As Laura attempts to complete the transformation begun in New Orleans she makes her way back to Cairo. Shadow finds Sweeney in a heap on the outskirts of town and Sweeney tries to warn him not to trust Wednesday, but to no avail. Later Sweeney meets up with Bilquis and the two compare notes on the various recountings of his history and he tries to filter the conflicting accounts as he goes on to talk to Salim about sacrifice and his feeling of impending doom. Dealing with the memories bubbling to the surface he confronts Wednesday and demands to be released from service. As the revelation of who really killed Laura and why comes to light loyalties are broken and yet another body falls on the road to Wednesday’s War.
After the hit and miss we were faced with a couple of episodes ago we are back to full strength with a more focussed narrative. And I can’t help wonder if the return of Heather Bellson, the writer of Muninn, episode 3. Coupled with the previous story of Columbia and Donar I felt this was a great addition and now the way forward is clearer. Overall this episode was a delight and one of my favourite characters finally got his origin fleshed out with some brilliantly grounding backstory. Not only did it give us the reveal of the debt he owes Wednesday is a penance for killing him, but it also gave us some fine character interplay with his wife and daughter. And as he talks his way into our hearts, by being equal parts vulnerable and crazy at the same time, I wonder how we will go on from this. And this also ensured Pablo went out with a bang. Not just with his battle scenes, but also with the interpersonal moments, where he uses his ‘lucky charms’ to wangle his way into the hearts of his loved ones, despite having wronged them and left them defenceless. The long standing resentment between him and the ‘grey priests’ becomes a clearly defining moment for him and the rage building in him at the appropriation of his birthright was truly awe inspiring as he goes into bloody battle.
I was previously bothered by the pairing of Mad Sweeney and Laura in New Orleans, believing it was nothing more than fanservice to please the shippers. But here I see it was more of a catalyst, created to set up this tragedy and it made me look at things very differently. I was suddenly even more interested in the discussion between Sweeney and Salim on the steps of the morgue. As Salim declares that he would give up his life for the love of the Jinn it prompts Sweeney to ask Salim if he thinks the Jinn would kill him if Wednesday requested it. Despite love being part of the equation. Clearly he has something on his mind and I couldn’t help think it was caused by Wednesday telling him to kill Laura to take back his coin. Maybe I was imagining it, but there seems to be an implication here that Sweeney loves Laura. Which makes the ending of this episode that bit more tragic. Though it was no surprise to me having read the book, I had hoped against hope this would be one of the ways it veered from the text.
Ian plays Wednesday so perfectly nonchalant and is suitably oblique as his plans are set in motion and sits impassively and watch the unfolding drama. Clearly he set up Sweeney to be the sacrifice and this means he isn’t above putting those who serve him in harms way if it serves his ultimate goal. And the slight flinch as Sweeney makes his move shows that even he can be surprised and Ian underplayed that brilliantly, not overdoing it but just keeping it under the surface. I was also very happy to see Sakina Jaffrey make a return and loved the way she played off Emily. They initially seemed to start out edging around each other warily like growling cats, quickly becoming more grudgingly respectful of each other, before becoming quite warm toward each other. Mama-Ji first sneering and calling her dead girl, similar to Sweeney’s nickname for her, before turning more maternal and even becoming a conspiratorial ally and Laura calmly taking her time to learn more about the woman she previously dismissed offhand. Both Sakina and Emily also allowed the scene to naturally unfold without forcing lines. Even the wrist slap to swat a fly was perfectly timed and added sheer comedy gold. Of course Mama-Ji again stole the scene by revealing the face of the Destroyer, and I daresay this helped me to love her all the more.
Aside from the special effects used on both Mama-Ji transforming for Laura and the Spear on its repair via Yggdrasil, there were so many other touches of sublime beauty in the smallest of details this episode. From the lingering shot of the ink dip by Ibis as he writes the tale of Sweeney to the poetry of the battle as Sweeney takes down his foe, revealed to be none other than Wednesday, thus revealing the debt he owed. The costumes as well gave some clear indicators to the quality of this episode as the Celtic hair and makeup took centre stage. Mostly on Sweeney, but also his family and his nemesis in battle, looking like something from World of Warcraft as Wednesday became a truly worthy adversary. And finally the camera pan during the fight as Wednesday reaches for the food and the focus is cleverly shifted from the foreground to the confrontation playing out under his nose. Sheer visual magic. There was also another little touch of foreshadowing that I didn’t pick up on until the second viewing. Right as Ibis related the legend of The Shining One to Sweeney.
Don’t be fooled by what, at face value, seems to be just an origin story. There is some subtext and between-the-lines reading to do here, that informs on Wednesday’s treatment of his cohorts and those who troth themselves to him.
American Gods S2 E7: For Whom The Bell Tolls
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Acting - 9/109/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 9/109/10