Mad Sweeney and Laura reconnect in New Orleans to meet up with Sweeney’s old friends, who share their world of voodoo healing. Thanks to some guidance by Ibis and Nancy, Shadow learns the brutal and tragic history of Cairo. And Wednesday embarks on a road trip with Salim and the Jinn to recover a much needed weapon as his plans take root.
Episode 2 writer (The Beguiling Man) Andres Fischer-Centeno returns to helm alongside Rodney Barnes on this one, and he brings Laura and Mad Sweeney with him. I’m beginning to see that the writer changes between episodes is making things a little too fractured and there is a lack of cohesion. This is having a telling effect on pacing and things are coming apart a little around the edges. The storyline meandered slightly here and the focus was divided too much. And as a consequence we somewhat lost the overall voice in the garbled telling of the events of Laura and Mad Sweeney in Nawlins, Shadow and his interactions with Will James and Wednesday and his road trip to recover his spear.
Three intertwined stories usually makes for an interesting watch when the themes are different and varied, yet here they all had the same flavor and none of them had much consequence. The end scene in Cairo was meant to imply a sense of underlying menace and foreboding for Shadow with the growing Yggdrasil. And the sight of the gods standing around him like vultures over a corpse gave an indication that something bad is coming, based on the heavy handed depiction of friction and menace between everyone present. Yes it was palpable and yet the implications of what Shadow witnessed were not really explored in a satisfactory way.
And despite feeling Laura and Mad Sweeney were sorely missed last episode and had myself begged for their return, this was not what I had hoped for and almost regret asking. Musafa Shakir and Hani Furstenberg were welcome additions to the cast. Especially Musafa who is more remembered by myself for his role as Bushmaster in Luke Cage and his portrayal here of Baron Samedi was initially intriguing. Though more should have been done to explore the religion of voodoo, as that is a rich part of the heritage of New Orleans.
Instead the inevitability of the incident in The Big Easy occurred with little merit to it, other than making titillating viewing in a heavy handed way. As well as being completely contrary to how Laura got her ‘groove’ back in the novel. In effect it jumped into soap opera territory, using the gratification of the building sexual chemistry between Laura and Sweeney to create drama. Even those shipping them would have only been marginally satisfied by the proxy union involving surrogates. However it was a cheap shot that actually failed to connect. Overall it also paints Laura as a woman who uses sex as currency. Up until now she has been proclaiming her love for Shadow as her whole reason for being and swore that her previous affair was a horrible mistake. But now she is jumping on any available man she can?
The mis-characterisation of Laura is the least of it. Reverend Hutchins is brought in for the funeral of Jamarr Goodchild, yet he drifts through the scenery like so much ineffectual mist. This also seemingly links into the story of the previously introduced Ruby Goodchild, but I’m struggling to see how or even bring myself to care. Her interacting with Bilquis and Nancy is also going nowhere fast. I don’t know if it is being set up as a subplot or merely a distraction from all the other goings on. It appears to just be there to fill the space and break the monotony while nothing much is being done with Nancy and Bilquis, they just seem to be talking around her for no apparent reason. Shadow’s interaction with the spirit of Will James was similarly without focus. The fact that the tragic story does have a disturbing true history is anecdotal at best and is completely abused and turned into a mere ghost story and the reason for Nancy’s argument with Ibis.
The roots of this story are grounded in a real life incident that has far more pathos to it, involving Will’s arrest without due process for the murder of Mary Pelley, who is left unnamed here as a Jane Doe for some reason. Interestingly the whole incident gave rise to the passing of a series of anti-lynch and anti-mob laws by Illinois State Legislature that led to major reforms throughout the Midwest, involving sentencing and protections for African American people in the state. But all of that is glossed over for the sake of sensationalism and doesn’t really allow Will any lasting dignity here. Actor Warren Belle does an acceptable turn as Will James, but sadly his origin story had too much of the Candyman about it.
There is also a disturbing undercurrent here with the racial tensions being helped by animosity between people of color amongst themselves. It almost implies they aren’t intelligent enough to point the finger of blame where it belongs, instead resorting to infighting and backbiting their own kith and kin. Nancy and Ibis flip from from being agreeable in the previous episode to now having Nancy snarl possessively about his worshippers, accusing Ibis of taking them. Even Shadow blames Will for the whole thing, claiming he has cursed his own people. Will himself backed this up stating he was angry at his own kind for turning away and doing nothing to help him. No mention of the crimes of the white supremacists that began the whole sorry travesty. I fully expected those to be the ones he took his revenge on here, but maybe that would have been considered weirdly inappropriate somehow. Like maybe taking it out on other victims of oppression was considered preferable to rising up against oppression in some twisted way? I felt a little uncomfortable with this misdirection and believe it gains the story nothing and also doesn’t speak well for those it purports to defend.
An unfortunate tale told with a misguided ideal and no true focus. The more the writers are trying to speak for an oppressed people, the more I feel they are not actually the voice of those people and are doing them a disservice.
American Gods S2 E5: A Bit Too Big Easy
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 6/106/10
- Acting - 7/107/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 6.5/106.5/10
User Review( votes)
I happened thought it was well written and very cohesive. Guess that’s why everyone has an opinion. My five star rating is for the episode, I’d give this analysis of the episode a one. Sounds more like the series maybe too complex for this writer.
This writer has been enjoying the show up until this episode. The show is nowhere near as ‘complex’ as the book, which by the way this writer has read on several occasions and also enjoyed. The problem is that the show is lacking cohesion due to switching writers every episode and if it weren’t for the capable skills of Orlando it would have been far less enjoyable.