American Gods: Lemon Scented You

"Hi, Puppy."

Third time's the charm, as Shadow and the recently deceased Laura Moon finally sit down and have that serious conversation we've been waiting for.

Indeed, this entire episode was essentially a series of intimate conversations and quiet character reflection, which is odd when you consider that an entire police precinct was also massacred over the course of its events.

Two episodes ago, we ended with the surprise revelation of Shadow walking into his hotel room to find his recently deceased wife sitting on the bed waiting politely for his return. Last episode we put a pin in that so that we could re-run the entire series again, but this time from her perspective so that we could understand how she got there, both literally and metaphorically. This week, finally, we pick up where the surprise revelation left off and see where things go from there.

Well, from there things go into a fascinating sequence of two-hander conversation scenes that serve a number of functions while also being engrossing drama in their own right. First off, they serve the function of bringing everyone up to speed on the basic setup of the show and the story so far. This is by no means uncommon. We're halfway through the season now, and most serialized shows will throw in an expository recap around this point. Bonus points if you can fit it into one line that you can easily slip into the 'previously on' segments for this rest of the season. This is known in the trade as the 'Dawn is the key, some monks turned her human and we have to protect her from Glory' rule. Or should be, in any case. It's hard to hear Ian McShane's line about 'I'm recruiting old gods because there are new Gods and there's going to be a war between them and us' as anything but specifically designed for that purpose.

Secondly, they're a good way to pause your more action-heavy plot elements and get some character development accomplished while you answer a few of the questions that you've been teasing the audience with. In this episode, for example, we get confirmed that it was Mad Sweeney's lucky coin that brought Laura back to life, which was heavily implied but it's nice to have concretely stated. But simultaneous with that we get the new information that Mad Sweeney can't get it back unless she willingly gives it to him, and that Mad Sweeney was only at the bar back in episode one because Mr. Wednesday ordered him to be there and to pick a fight with Shadow as a method of testing him. That's a big reveal, but it flows naturally into their conversation and was nicely handled. We also learn that while Mr. Wednesday is preparing for war, Mr. World sees things much more in terms of business mergers and acquisitions, which puts his attitude toward the coming conflict in an interesting contrast to Mr. Wednesday's, which in its turn says a lot of interesting things about how each of those characters sees themselves in relation to the world. Honestly, when it's well done, character study, plot development, and mystery reveals just kind of flow seamlessly through one another in a pleasingly fluid way. It's very well done in 'Lemon Scented You.'

Thirdly, of course, filming two characters sitting in a room talking is a nice cost saver to throw in there at just about the time you're budgeting your season finale. This is not a consideration to be sneered at.

So, having discussed the reasons why we generally get a quiet, chatty episode at about this point in an eight episode run, how are the particular quiet chats that we get here? The short answer is that they're kind of mesmerizing and wonderful. It's worth discussing them briefly in order.

First we get Shadow and Laura's long awaited discussion regarding the whole 'her dying while having providing oral services to his best friend' issue. The way they each respond to the discussion speaks volumes, again showing this episode's focus on character work while it resolves outstanding issues. Good for Shadow for refusing to be diverted from addressing the issue. Laura, as is her preference, tries to bury the situation under a deluge of clever banter and verbal gymnastics, but Shadow gets right to asking the difficult questions and giving difficult answers. The culmination of the scene, with her asking, 'Are you still my Puppy?' and his simple response of, 'No, I'm not' was a satisfying resolution of the situation they were dealing with, without feeling cheap or contrived.

Next up we got Media and Technical Boy, which was a scene I immediately had to rewind and watch again three times in a row because David Bowie's 'Life on Mars' video is one of the best things the human race has ever achieved, and I could cheerfully watch Gillian Anderson perform dialogue made up nearly entirely of Bowie lyrics all day long. But beyond the delightful trappings, what this scene really told us was what the exact hierarchy of the New Gods is. Media is clearly above Technical Boy, but not so much that he's particularly intimidated by her. She, conversely, is clearly not really able to wield any particular power over him, but at the same time equally clearly has no reason to be intimidated by him at all. And both of them are clearly terrified of Mr. World. OK, that's everything we need to know about their power structure at this point in the story, plus it has Gillian Anderson dressed as David Bowie, which gives me a lot of confusing feelings that I'm not sure I'm capable of processing at the moment.

I'm not equipped to deal with my feelings about this image

Then we move on to Laura and Mad Sweeney, with the delightful reversal of expectations that despite Sweeney's deliberately threatening entrance and menacing posture, Laura is capable of beating the crap out of him with one finger, and does. That established, they settle for spending the rest of the scene irritating one another as much as possible until the police show up and Laura is able to frame Mad Sweeney for her murder by virtue of being technically dead when they arrive. Sweeney's line, 'She's not dead. She's not dead' then the pause as he realizes what Laura is doing to him, followed by, 'Oh, you are such an asshole!' made me laugh harder than anything else I've seen in ages.

