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Review – American Gods S02E05: “The Ways of the Dead”

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Note: this episode begins with a violent lynching and flashes back to it. If there is any chance that someone is reading this before they watch the episode, I think there should be a fair warning.

Last Week on American Gods

 

Last week on American Gods, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) tried to get The Bookkeeper (William Sanderson) on their side. Anansi (Orlando Jones), Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), and Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) debate the value of the upcoming war. The New Gods suffered some more serious infighting, ending with Mr. World (Crispin Glover) “retiring” Technical Boy (Bruce Langley). He then joined Shadow and Wednesday, but The Bookkeeper chose to favor neither side in the warning.

American Gods Crosses a Line

American Gods S02E05: "The Ways of the Dead"
American Gods S02E05: “The Ways of the Dead”

The showrunners of American Gods really love their plot digressions. I may have mentioned this one or two times before and it will probably come up again. Here’s the thing. There is a difference between understandable plot digressions, weird plot digressions, and unacceptable plot digressions. Understandable plot digressions expand on the world in a way that enhances the character and/or plot. An example could be last season’s reveal that Mr. Wednesday is responsible for Laura’s death. Weird plot digressions don’t really enhance the plot but expand on the world. A lot of last season’s “Coming to America” segments fit in here. Finally, there are unacceptable plot digressions, where not only does the digression not add anything to the plot or character, it causes harm to those elements or to the audience. A notable example of an unacceptable plot digression happened this week and it has to do with the trigger warning that I put up top.

The Gist Of The Problem

Without detailed spoilers, here’s the gist of the problem. One of our major characters has flashes of another man’s violent lynching, and no one is able to give a satisfactory reason why, nor does it seem to be a continuing mystery. As far as the audience can tell, the supernatural elements of the plot occur in a way they haven’t before.

This subplot didn’t need to happen. It seems to exist to give that main character something to do while other chess moves occurred. I’m not opposed to giving that character little one-off plots while the “grown-ups” are busy. However, showing that kind of racialized violence on screen to give this character something to do. Technically, he didn’t need to show up in this episode at all. Most, if not all, of the episodes of season two, have skipped someone out entirely. We could have visited this episode’s missing characters instead. Another option was to have him visit the other plots in his central location. A couple of other characters have hung out in each other’s plots. There were several other ways to go that weren’t this, and this way doesn’t feel justifiable.
What’s worse is this violence aired without an explicit warning! How many black men have been shot on video in the last five years? A different show gave a warning because it depicted Russian Roulette, and that has been televised significantly less. Racialized violence should be given an explicit warning as long as society persists in being a violent trash fire.

Next week on American Gods, Mr. Wednesday tells a story from his past, and it appears we’re supposed to believe him.

American Gods airs on Starz on Sunday nights.

What did you think about this episode? Tell us in the comments!

 


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Siobhan Dempsey

Siobhan is a 25 year old library professional with an MS in search of her library.

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