This was more of a set-up episode in terms of getting characters into position for the rest of the season and it still feels like they don't really know what to do with the New Gods (or Shadow) yet but it was still a solid episode.
- Stop torturing Ricky Whittle 2k19!
- Mama-ji worrying about covering her shift in order to join Wednesday's campaign. And is Arjun possibly a reference to Arjuna from the Mahabharata?
- I failed to mention it last week but I am so happy with Sakina Jaffrey joining the cast. Even though I had a difficult relationship with Timeless and stopped watching halfway through the last season, I always loved her in it.
- I will never get tired of Mr. Nancy. All day, every day. He is everything I wished for and more. I've loved Orlando Jones forever and ever and he owns this role.
- Salim at prayer. After the events of this last week, it is more important than ever to stop perpetuating negative stereotypes and tropes about Muslims.
- Mr. Town calling out Shadow's passivity (this requires its own discussion point below). I laughed so hard at the "meow" response to Shadow's "curious spirit" comment
- I've just bought Mr. World's decanter set.
- I love the code-speak/decipher dialogue (monologue?) between Technical Boy and not-yet-New-Media.
- While the flashback scenes could have used a little more work, Young Shadow and Shadow's mom were a wonderful addition and I would like to see more of them in future seasons. I especially loved the last fight scene Young Shadow gets in. It was beautifully choreographed and filmed.
- In the novel, Shadow was arrested for assaulting the two guys who helped in the robbery. In the first season, there were times this line got confused with whether it was for assault ("The Bone Orchard") or the robbery ("Git Gone") but apparently it was both the botched robbery and assault of two guys who held guns on Laura?
- In the novel, Mad Sweeney has a "hoard." Closed Captioning says Sweeney and Laura went through his "horde". Was it a spelling mistake on the CC or intentional? Maybe instead of going through a hoard of coins, they were traveling through a horde of people?
Things from last week
- Salim pointing out that death is not actually final
- Still don't know how this Motel/Diner America setup works with their housekeeping also their servers also their cooks? Where/who are the rest of the employees besides Mama-Ji and Arjun? What's the business model?
- Salim pointing out he can be the Jinn's portable belief battery. I am so grateful they have not made Salim a completely oblivious participant
- Whiskey Jack again! Does this mean we actually get to meet him at the Corn Palace this season??
Aside from the confusion of the flashback scenes (see below), the character/story continuity was appreciated:
- Shadow's mom talking about his "light" within that Laura now follows
- Siddhartha is a book about self-discovery, much like the American Gods novel, so it was a nice touch to show him reading it.
- He only fights back against bullies. When Shadow accepted Wednesday's job offer, he specifically said, "I'll hurt people if they try and hurt you. I'm not gonna hurt anyone for fun or profit." It was also a nice callback to Shadow assaulting the two people because they held guns on Laura.
- Shadow's mom telling him not to let his anger control him contrasting with Mr. Nancy's battle cry of "angry gets shit done."
- There's too much focus on this brewing war. The war isn't even going to take place till at least the end of Season 4, maybe even Season 5 and there might be too much build-up because . . . spoilers.
- I wish they had explicitly labeled Shadow's flashbacks as "Coming to America" and "Somewhere in America" segments. I think re-using Season One's structure might have made the episode flow a bit better.
- I'm assuming they're sticking with Shadow having been born in Norway but was living in France prior to coming to America?
- And did they move to NYC instead of Chicago?
- Can't we at least have finally given Shadow's mom a name?
- And who is this "her" person that Shadow's mom had to leave America to spread her message? A rock band? A guru? A goddess? Liberty/America herself? What's the message? What world tour? These scenes were just a little too vague and left me confused.
Mr. Town nailed it when he questioned Shadow's malleability from his mother to Laura to Wednesday. What are Shadow's motivations?? The novel was a meandering wander through a man dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts, rebirth, etc... and it was able to get away with it because Shadow is the narrator/observer. This is not something a visual medium like TV can mimic, however, and the show needs to develop an external plot outside of Shadow's internal musings and character growth. Shadow's lack of actionable plot is something that Season One really struggled with and it seems like S2 is having a bit of trouble with it as well. Shadow needs a story of his own besides following along with whatever Wednesday tells him to. Now that they have acknowledged the problem, hopefully this means we'll get some more action out of Shadow in later episodes. (At least Season Three/Lakeside already has a built-in action plot for Shadow. See below.)
Everybody (except Shadow) has been given their MacGuffins this week and sent out on their missions.
- Wednesday and Mr. World continue their preparations for war
- Mad Sweeney and Laura are still on their quest to resurrect her so Sweeney can get his lucky coin back. Also, they need to find Shadow
- The Jinn and Salim have been tasked with finding Gungnir's spear
- Tech Boy needs to find New Media
- Mama-ji needs to find someone to cover her shift
- Mr. Nancy needs to get to Cairo
Depending on how you feel about plot devices, this might be a love/hate situation for some. I personally don't mind them as long as there is decent payoff in terms of character development. My biggest questions right now for Season Two are what is the destination and how are you going to get there?
As much as I loved the first season, it felt like there was no real seasonal arc. Some of it might have been due to being cut from 10 to 8 episodes but there were areas where it dragged too much and the pacing and transitions could have used a bit more work. (In fact, I'm rewatching S1 right now with one of my friends who has never read/seen it and I'm experimenting with him by playing the episodes out of order because the dead wife surprise payoff was not worth the confusion it caused other friends of mine (1x01, first half of 1x04, 1x02, more of 1x04, 1x03, rest of 104, 1x05).)
If S2 can avoid this problem by using MacGuffins, then I'm all for that. Season Three (yay!) will be easy because there is a complete story within the Lakeside segment. (They probably should figure out a way to move the Lakeside bit at the end of the novel up to the end of S3.)
It was a little contrived at times and a bit of a filler episode but overall I liked that we finally got to see some of Shadow's backstory and most of the characters have been moved into position to make some progress next week. 3/5