REVIEW: American Gods, S2 Ep6 – Donar the Great

American Gods, S2 Ep6 - Donar the Great

American Gods explores a complex father-son relationship in a flamboyant, theatrical episode that nevertheless has darker undertones.

American Gods, S2 Ep6 - Donar the GreatDonar the Great explores Mr. Wednesday’s past as a performer in vaudeville, a chapter of his life that he had previously alluded to in passing but that I am so glad was actually explored on the show. This is probably as close as we are ever going to get to a full-blown musical episode of American Gods and it was pretty glorious. This was certainly a fun opportunity for Ian McShane’s Wednesday to showcase his other talents and to portray his charismatic showmanship.

The musical parts were fun and flamboyant as expected and I enjoyed the not-so-subtle nuances of Columbia’s performances and the understated melancholy of Wednesday’s final song. American Gods is fantastical enough that having such shifts in genre make sense and are certainly more entertaining than the sluggishly paced previous episodes that spent so much time on people simply spouting exposition. Singing exposition is always more fun.

American Gods, S2 Ep6 - Donar the GreatThe episode is split between the musical flashback of Wednesday’s theater days, particularly his relationship with his son, Thor, also known as Donar the Great. Donar is in a relationship with another powerful deity, Columbia, who yearns for freedom beyond the paltry worship of the theater audience. Wednesday, Donar, and Columbia thrive on the delight of the audience but one fateful day, a certain controversial group of swastika-wearing young men enlist Donar to represent them and he eagerly joins them, only later to learn that he will be asked to make difficult choices.

American Gods, S2 Ep6 - Donar the GreatMr. Nancy and Technical Boy also make appearances in these flashbacks, and it’s a bit refreshing to see Technical Boy in a less annoying guise. While Donar refuses to compromise himself and his honor to adapt to modern times, Columbia is offered an opportunity to reach a wider audience of worshippers by Technical Boy and she takes it. It’s another reminder of the sacrifices the old gods have had to make in order to survive in a changing world.

American Gods, S2 Ep6 - Donar the GreatThe part of the episode set in the present featured Wednesday and Shadow meeting up with dwarves to seek their help in repairing Wednesday’s spear, Gungnir. The price they demand is a leather jacket worn by Lou Reed. And the con that Wednesday and Shadow play on the gullible salesman is another welcome moment of levity in an increasingly dark season. Shadow playing an FBI agent was genius and we haven’t seen him have fun on a scam since the first season.

American Gods, S2 Ep6 - Donar the GreatThere are a lot of parallels drawn between Wednesday’s fraught relationship with Donar and his current dynamic with Shadow. This exploration of Wednesday’s regrets actually helps make him a more sympathetic character and gives me some more depth than just an all-knowing trickster and manipulator. But for all the fun, the episode also reveals Odin’s more sinister nature as someone willing to sell his son to the Nazis for the chance of greater glory.

Odin and Thor have an angry confrontation at the end of the episode, which shows how Gungnir had been destroyed in the first place. This is a rare moment that we see Odin’s wrath and ancient power and it is something to behold. This is later contrasted with his grief at the suicide of his mighty son and the episode that began with pomp and circumstance ends on a somber note.