Starz’s American Gods
Season 2, Episode 8: “Moon Shadow”
Directed by Christopher J. Byrne
Written by Aditi Brennan Kapil & Jim Danger Gray
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Treasure of the Sun” – click here
* Season 3 to come next year!
This episode opens on a F.O.K.S. broadcast screen, sponsored by the NRA. Perfect, no? A family sits in their little home in the country and listens to the radio. Apparently there were explosions on Mars recently. Comets are landing on Earth. They’re bringing strange creatures with “tentacles.” We see the family flee their farmhouse and hit the road.
This is when H.G. Wells debuted The War of the Worlds— another hint at the timeline is the Munich Agreement, seen in one of the newspapers, placing this scene squarely in 1938. It wasn’t real, yet people bought into it. Like Mr. World (Crispin Glover) explains, “fear is fiction” and people buy into it because they believe it COULD be real. Many thought the alien invasion Wells narrated was actually happening, and it caused legitimate panic. Belief makes things real.
At the funeral home, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) contemplates his role in all of the madness. He’s not sure who or what to believe. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) has left again on his own, sneaking out in the middle of the night. When Shadow wakes he finds his wife there. Laura (Emily Browning) is sleeping across from him on a grave in the cemetery. They try to mend their broken bond. She wants to convince him Odin is “a psychopath.” She says she’ll always be behind her husband. She blew his best friend while he was in jail, then had sex with Mad. Is she really the one to be claiming loyalty?
The CEO (Andrew Koji)— once a friend to Technical Boy (Bruce Langley)— is beginning to experience something strange. He can’t shake the sound of the metronome, hearing it constantly. He begins to type across the keyboard like he did as a boy, running his fingers across the piano with virtuoso ease. On his computer, he builds a human vision: Technical Boy. The CEO talks about wanting to “wrestle God,” quoting from Genesis 32:26. There’s a great through-line of theme in this series about sons and fathers, the eternal struggle for power between them. Even the CEO must face his own fatherhood, when Technical Boy proves to be just another agent of the New Gods.
“Seeing is believing”
Laura runs into Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), looking for Wednesday. The African goddess isn’t a huge fan of him, either. Laura tries enlisting her in the quest to take revenge, though she doesn’t get much from Bilquis, who’s mostly staying out of the fighting, one way or another, as much as possible.
Mr. World uses Technical Boy and New Media (Kahyun Kim) to begin an attack on the “financial institutions” across America. People are descending into chaos as their credit and ATM cards are useless. The regular people of the country are starting to panic. Oh, and better still, Shadow’s face is being blasted across news reports, alongside Wednesday, as being linked to the “data dump” and the Belfontaine Massacre and a bunch of other events to make them look like full-on terrorists.
What’s a man to do? Shadow and Bilquis have a moment together. She says their “fortunes are linked.” She anoints his forehead with blood. He tries to get Salim (Omid Abtahi) to go with him, especially now that the Muslim finds his face on TV, too. Shadow says they could end up dead, unlike the gods. The cops know they’re in Cairo, courtesy of the reach of New Media. She reaches across the airwaves to Shadow, threatening him with what may be about to happen.
Police arrive in droves at the funeral parlour, surrounding the place. Shadow’s got nowhere to go. He tries to leave and Yggdrasil grabs him with its roots, pulling him into the tree’s branches. Life flashes before his eyes. He sees his mother (Olunike Adeliyi) and Odin. He hears Mad’s voice. He falls from the tree, to that place we’ve seen before in the Bone Orchard. He chops at the tree’s roots, bursting a hole through to the other side. Past touches the present and Shadow manages to save everybody at the funeral parlour.
Have we found the truth? Did Odin father Shadow?
Laura is carrying Mad’s body off with her to, someplace. Salim and the Jinn hit the road again. Yggdrasil has disappeared entirely. And Shadow’s on a bus, getting out of Cairo. They’re stopped by highway cops. They don’t arrest Shadow because he’s got an ID that reads Michael Ainsel— Ainsel is connected to a fairy tale from Northumbria, and the word means ‘my own self.’
What a season! Fantastic stuff. The character development’s gotten even better than in Season 1. If Father Gore had to guess about Shadow’s relationship to Odin, he’d guess Shadow is Odin’s son Baldr, judging by his personality as a good, noble man— Baldr was the Allfather’s good son, as opposed to, say, Loki. There are many instances when Shadow tries to instil a sense of morality in Odin as the travel together. Baldr’s known as ‘the shining one’ and he’s associated with the sun/daytime. He was also foretold to be “reborn in the New World” after his death, which ultimately led to Ragnarök, in one of the old Norse tales. Could he have been reborn as a shadow of who he once was? Is Shadow Moon a tricky juxtaposition against the daytime image of Baldr?
For those who HAVEN’T read the book, it’s something to think about. For those who HAVE, you know Shadow’s identity already. Now we patiently wait for Season 3. Judging by the forward progress this year, there should be lots of compelling things ahead.