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Review: The Season 3 Premiere of American Gods Finally Gets Back To The Book

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BY February 11, 2021

Season 3 of American Gods premiered this weekend on Starz. The series is still adapting the single book by Neil Gaiman that has now stretched out into three seasons. This season brought yet another showrunner change, and some controversial cast shakeups. So how did the premiere deal with these changes, and fare in terms of setting up the new season? Let’s delve into the season 3 premiere of American Gods to find out.

American Gods Image via Starz

Worship For Wednesday & A New Face For Mr. World

The season 3 premiere of American Gods kicks off with a show, a death metal concert that is. There is a cameo from Marilyn Manson and a crowd of fans worshipping Odin. The cold open was fun, but was it really necessary? The only impact that this scene has on the plot is that it seriously ticks off Mr. World, Wednesday’s arch nemesis. The video of Wednesday crowd-surfing has gone viral, and that is bad for our tech obsessed new gods.

The version of Mr. World that we see in the season 3 premiere of American Gods has a new face. This season will bring us multiple versions of Mr. World and the first we meet is Ms. World played by actress Dominique Jackson (Pose). Little explanation is given for this change of face, other than a throwaway line from Tech Boy about how being a white man ‘isn’t on trend right now.’

Dominique Jackson American Gods Season 3 Premiere Image via Starz

Jackson is excellent in the role, full of haughty grandeur and murderous elegance. Unfortunately most of her screen time involves beating a man’s head to a bloody pulp with a baseball bat, and screaming at her minions. Here is hoping she gets more to do in future episodes.

Shadow Moon Is Forced Out of Hiding

Shadow Moon American Gods Season 3 Image via Starz

After the events of last season, our protagonist Shadow Moon is currently hiding out in Milwaukee. He is attempting to live some semblance of a normal life. But Shadow’s days of working a legitimate job and flirting with his co-workers can’t last long. It’s only a matter of time before Wednesday shows up to talk Shadow into re-joining him. “We’re gonna play 20 questions, and they are all yours,” Wednesday tells him.

After confirming that Wednesday is indeed his father, Shadow thinks he has learned all that he needs to know. But Wednesday tries one last plea. He practically begs Shadow by telling him that he needs the support of his son in the war to come. And just like that, Shadow and Wednesday are off on yet another road trip.

A Native American God Delivers Some Prophecy

American Gods Season 3 Image via Starz

This time they are on their way to visit a Native American deity whom Wednesday refers to as “Whiskey Jack.” This is a nickname for Wisakedjak, a figure of legend among the Cree tribe. He tells Shadow that he has a role to play, and a great destiny to follow. In the flames of his fire, Wisakedjak shows Shadow the figures of three women who will be able to guide him. Although it is not explicitly stated, it is clear that these figures are the Orisha who will appear later in season 3.

American Gods Wisakedjak Image via Starz

This scene between Shadow Moon and Wisakedjak is the best of the episode. Shadow’s roots are scattered across many lands and cultures. In order to determine what role he has to play, he must first figure out his own identity. Wisakedjak seems to recognize this, and he is friendly to Shadow. Although he has a clear dislike for his father. When Wednesday approaches the fire, Wisakedjak rightfully rebukes him by reminding him that it was Wednesday’s followers (white people) who slaughtered the Wisakedjak’s people and colonized their land.

It is interesting to note that Wisakedjak is viewed as a trickster god in indigenous folklore. Is he tricking Shadow by giving him only part of the prophecy? Or is he playing the role of teacher here, trying to educate Shadow so he can figure out his path? It seems like the show might be trying to portray him as the ‘transformer’ in this scene. He is trying to help Shadow on his path of transformation into a god.

The Subplots Are Dragging The Show Down

American Gods Laura Moon Image via Starz

Elsewhere in the world of American Gods, we revisit Laura Moon who is still undead. Only now instead of trying to find a way to return to life, she is trying to bring Mad Sweeney back from the dead. She sets up in a mausoleum where she cuts open her own chest to remove Sweeney’s lucky coin. The same coin that he spent the last two seasons demanding she return to him. Except when she presses the coin into Sweeney’s hand, nothing happens. Laura just falls to the floor, disintegrating into dust.

