The sex scene in tonight’s episode of ‘American Gods’ between two Middle Eastern men actually made me more emotional than horny.
The fact that we’re finally seeing so many gay men of color on screen is extremely uplifting. ‘Sense 8’, and ‘Moonlight’. Yeah I know there are other shows/movies out there as well. These works of art are going to mean a lot for gay men of color who have yet to feel validated in the LGBT community.
“Listen, I’m older than you and I’m smarter than you and I’m better lookin’ than you. I can get more pussy in an afternoon than you’ll get in a year. I can dance like an angel, fight like a cornered bear, plan better than a fox, sing like a nightingale…”
There have only been three episodes of American Gods so far and yet I feel like I have experienced hundred of hours of storytelling from this show. That is 100% meant as a compliment for a show that has managed to take a massive magical universe and make it feel immediately accessible. This is due in large part to the number of vignette scenes, the “Coming to Americas” or “Somewhere in Americas” that are my personal favorite part of each episode. Honestly I could watch an entire series of these almost standalone scenes stitched together, one after the other, until the sky bear consumes the Earth. Very rarely do drama television shows have scenes that could stand on their own two feet outside the greater context of the series. American Gods boasts many of these scenes, even many of the scenes in the “primary” storyline with Shadow feel as if they could be appreciated independently. The strength of this storytelling means that what could easily be a daunting magical universe, is made easily digestible. But enough of that, let’s talk about the collection of scenes that made up this week.
Instead of our usual Coming to America we instead had two Somewhere in America’s. The first depicted a woman’s accidental death and her journey into the underworld under the guidance of Egyptian god of death Anubis (Chris Obi). Anubis leads Mrs. Fadil into an afterworld limbo area where he weighs the deeds of her life against the weight of a feather. Even though this depiction of death is a somewhat peaceful one (especially compared to the other deaths witnessed so far) there is still an ominous element as Mrs. Fadil’s sphinx cat unceremoniously pushes her spirit through a doorway into an eternal mystery plane. But that’s cats for you. Students of Egyptian mythology or this book will know that cats are considered the children of the goddess Bast, and that in the context of this story…well let’s just say sexy cat goddess is very on brand for me.
The other Somewhere in America was the big ticket item this week. Hyped as having what would be a seminal gay love scene, and also more on screen erections, the pressure was on to adapt this famously graphic scene from the original novel. If there is another thing I am loving about this show, it’s that Fuller and Green are GOING FOR IT. If any element of American Gods fails, it will not be because anything was done halfway. In the case of Salim and the Jinn, the going for it is not just in the sense of explicitness or nudity, the story also “goes for it” in terms of emotional vulnerability and connection. Although LGBT sex scenes are more prevalent on television than they once were, they are still few and far between especially in portrayal of intimacy. As a result this scene’s coupling of graphic depiction and heart wrenching romance was probably something most casual TV viewers had never seen before (I know I haven’t and I am a semi-professional TV viewer).
What’s more, showing such a scene between two Middle Eastern men is essentially a political act, and Fuller has made crystal clear that was his intent. This was also an example of the writer’s taking a scene for the novel and successfully expanding it (in the book Salim just gives the Jinn a fiery blowie) which is a very positive sign for the future of the show. Also would like to recognize Omid Abtahi (Salim) and Mousa Kraish (Jinn) for their outstanding performances, and commitment to physical and emotional vulnerability. “But isn’t that their job as actors? To do what is required to tell a story?” you ask. Valid, but you’d be surprised. Or maybe you wouldn’t.
In some ways it is difficult not to compare this show to The Handmaid’s Tale which is currently on Hulu. Both shows are airing at the same time, both cover topics of religion specifically in America, and both are aiming to expand upon their original source material. While there is a lot I love about Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale (namely the spectacular performances), the past episode left me fearful that in an effort to appeal to a TV audience that expects the sensational, the series is starting to miss the meaning and intention of the original story (personally I think Hulu made a huge mistake not hiring a female show runner and it’s starting to show. But this is another blog topic or you are welcome to @ me about it). American Gods on the other hand has been able to take the theme and tone of the book and expound upon it in ways that not only enhance the books original message, but also modernize it for a new generation (the book was originally published in 2001). Right now my money is on Gods to be able to produce continued successful storytelling in their world.
Phew, all of that writing without getting to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday’s main story! A brief shoutout to Ricky Whittle whose performance of Shadow is getting stronger by the episode. Even as the caliber of co-star he has to contend with continues to sky rocket, Whittle is able to not only hold his ground, but also able to effuse just as much charm and charisma as the best of em. Yeah, I’m talking about the marshmallows line, it was adorable and we all know it. Anyway Shadow meets the third Zorya sister, Zorya P, who rounds out the crone, mother, maiden trio as well, the maiden. Zorya P likes standing around on roofs at night in nightgowns like a Victorian ghost, and I really appreciate that aesthetic. After admonishing Shadow for losing the golden “sun” coin he won from Mad Sweeney, she plucks the moon from the sky and gives it to Shadow as a new lucky coin. Flush with moon coin granted confidence, Shadow challenges Czernobog to one last game of checkers in order to grant a stay of execution. And he wins! Yay!
Mr Wednesday and Shadow then use a classic con to rob a bank, as one does, and Mr Wednesday entreats Shadow to think snow into existence. Which he does, or doesn’t, or believes he does, or can’t believe, and then is left to grapple with the disparity. But by belief, will, magic or all of the above, snow it does.
The pair also have a brief run in with Mad Sweeney who’s luck has taken a turn for the worst. I’m not sure what sort of accent Pablo Schreiber is going for, but I am entertained by whatever it is, so I’m going to allow it. Mad Sweeney’s misfortune though is a blessing for us all as it leads to getting to see a shotgun wielding Beth Grant, and Scott Thompson in a cameo that would make Hannibal himself crack a smile. Despite the chaos and bloodshed, Mad is able to make his way to Laura Moon’s grave where Shadow left tossed his lucky gold coin. However upon arriving it appears as if the coin has burned right through the coffin lid…into an empty coffin! See I told you that coin flip was important for plot reasons.
Next week we finally get into the story of Laura Moon, the woman who set this whole plot in motion. Don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to more of the brazen fearlessness the show has presented thus far in it’s search for the heart of America (aka “the only country that doesn’t know what it is”).
Set to debut in 2017 the series sees Hannibals Bryan Fuller teaming with Kings creator Michael Green to bring Gaiman’s words to STARZ. The drama features Ricky Whittle
as ex-con Shadow Moon, a man pulled into a battle across continents,
ages and deities. David Slade will direct the pilot.