesick quest. It didn’t exactly work, but Mad Sweeney shared the story of Shadow sealing his deal with his new boss.
…take his last glass of evil, fucking vile fucking mead and made his bargain with the devil himself. Your piece of shit husband got a new life. Why don’t you?
And for as much as Laura and Salim talked of moving on in their new lives, she still made her way back to her parents’ house. Small detail: We learned about Laura’s trip home through her husband’s eyes, even though he was far away in Secondamendmentville. When Shadow Moon wants to see Laura from afar, apparently all it takes is some prompting from Wednesday.
Gotta love those miracles.
Either way, no matter how much we hope — how much we pray — to move on, sometimes it’s more difficult than we thought. Laura swore she was happy to realize she’d never eat her mother’s cooking again. But people don’t peer longingly into the homes of people with whom they no longer care to break bread. Not often, at least.
American Gods 1×06 quote hall of fame: As much as “A Murder of Gods” may sound like it was an ugly, heartbreaking look at a lot of issues — and it was — there was still a wonderful lightness in some of the dialogue. Here are some of our favorite bits.
- “What the hell was that in there? That woman just…floats into a fucking room! They massacred a station full of cops and just left us in the middle of it! And then I get stabbed by Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree! What are they?”
- “Motherfucker, you never just answer a fucking question!”
- “Religion inspires in those that fear nothing fear of the gods. And using that fear requires a certain element of fucked up.”
- “This times that, equals you’re a cunt.” Ok but I have a Master’s in Mathematics and never learned this calculation.
- “Like my friend, Jesus Christ, the only thing you need, Dead Wife…is resurrection.” “Did you just name drop Jesus Christ, like you know a guy who knows a guy?”
- Pablo Schreiber’s deadpanned, “isn’t she lovely” to the motel manager.
- “What the fuck are you? I mean, what the fuck are any of you? But first, tell me, what the fuck are you? Seriously! What the fuck are you?”
- “She’s a lepricunt.” (Reminder: Don’t call Laura Moon a cunt. Badassery will ensue.)
- “God is great.” “Life is great, Salim Not-Salim.” Serious, yet kind of beautiful — especially coming from Laura Moon, who once hated life.
Additional thoughts on American Gods 1×06 because this one was kind of jam-packed with awesomesauce. So, just like the rest of the series.
Shadow Moon finally started asking the right questions, and Ricky Whittle’s portrayal of his character’s awakening continues to be second to none. His fear is evident, as is his awe at this new world to which Wednesday has introduced him. Of note, this is the first time that Shadow really started to believe. If he hadn’t, Wednesday likely wouldn’t have been able to heal his wound.
And isn’t it usually the case that those of us who normally have no faith suddenly find it when the situation is dire? Perfectly executed.
Bonus: That little kiss on the cheek from Mr. Wednesday, following the big miracle, was everything.
By the end of American Gods 1×06, it’s impossible not to root for the pair of Shadow and Wednesday, especially considering their enemies aren’t opposed to bringing out the worst in America to keep their power.
Then again, it’s also pretty impossible not to root for Media. We’re all watching this masterpiece of a television series, after all.
You are what you worship..
So, what are you, dear readers?
Make sure to catch the next all-new episode of American Gods next weekend on Starz (early on the Starz app!). We’re winding down, folks…unfortunately.
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