In the lead up to Sunday’s episode of American Gods, Starz released first-glimpse footage of two of the most exciting moments: the introduction of Crispin Glover’s Mr. World, and Gillian Anderson doing her best Ziggy Stardust as Media. And both moments were worth teasing ahead of time, because they were absolutely great and catching a glimpse early didn’t ruin the impact of seeing the full scenes play out in their entirety Sunday night. Plus Starz probably wanted to make sure people remembered to put down their Memorial Day BBQ burgers and tune in.
That said, I was surprised that neither moment ended up being my favorite scene in the episode. That honor goes to the hotel confrontation between Laura Moon and Mad Sweeney, who is — yup, you guessed it — still looking for his goddamn coin.
“Give me my fuckin’ coin, dead wife!” is actually how he puts it.
The fact that this showdown works as well as it does is entirely due to the decision to invest a whole episode to Laura’s backstory, so the first time we’re seeing her in the flesh isn’t as it’s rotting. We can see the way she’s come alive in death the way she never really seemed to when she was actually alive. She’s unfazed as Sweeney kicks down the door and storms in. There is joy in her newfound strength, when she flicks Sweeney away with a finger and sends him crashing into a wall. And there is a playful confidence in her as she lets him know, in no uncertain terms, that the coin is hers and she’ll never give it to him. While calling him “ginger minge.”
So for those playing along at home, it turns out that the coin IS inside Laura (maybe in her heart, but at the very least in her trachea — it’s hard to tell when he looks into her mouth to find it). And apparently it can only be given willingly — the way Shadow got it from Sweeney, and how he gave it to Laura — and can never be taken by force. So poor unlucky Sweeney seems to be screwed, though as he points out, he just needs to wait until the meat rots off her bones and he can reach in to pluck it out of her.
And speaking of unlucky, talk about timing! The cops burst in just as Sweeney has knocked Laura into the bathtub, so it looks like he’s drowned her. He tries to explain that she isn’t dead, but dude — she literally is. And she’s a dead woman who is smart enough to know when to continue playing dead. “You’re a fuckin’ asshole, dead wife!” he yells as the cops drag him away. Poor Sweeney. You’re both assholes, and I love you for it.
Aside from the coin, the other revelation we got in that hotel showdown was how Sweeney met Shadow in the first place. Turns out Wednesday told him to be at that bar and to pick that fight way back in the first episode, to see what Shadow’s made of. We’re just starting to see the layers of Wednesday’s machinations, which makes sense since this episode also finally addressed the buffalo in the room: the coming war between the Old Gods and the New. Or rather, the war that Wednesday is recruiting for, but Mr. World and his New Gods aren’t interested in fighting. They want to make a deal. A merger. Help Wednesday find an audience.
This episode is also the first time Wednesday is identified as Odin.
The interrogation room scene between Mr. World, Media, Technology Boy, Wednesday and Shadow clearly lays out what the difference is between the gods. The New Gods occupy people’s time, but the Old Gods? They gave back. They gave people meaning. And before that, when Media Bowie’d herself up to convince Technical Boy to apologize for the attempted lynching (bad optics, kid), we got perhaps the most important piece of the god puzzle. In this war, the stakes are belief. And it isn’t always about who has the most believers. Ideas are hard to kill, and an idea as old as Odin has staying power. Maybe all he needs is one believer.
Is that what Shadow’s role is? Is he Wednesday’s Hail Mary play, the one believer who will hold onto the idea of Odin if everything falls apart? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Oh, and one final revelation: apparently the CIA killed Marilyn Monroe. So there’s that. But hey, at least we found the coin!