REVIEW: American Gods, S1 Ep 6 – A Murder of Gods

Things get bloodier than usual in this week’s episode of American Gods as we are introduced to Vulcan, an old god who has managed to reinvent himself and take advantage of America’s obsession with firearms. Shadow reacts with his usual entertaining incredulity to the gruesome events that unfold while another road trip begins with the most unexpected individuals.

The “Coming to America” vignette was both tragic and extremely topical. The scenes of frightened Mexican immigrants risking their lives to cross the border could have been lifted out of any newspaper today. The deity introduced was Mexican Jesus, who perished with his followers as soon as the gun-toting Americans decided they didn’t want foreigners on their land. Blood flowed into the river, as innocents were executed.

The vignette tied in with the introduction of Vulcan, the god of the forges, who remains hale and hearty because he successfully tapped into the American fascination (and obsession) with guns. He now runs a gun factory and the ritual sacrifice involves hapless employees falling into vats of ore that get turned into bullets. Every death is marked by his followers gathering together and shooting into the sky. Shadow’s expression of horror at the spectacle aptly captured my own reaction to this disturbing scene, all the more terrifying because it looks so familiar. This is what America is like today, and the political imagery of American Gods could not be more pointed.

Vulcan was a character Neil Gaiman wrote specifically for the show, having never appeared in the original novel. But he fits right into the mythology of American Gods while making very striking political commentary on the dangers of gun culture. This, along with the scenes of immigrants being slaughtered, show a painful reality that cannot be denied.

American Gods, S1 Ep 6 – A Murder of GodsMr. Wednesday meets with Vulcan in the hopes of recruiting the latter to his cause but much to his chagrin, Vulcan has sold out to the new gods, taking the offer not unlike what Media proposed to Mr. Wednesday last week, of “upgrading” himself to appeal to the new generation of worshippers. It works splendidly for Vulcan, until Mr. Wednesday arrives and executes the old god with a blade he forged himself. Mr. Wednesday will not tolerate such a betrayal and he is determined to send a clear message to the new gods on where he stands in this brewing conflict. And poor Shadow continues to find himself caught in the crossfires of something way beyond his wildest imagination.

American Gods, S1 Ep 6 – A Murder of GodsOn a more amusing note (in the dark humor of American Gods), Laura continued her pursuit of her husband by enlisting (or forcing) the help of two unlikely companions: Mad Sweeney (in it to be able to get his coin back) and Salim, the taxi driver who had such an enlightening encounter with the Jin. This whole side trip was not in the book at all and is clearly part of expanding Laura’s character and making her a more active participant in the story. So, for book-readers, this new development presents a refreshing and unpredictable change.

All three characters have such different personalities and agendas so their interactions are very fun to watch. Somehow, though, they are able to build some rapport as in the final scene with Salim in prayer with Laura and Mad Sweeney looking on. Laura is still trying to find meaning to her afterlife by following Shadow, Mad Sweeney wants his coin back, and Salim just wants to see the Jin again (and Mad Sweeney naughtily knows why!). While not a sub-plot with high stakes, Laura’s road trip has already begun to bring more nuance to American Gods and I’m curious to see how her companions will help her fulfill her mission.