Starz’s American Gods
Season 2, Episode 6: “Donar the Great”
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Written by Adria Lang
Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) opened up a burlesque show at the Regius theatre. The song and dance number may or may not be riffing off the Muppets: “Serve it up piping hot and what have you got? A burlesque show!” (Yes, Father Gore is a Muppets nerd.) If you haven’t guessed, we’re somewhere in the late 1930s.
In current day, Wednesday and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) are “looking for dwarfs.” Seems the underground kingdom was built upon and covered by a mall, the unstoppable forces of commerce. Wednesday’s hoping to find Dvalinn (Jeremy Ramond) and Sindri (Clark Middleton), two dwarfs from Norse mythology.
Mr. World (Crispin Glover) continues rallying his troops, believing he and the New Gods will be able to take control of everything with the reach of technology. He’s got New Media (Kahyun Kim) and her followers under his thumb. He wants to use their collective power against the Old Gods.
In the ’30s, Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) kept the place running. Many performing had a “contract with Grimnir” a.k.a Odin. Columbia (Laura Bell Bundy)— a personification of the good ole U.S. of A— and Donar (Derek Theler)— an Old High German name for Thor— wanted to go elsewhere, sick of the same show day in, day out. Of course, following the mythology, Donar is a son of Odin.
In the audience was Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), not altogether impressed with the place. He thought the girls were cheap and the rest of it was all a bust, too. Wednesday didn’t like the kid’s tone, reiterating the “Ancient Ones” allowed the New Gods a space to exist. He didn’t consider the contemporary version of faith “real power,” only fleeting instances of modernity.
During the show, Wednesday met a man wearing a peculiar armband. The man said he was part of an organisation called Friends of New Germany— a real group founded in America by German immigrants in support of Nazism. Yikes! Funny, since Odin and Norse mythology is often twisted by idiot white nationalists. Similarly there’s the swastika, which was originally an ancient religious symbol throughout the cultures of Eurasia before Hitler and his band of merry maniacs appropriated it for their hideous flag. The Friends of New Germany wanted someone to sponsor in weightlifting. They saw “American Values” in Thor. Hilarious, right? Also a dark time for these Old Gods, resorting to being resurrected by horrible men.
At the mall, Wednesday meets with Dvalinn. He isn’t received with good news. The dwarf isn’t able to do the work needed on the spear. An artefact is required if the runes are going to be fixed. The great power necessary? Lou Reed’s leather jacket. The Allfather isn’t enthused. Wednesday heads up to the music store where Reed’s jacket is on sale for $7,500. Although the old man has money, it’s a ruse. He’s got Shadow playing a Secret Service agent chasing down counterfeiters.
After they get out of there, Shadow leaves Wednesday in cuffs. He’d like to know about the Allfather’s son, who’s supposedly dead. “There are certain deaths our kind cannot come back from,” says the old man. He doesn’t explain any more. Not yet. Despite the hard exterior, he’s clearly got a painful wound inside where the memory of his son lies.
Many decades ago, Donar Odinson became the big ticket for the New Friends of Germany, using him as their poster boy. He found himself in a bad position by effectively signing himself over to the Nazis. He got a visit from Nancy one night, after being requested to take a dive in the competition so Germany can win over America. The spider, using his own story, tried showing Thor how people can be bent to the will of others when they’re consumed with misguided anger at their parents.
“Manifest your own destiny”
Now that Dvalinn has Lou Reed’s jacket— accompanied by the excellent tune “Vicious“— he has the power to work on the runes. He uses his strength to etch the runes into the weapon again. This will allow the great spear to be totally healed, so Odin can carry it into battle against the New Gods.
Speaking of, Mr. World has a “new friend” being readied for battle. Who, though?
Back then, Columbia was visited by Technical Boy in her dressing room. He was looking for a “goddess of substance.” He liked how Columbia survived, even after the Statue of Liberty turned up to usurp her symbolic throne. She didn’t care, she and Donar were already planning to leave. Except Wednesday told her his son was gone with the Germans. He suggested she get moving on with her own future. Then he went to his son and pulled the same nonsense. Odin and Thor went head to head, hammer against spear— how the spear was damaged in the first place. Thor went on to kill himself a few years later. This is the death from which gods cannot return.
Sad listening to Odin sing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” almost as an anthem for the life he’s lost to a system of faith. He’s left both literally and spiritually poor these days. This song is compellingly juxtaposed with Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons” right afterwards. These two songs speak to similar issues in this context. Odin sacrificed his son in the name of money/capital in the form of worship.
Part of Odin’s new war with the New Gods seems to be out of guilt, for pushing his son towards an awful destiny and then feeling slighted because Thor didn’t accept what he wanted. He can’t rewrite history, though perhaps he can find solace by tearing down the false faith instilled in the New Gods. We’ll have to wait and see.
“Treasure of the Sun” is the next time.