Review – American Gods S02E01: “House on the Rock”

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  • Writing - 7/10
  • Acting - 7/10
  • Overall - 7/10
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Last Season on American Gods


Last season on American Gods (which first aired two years and three showrunners ago), we met Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) in prison. He is released a few days early due to his wife Laura’s (Emily Browning) death. On his way back home for her funeral, Shadow meets an enigmatic character who goes by Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). Mr. Wednesday employs Shadow after much persuading and despite his associate Mad Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) warnings. To Shadow’s frustration, it takes most of the season for Mr. Wednesday to trust him with certain things. Mr. Wednesday’s primary opposition is Mr. World (Crispin Glover), someone maybe more mysterious by Wednesday himself. He is aided by the shapeshifting Media (Gillian Anderson), and his group is referred to as the New Gods.
When Mad Sweeney and Mr. Wednesday part ways, Mad Sweeney gives Shadow a lucky coin by accident, and he, in turn, tosses it in Laura’s grave. This causes Laura to rise from her grave, and Mad Sweeney chases her and his coin for the rest of the season. Unfortunately for him, she refuses to give it up, and she learns that Mr. Wednesday had her killed.

On another thread entirely, Bilquis (Yetide Badacki) is a goddess of love with a very NSFW power. At the end of the first season, she teamed up with New God Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) and promised to sell out the old guard.

In the season-ending scene, Mr. Wednesday revealed himself to be Odin to Shadow and convinced Easter (Kristin Chenoweth) to take away the spring.

Changes in American Gods

American Gods - Season 2 Ep. 2 (House On The Rocks)
American Gods – Season 2 Ep. 2 (House On The Rocks)

It’s been a while since there have been new episodes of American Gods. I literally earned an MS degree in between seasons one and two. There have been several behind the scenes changes as well. Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left the show after the first season. This led to actors Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth, who have both worked with Fuller before, leaving the show as well. Additionally, Jesse Alexander, who replaced Fuller and Green, left the show after filming the second season. That means that, right now, American Gods technically doesn’t have a showrunner. I think the odds may be against the show getting a third season, so watch it while you can.

The American Gods Prepare For War

This episode was primarily about preparations. After Easter caused her drought, the New Gods feel backed into a corner. Propagandist Media is missing, paralleling Anderson’s departure from the show. Meanwhile, Mr. Wednesday continues recruiting the Old Gods, but there are hints that he has not provided for every eventuality. I guess what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men may apply to gods too.

The preparations can also be seen from a meta perspective. Media’s onscreen absence leads the way for Kahyun Kim’s appearance as New Media. Easter is absent because Kristin Chenoweth is. There are also more ambiguous examples. Although one of the major events at the end of this week’s episode never occurred in the book, it seems to be pointing to the book’s ending. Will this prove to be proof of long-term planning?

Meanwhile, Shadow still feels incredibly agnostic, considering the acts of gods done throughout the first season. Although he’s Wednesday’s man, in name and indeed, it’s not clear that he believes in the scope of the problem. This seems to be due to the series’ meandering pace. The meeting at this episode’s eponymous house (which is a real-life place) takes place early in the novel. In this interview, Gaiman talks about how this season is only going to cover about four chapters of his novel. The scope of each season should make us wonder if American Gods will reach Wednesday’s endgame on screen. I find this really disheartening, and wish the writers would just kill their darlings (like the Sweeney/Laura teamups) and pick up the pace.

Next week on American Gods, we focus on Shadow. Probably too much for his liking.

American Gods airs Sunday nights at 8:05 pm.

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About the author

Siobhan Dempsey

Siobhan needs books to function, and therefore can infodump quite a lot about them, particularly when they're either science fiction or fantasy.

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