Martin Carr reviews the fifth episode of American Gods…
A free-floating ‘Seven Year Itch’ icon combined with ‘Stardust’ pastiche are just two of many personas which make ‘Lemon Scented You’ come alive. Acid trip laced introductions with swinging sledgehammers and balm pot crazy Irishmen, meld together into a seedy segue of sordid indulgence offering minimal recap for the uninitiated. Dappled woodland, glacial landscapes and an untarnished American wilderness are rendered in stop motion CGI, depicting a time when Gods and men were separated by little more than temporal time shifts. Before modern man ushered in a period of perceived supremacy and deities became nothing more than imagination.
So it is that episode five brings us a corpse confessional, violin sharp notes and distraction tactics weaved into incidental musical accompaniment. Close up camerawork on faces, lips, door locks and fly paper sticky insects add to the disquiet. Taking our attention away from the love story which refuses to die between Shadow Moon and his recently dead, highly adulterous wife Laura. Stitched together, ice-cold to the touch and alluring as only a journey into necrophilia can be. Their dialogues are interspersed with snippets of Bowie induced homage, powered by a Gillian Anderson performance which is part Bowie approximation and Monroe rock opera.
Each time Anderson is on-screen she gets to demonstrate her acting prowess, play fast and hard with our perceptions as well as make us lament the passing of a music icon. Rarely does an actor get the opportunity for reinvention which American Gods provides here, gifting Anderson a chance to remind people of her versatility. While Gaiman’s magnum opus continues its structural unpacking around her shape shifting and finding form, moving from page to screen with moments of visual brilliance and disregard for the conventions of structure. Interestingly this means nothing really happens narratively but everything still changes as more players join the game.
This leaves Moon and Wednesday comfortably numb amongst the madness. One providing understated stability while his counterpart is all curmudgeonly indifference and card shark morality. Hand cuffed and face to face with raven familiars and creepy crawly sneak thieves for company, Wednesday still carries the conniving and worldly-wise overtones of a man who knows too much. Between an undead wife, virtual reality interrogation and cash rich Irishmen with an obsession for coinage Moon remains unfazed. Cleverly making flesh the godlike personification of Big Brother we find ourselves in a room without windows, watching pixilated flesh fill the field of vision as Mr. World enters our dominion. For the first time new and old clash as they circle each other trading respectful dialogue before landing a first punch. Only the tech savvy wunderkind loses teeth in a metaphorical punch of such visual audacity that it fits right in.
American Gods has established itself in five episodes as the stuff of television history. Renewed for season two less than three hours in, making broadsheet headlines after episode three and displaying more balls and backbone than most shows manage in twice the time. There remains a confidence, eloquence and sense of agenda behind this gothic noir that transcends anything else streaming or otherwise right now.