In a week when we were supposed to be enthralled by the culmination of Doctor Who’s big mid-season 3-parter, the contrast between it and American Gods couldn’t be more stark. When a writer as apparently accomplished as Toby Whithouse delivers rubbish as hackneyed and soapy as ‘The Lie of the Land’, you have to wonder what the hell goes on in those precious Cardiff tone meetings. But where Who had viewers accidently strangling their cats as they cringed their way through its oh-so-predictable ‘love conquers all’ ending and ludicrously contrived, rug-pulling reunion between Doctor and companion, American Gods gave us another lesson in how mythic storytelling on the small screen should be done.
When we interviewed Bryan Fuller about the top-drawer cast he and Michael Green have assembled for the series, he was ebullient on the subject and rightfully so - the mix of fresh and very familiar faces have melded wonderfully into this unhinged world, with only Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) over-playing the “I mad, I am!” hand. But sometimes the greatest casting revelations are the ones you least expect, like this week’s appearance of Vulcan, played with belligerent relish by Corbin Bernsen, very late of LA Law (1986-94) and not seen a great deal since. In fact, we almost mistook him for Jeff Bridges for a moment, what with the beard and the flinty gleam in his eye.
Vulcan (a new character developed for the series) is the old god of volcanos, so naturally enough has updated his act to run a giant smelting forge to produce the best guns and swords money can buy. He rules the roost in a Virginia backwater named after him, its all-white, middle-aged residents patrolling the streets in branded uniforms, armed to the teeth. Wednesday, as ever, nails this horrific right-wing fiction to the real-world America of 2017: “Everyone looks at Lady Liberty and sees a different face, even if it crumbles under question. People will defend the warm, safe feeling their America give them. They will defend it with bullets.”
This week we got two road trips for the price of one. While Wednesday and Shadow were off trying and failing to recruit the slippery Mr V, a new carpool of unlikely companions were making a break for the landscape. Mad Sweeney, calmed down enough to realise that extreme violence may not be the best approach to getting his magic coin out of chain-smoking Laura’s cadaverous gut, suggests a win-win solution that will mean a spot of co-operative motoring. Emily Browning and Pablo Schreiber fizz off each other like fried eggs on a hot bonnet, Laura’s capacity for callousness as darkly entertaining as Sweeney’s nutjob obsession with his feckin’ coin. And who better to chauffer them than that chilled-out gay Muslim Salim (Omid Abtahi), still searching for his Jinn and as serene in his mission as his companions are unhinged. It’s the strangest of oddball comedies, gleefully inhabiting that crawlspace between horror and humanity American Gods has made its own.
Two episodes to go and the chessboard is nearly set-up. Storm coming? Oh yes.
AMERICAN GODS EPISODE 6: "A MURDER OF GODS" / DIRECTOR: ADAM KANE / WRITERS: BRYAN FULLER, MICHAEL GREEN, SEAMUS KEVIN FAHEY, MARIA MELNIK / STARRING: RICKY WHITTLE, IAN MCSHANE, CORBIN BERNSEN, EMILY BROWNING, PABLO SCHREIBER, OMID ABTAHI / AIR DATE: AVAILABLE NOW (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)