REVIEW: American Gods, S2 Ep8 – Moon Shadow

American Gods S2 finale

American Gods concluded its second season with a confusing and chaotic finale that nevertheless had some interesting moments and important revelations.

“Fear is order. Fear is control. Fear is safety. Fear is fiction.”

American Gods S2 finaleThe episode opens in 1938 with a family spending a quiet evening together while, on the radio, Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater On The Air broadcasts War Of The Worlds and the vividness of the description sows fear and panic into their hearts. Mr. World goes into a long discussion about the power of fear in that menacing whisper that is so characteristic of him. He appears as a director in an old film set and talks more about how these alien invasion movies contributed to spreading more panic in people.

“Fear is limitless. Fear thrives and feeds on itself, preparing you for calamity, preparing you to believe.”

New Media uses her power to poison people’s minds and to try and flush out both Shadow and Salim as photos of them and Mr. Wednesday are shared all over modern media, denouncing them as criminals. Their location is leaked and police cars race to Ibis and Jacquel’s Funeral Homes, a mob driven by fear. Salim is terrified but he will not leave the Djinn’s side. Ibis and Mr. Nancy calmly play chess, unperturbed by the chaos of the human world.

American Gods S2 finaleIn a somewhat anticlimactic development, all the fuss dies down as suddenly as it started and both Shadow and Salim are free to go (though there was a quick scene at the end where Shadow was victim to racial profiling.) American Gods has struggled this season to truly tackle timely and relevant issues in a substantial way and this is another example.

The mysterious tech prodigy and CEO from episode four re-appears, obsessed with a conundrum. A new iteration of Technical Boy also emerges and the two discuss the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel. Later, the CEO’s supposedly invulnerable system gets hacked, but he does not seem too panicked about it. I’m still not sure who he is supposed to be in the long run, but his performance has been charismatic enough to hope he appears in a more substantial role next season.

Shadow and Laura have a proper conversation while both lying on gravestones. They discuss Mr. Wednesday’s untrustworthiness while also touching on Laura’s own mistakes. A bittersweet contrast to this scene was a brief glimpse into the couple’s past before the heist and before they started walking among the gods. Simpler times.

But too much has happened and there is clearly no reconciliation in sight for them. Even though Laura promises to have Shadow’s back, he wants none of it, and even asks her to stop calling him “puppy.” His casual “Free country” is the only response to her threat that she is determined to kill Wednesday.

American Gods S2 finaleBut the old man slipped away when no one is looking. Laura tries to recruit Bilquis who gently declines. And then, the dead woman looks at another corpse, that of Mad Sweeney and comes to a decision. As I suspected last week, she carries his body away and will no doubt find some means to resurrect him. I’m glad to see that this crazy pair will continue their journey together and that this time, Laura chose to take him along, just like he chose to restore the coin to her last season.

One major revelation, that had been hinted since season one, that was finally confirmed was that Shadow is, in fact, Mr. Wednesday’s son. This discovery, just when Mr. Wednesday is conveniently away from Shadow, will greatly impact their dynamic when they eventually cross paths and we wonder now how Shadow will deal with this knowledge.

American Gods season two end by sending Shadow away from the madness of the gods, at least temporarily. But it’s clear that Mr. Wednesday is still somehow pulling the strings. Shadow has a new alias, Mike Ainsel, and is headed towards Lakeside, WI, a pivotal location in the book, and one that will undoubtedly form the basis of season three.

Neil Gaiman spoke with Deadline about the plans for season three and how the Lakeside arc fits into this. Book readers have an idea of what is coming next but not everything in American Gods the television series has strictly followed the novel so there is still an element of unpredictability. Gaiman expounds on this:

“Like everything we’ve done with American Gods so far, if you know the book, there will be lovely, satisfying things that will be happening that will fit into the things that you read in the book. Yet, also if you know the book, there are things that we’re going to do that will surprise you, change things around, or change the way that something happened because this is television, and it’s not a book.

We’re up to 10 episodes next season, I’m delighted to say, so we’re doing things in slightly different sequences and doing things in slightly different ways. But, because this is a series drawing from the book, at the end of the day, we’ve still got a Shadow who is heading out to be on his own, trying to become somebody who has escaped the war of the gods, and trying to become a normal person, and we’ll see how well that works out for him.”

Gaiman also talked about how, for all its mythological elements, American Gods is still grounded in the real world:

“In American Gods, as you know, one of things that’s always been important to me is the idea that it’s set in the real world. It’s not set in the Marvel Universe and it’s not set in the DC Universe, it’s not set in a heightened reality place, it’s actually set in our world, where weird shit happens.

The people in the world of American Gods, who are larger than life and stranger than life, are anomalies rather than usual. So, I think that this episode and the last one actually feel like they’re getting set more and more in our world. I’m very, very much looking forward to seeing more of that in Season 3. I want gods to be strange people in a normal world rather than strange people in a strange world.”