If I didn’t know any better, I would assume that the show is finally letting Laura die for good here. But since I know that Laura Moon actually has a big story arc in this season, it is just confusing instead. Laura as a character suffers from underdevelopment, since she didn’t have a large role in the book. So far the show has primarily tried to develop her character in relation to the men around her, an issue all on its own. We still don’t really know who Laura is as a person outside of Shadow, Mad Sweeney, or Mr. Wednesday. Maybe this season will do more to explore her character, but right now her subplot is dragging the story down.

Tech Boy Is Learning To Feel, I Guess?

American Gods Tech Boy Image via Starz

I don’t know if seeing Tech Boy learn how to feel emotions like a real boy was high on my list of priorities for season 3. But it seems to be a priority in the season 3 premiere of American Gods. In his scene with Ms. World, Tech Boy repeatedly uses the phrase “I feel.” An interesting choice for such an unfeeling character. He visits Bilquis (who was drastically underutilized in this episode) for a chat. But he is shook when she gives him a vision (memories?) of what war is really like. He stumbles away from her, and out the door. We don’t see him again in this episode.

Will this humanize Tech Boy? Is the show attempting to make room for a heel turn, or redemption arc for this character? Because I’m not sure how well that would work. Technology is by definition unfeeling. It is the humans who use technology that imbue emotion into it. And much of that emotion is negative. In a speech to Shadow early on in the episode, Wednesday actually makes a great point about this.

“I remember a time when man lived in harmony with nature. But now he’s made technology his god. And what’s it gotten him? Pesticides in his water, in his food, weapons that can destroy the earth a thousand times over. New gods are just parasites, here to make it easier for humanity to indulge in its most self-destructive impulses. Until the world ceases to exist.”

All this talk about humanity brings me to another point that needs to be made…

Season 3 of American Gods Needs More Human Characters

American Gods Season 3 Image via Starz

One of my issues with season 2 of American Gods was how detached it was from humanity. There was a lot of fighting amongst the gods, but rarely did we see them interact with humans. Even Shadow is no longer the human protagonist we once knew, now that he is on a path to become a god himself.

So the inclusion of several humans in this episode was refreshing. At the end of the episode, Shadow finally lands in Lakeside, where Wednesday has been pushing him to go since last season. His first interaction is with a kindly store clerk played by Julia Sweeney (no relation to Mad). She is concerned by Shadow’s lack of a proper coat, and is kind to him. She offers coffee to warm up, and does not seem afraid of the black man stumbling into her store. However, her affable obliviousness leads her to calling the sheriff to give Shadow a ride.

Julia Sweeney American Gods Image via Starz

Shadow and the sheriff have a casual conversation during this car ride. But the tension is still palpable in the scene. Shadow is clearly concerned about his own safety and well-being while sitting next to a white cop. The sheriff is also clearly suspicious of him, but too polite to do more than ask how long Shadow will be in town. This is a well-played moment by both Ricky Whittle and actor Eric Johnson who portrays Chad Mulligan.

All of these scenes demonstrate the need for more humans to be involved in American Gods season 3. We need humanity to keep this show grounded. With the Lakeside plotline finally coming to screen this season, we will definitely have more humans for Shadow to interact with and that is a good thing.

A Return To The Original Text Should Improve Season 3 of American Gods

American Gods Book Cover Image via Harper Collins

With the Lakeside storyline taking center stage in season 3, American Gods finally returns to the main thrust of the book’s plot. Stretching out a relatively short book over three seasons has definitely had mixed results. And while the season 3 premiere of American Gods was a bit muddled, we have hope that the show will gain clarity as it moves forward.

What did you think of the season 3 premiere of American Gods? Join the conversation with Comic Years today on Facebook and Twitter to share your thoughts.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

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