And finally, after a brief interlude of Shadow and Wednesday separated with their relative interrogators and another brief interlude with Shadow and Wednesday together, we get the arrival of Team New Gods, in the persons of Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World. And I have to say that the decision to hold back actually seeing Mr. World until he'd been built up for awhile definitely paid off. Crispin Glover has enough unusual energy and charisma that he can take over a room or a scene with little effort on his worst day, but after four episodes of waiting for him and then learning that not just Media and Technical Boy, but also apparently Wednesday himself, are all terrified of him, well, the effort put into building up his eventual arrival was time very well spent.

So, after an episode's worth of intriguing conversations and revelations, where are we? Well, Shadow and Wednesday are back on the road on their own trying to recruit old gods for their now properly explained war-to-come. Laura is walking the Earth as a zombie trying to catch up with Shadow, while Sweeney is walking the Earth trying to catch up with Laura to get his coin back. Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World are apparently not doing much of anything while they sit back and wait to see what Wednesday will do next. In short, we're in exactly the same situation we were before this episode occurred, albeit slightly better informed about what all is happening.

See, this is what I meant when I said they pause the other elements to do this sort of thing.


Quotes:

Laura: "I wasn’t lying when I said that I could wait for you at the time that I said it. I sort of knew that it had the potential of being a lie, but I was giving myself the benefit of the doubt that there was a version of events where it wouldn’t be a lie."

Shadow: "Laura?"
Laura: "I’m in here, Puppy. I thought it might be nice if I were warm to the touch. In the event that you were thinking of touching me."

Laura: "I’m sure there are some things about our marriage that we’re gonna have to work on."
Shadow: "Like you being dead."

Media: "There is a terror in knowing what Mr. World is about."

Wednesday: "Now, the leprechaun, h-he’s been against all this from the get-go, but he’s at a disadvantage, being as he is a f*cking idiot."



Bits and Pieces:

-- When the raven knocked on Mr. Wednesday's door to tell him about Laura being with Shadow was the moment when I finally realized who Mr. Wednesday really was. Yeah, not my swiftest moment.

-- So Shadow and Wednesday got caught for the bank robbery because an inactive fax machine turned on and spat out precise details about them in a small rural police station and instructed the police as to where the two of them could be picked up. There are a couple of possible explanations for this. It could have been Technical Boy, since technology is kind of his thing, although out of date fax machines seem unlike his style. It might have been Mr. World, since Wednesday implies that the surveillance photo was from World's perspective. Or, and this is my suspicion, it might have been Wednesday himself doing what he had to do to get Shadow away from Laura. That would explain how Mr. Nancy got there so quickly, if nothing else.

-- Speaking of the cops, based on the community we see and the way the police themselves describe it, that really should have been a Sheriff's station, as opposed to a police department. Also, the morgue we see Laura break out of at the end would almost certainly have been in the basement of the same building.

-- Speaking of the morgue, can we just all agree that if you suspect you're living inside genre fiction you should not work as a morgue attendant? Seriously, nothing good ever happens to those guys.

-- Gillian Anderson got to be both David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe in this episode. I bet she had an absolute ball.

-- I still don't think that what they did in Chicago was technically bank robbery. Really, it was much more a case of defrauding bank customers, not robbing the actual bank. I remain open to correction in the comment section if anyone out there has insight into what the specific charge on that would be.

-- Where did Mr. Nancy go after unlocking Wednesday's handcuffs? Did he just get scared and flee when he heard Mr. World was coming? Must have.

-- I wish they'd done Gillian Anderson's eyes like Bowie's. He had a condition called anisocoria, which means that his eyes appeared to be different colors due to one pupil being 'frozen' completely dilated after a schoolyard fight when he was 15.

-- And it's not like the effect was beyond them, they do something similar with Ian McShane's eyes to show one of them as fake. Which is just another reason why I'm very stupid for not realizing who he was earlier.

-- Laura was thoroughly enjoying how powerless Mad Sweeney was against her. Right up until he dropped the C-word on her and she broke his finger and ground it into the carpet. I believe that is the typical response one should expect in those circumstances.

-- I agree with Shadow. Swiss is a better cheese than Cheddar.


An enjoyable, if sedate episode, that gave us some context for the events we've been watching before putting the pieces back on the board and setting them off toward the season finale.

Three out of four disconnected fax machines. I'd give it higher, but I've seen the next three episodes, and know that I'm going to need higher numbers held in reserve.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Gillian Anderson as David Bowie? I almost can't stand it. Unbelievably intriguing.

Mikey Heinrich said...

It's even better than you're imagining!

magritte said...

It's too bad she won't be in season 2.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I know. :( I've been holding off addressing that issue until I do the season one finale. Mostly because it makes me sad to think about.

Anonymous said...

The last few episodes have established Laura as one of my favourite female characters of all time. Her whole speech to Shadow equates to Sorry not sorry but i kinda love you now. The gall on her the audacity. She is amazing.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Anonymous, I couldn't agree more with every word you just said