REVIEW: American Gods, S2 Ep5 – The Ways of the Dead

American Gods S2 Ep5 The Ways of the Dead

American Gods continues with another dark episode that showcased a tragic death in history and ongoing racial tensions. But while this episode improved upon the last two, it does not quite do justice to the struggles it is trying to portray.

As one reviewer noted, the tragic tale of William “Froggie” James is artistically portrayed in the episode with disturbing scenes of death, mesmerizing visuals that involve flame-covered heads and ghosts whispering “Memento Mori” to an unnerved Shadow. Wrongfully executed, Froggie haunts Cairo and all his brethren and Shadow wonders why he cursed those of the same race. Again, the show relies on artistic scenes and depictions but does not, in the end, truly delve deep into the issues it wants to highlight. Or perhaps, it is being too ambitious in its themes. Either way, it’s a miss.

American Gods S2 Ep5 The Ways of the DeadThere’s an interesting clash between Mr. Ibis and Mr. Nancy where the latter accuses the former of benefiting from the systematic murder of black folk in Cairo while he, Anansi, loses followers. Continuing the debate that began with Nancy, Bilquis, and Ibis, last week, it seems there are some gods who are content to maintain the status quo, unjust though it may be, because it benefits them and allows for their continued existence. Mr. Wednesday is not the only opportunist in American Gods, although he is the most obvious one.

American Gods Mr. Wednesday continues his crusade to recruit more gods to his side, this time catching up with Salim and the Djinn, who hand him his spear. The couple have an interesting conversation about the nature of faith and Salim’s continued belief in his god, despite all that he has witnessed. Mr. Wednesday joins this debate and tries to win over Salim but to no avail.

They visit Alviss, king of the dwarves, and, to my amusement, played by Lee Arenberg who also played my favorite dwarf Grumpy on Once Upon a Time. Alviss again says a firm “No” to Wednesday but is intrigued when the latter asks him to reactivate the runes on his ancient weapon.

American Gods S2 Ep5 The Ways of the DeadIn New Orleans, Laura Moon catches up with Mad Sweeney in her quest to find a permanent solution to her predicament. He takes her to a couple of loa (Haitian vodou deities), Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte. These gods may be able to bring Laura back to life, but at a certain cost, of course. The whole encounter proves to be revelatory for both Sweeney and Laura, as the Baron begins a ritual to resurrect her while Maman Brigitte deduces that Sweeney has developed feelings for the corpse.

The ritual turns into an orgy but one that is surreal and magical, as American Gods sex scenes tend to be and unlike the boring scenes from previous episodes. Where at first it’s the Baron and Laura, Brigitte and Sweeney, by some magical manipulation (probably by the loa themselves), the partners are switched and Sweeney and Laura find themselves having sex with each other. It shocks them both and is definitely a turning point in their relationship. They are both unnerved by the night before and while Laura wants to part ways, Sweeney refuses to let her (and his coin) go.  She accuses him of following Wednesday because he wants a war to die in but Sweeney asserts that he hates the old man but owes him a great deal.

With this revelation from Sweeney and the Djinn’s previous declaration that he is also in some debt to the old man, someone has already remarked that for all Wednesday’s charisma, he only seems to be gaining followers by calling on debts and favors. We’re still a long way from the final confrontation on American Gods and the season is plodding along but so far, I’m not sure how this journey will move forward.