I am a bit behind on my American Gods reviews, so I am going to combine my reviews of the first (“House on the Rock”) and second (“The Beguiling Man”) episodes of Season 2, as well as celebrate that the show has already been renewed for a third season!
Between this season and last, there has been a shakeup behind the scenes. Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who developed the show for television, are no longer involved, and some of the cast has joined them. One of the themes of American Gods is that change is a catalyst for both good and bad. No one is denying that losing Gillian Anderson as Media was a big disappointment, but it appears that the show is using this to their advantage. Licking her wounds, Media has gone into hiding and is beginning to emerge as the evolved New Media. The Media depicted last season (and in the book) focuses on television and film icons, but entertainment has changed over the past two decades and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. In a clash between the new gods and the old, the rebirth of a new god seems like the exact thing to further illustrate the divide between the two factions.
Kristin Chenoweth’s exit as Easter was not handled quite so well. Last season set her up play a more significant role than in the book which was completely undercut by writing her off in some quick dialogue. They could have done so much better here. This is a character who is an ancient goddess of rebirth. They could have recast in a similar path to Media and allowed the former friends to become rivals. That seems so much more interesting than her getting upset at Wednesday.
Speaking of rivals—Shadow’s foil, the menacing Mr. Town, has finally appeared. We see him torture Shadow, who is hooked up to a machine (that happens to look a lot like the apparatus from The Rentals’ “It’s Time to Come Home” video) that appears to extract memories. This was an interesting way to get out some of Shadow’s backstory while avoiding clunky exposition dialogue. One of the big deviations from the book here was that we discover that Shadow learned his coin tricks as a boy instead of in prison. I think it is pretty obvious that the mysterious stranger who taught him will be eventually revealed as Wednesday, and we are finally starting to see just how far back his meddling goes.
Last season, his plans built to visiting the House on the Rock. I wrongly assumed that it would be the climax of the season finale, but I am happy to finally see it. The book goes into great detail talking about significant sites of worship around the world. Other countries erected monuments such as Stonehenge, but America used them for tourist traps. Roadside attractions that people are inexplicably drawn to.
We have a lot to look forward to this season as the war between the gods nears.