first_img Nothing has only one identity. That was the point of last night’s episode of American Gods. America has nearly as many identities as there are people in it. As Wednesday tells Shadow, “Everyone looks at Lady Liberty and sees a different face. Even if it crumbles under question.” The same can be said of Jesus, as we learn from the episode’s opening. The Coming to America segment focuses on undocumented Mexican immigrants swimming across a river into the United States. One man (with a crucifix tattoo) is clearly nervous about swimming and nearly drowns on the way over. He’s saved by a friendly-looking long-haired man who walks on water.This is Jesus. Well, it’s a Jesus. Wednesday said a few episodes ago that there are multiple Jesuses in the world: A white Jesuit-style Jesus, a Black African Jesus, a Mexican Jesus… one for every version people believe in. This, we can guess, is Mexican Jesus. He’s not the only one here. As soon as the immigrants reach the other side of the river, they’re shot by an unidentified group of men with guns. We don’t see whether they’re official border patrol agents or a random militia. Either way, they have their own version of Jesus, though we don’t see their version in person. We just see the rosaries wrapped around their guns, and the crosshairs shaped like crucifixes. As they gun the immigrants down, Mexican Jesus sacrifices himself to save as many as he can. The bullets create the stigmata, and a passing tumbleweed leaves a crown of thorns over his head. For these new residents of the United States, their Jesus is once again a martyr.Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan, Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday (Photo via STARZ)Martyrdom is also an important element in this episode. Though we (and Shadow) are meant to think Wednesday is in Virginia to recruit another old god, he’s actually seeking a Martyr. We’ll get to that later, though. For now, their journey this episode is all about the identity of America. Specifically, in the town of Vulcan, Virginia, where America is white and worships the gun. This is where an old volcano god, named Vulcan, has carved out a new life for himself. He’s now the leader of this bullet manufacturing town. He even still has sacrifices made to him in the form of workplace accidents. (It’s cheaper to settle after the death an employee than to close down the factory and fix the safety issues. If that’s not an intentional sacrifice, what is?)The residents of Vulcan are noticeably suspicious of Shadow, always keeping an eye on him. Even when it’s clear he and Wednesday are a guest of Vulcan’s, they make sure he understands how unwelcome he is. Vulcan is even worse. As much as their America is white, suspicious of anyone who isn’t, and worships the gun, Vulcan’s America is more overtly hostile. Everything he does is to intimidate Shadow. He denies him a drink while he and Wednesday share one. He fires a gun inside his own house, knowing that in this town, no one will bat an eye. He points out the old hanging tree he keeps in his front yard. Corbin Bernsen plays Vulcan’s hostile presence incredibly well, making the god as captivating as he is terrifying.Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan (Photo via STARZ)We soon learn what Wednesday wants with Vulcan: a sword. By this point, it has become obvious to everyone that Vulcan has aligned himself with the new gods. This is what happens when an old god rebrands itself like Mr. World and Media suggested Wednesday do in last week’s episode. Instead of literal prayer, his worshipers fire bullets. Wednesday isn’t too keen on this new form of worship, but he needs his sword. After he gets it, we find out the other reason he’s dealing with this old-god-turned-new. He needs a martyr for his cause. Wednesday will tell everyone that the new gods killed Vulcan for helping him. He then cuts Vulcan’s head off, kicks him into a vat of molten lead, and curses the whole town by pissing into it. Don’t turn on Wednesday. Shadow is understandably freaked out by all this, and Ricky Whittle’s performance here is so good. He makes us feel everything going through Shadow’s head.The rest of the episode centered on the newly formed trio of Laura, Mad Sweeney and Salim. You might remember Salim from that Somewhere in America sequence with the Djinn a few episodes back. Since then, he’s been searching for the Djinn, partially to thank him for freeing him from a life he didn’t like, and partially to “know more about” him. Laura and Sweeney run into Salim when Sweeney tries to steal his cab. The three decide to travel together, as they’re all looking for gods. Sweeney wants his coin back, which means finding a god (a Jesus, it sounds like) to resurrect Laura. Laura wants Shadow back, but after he left, she thinks he doesn’t want anything to do with her.Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney, Emily Browning as Laura Moon (Photo via STARZ)Their section also deals with identity changes, but in a much less hostile way than Wednesday and Shadow’s. Mad Sweeney keeps trying to convince Laura to choose another identity for herself. To Shadow, he says, Laura is dead. That kiss from cold lips tasting of vomit and cigarettes only confirmed that to him. Still, she wants to pursue him. Kissing Shadow made her heart beat again. Now that she’s dead, she values life more than she ever did before. We know their paths will cross again, but for now, Laura needs to find a life for herself without Shadow. She needs a new identity. Sweeney is also having an identity crisis of sorts, being a leprechaun with comically bad luck. Only Salim is confident in who he is now. The Djinn gave him an identity he’s happy with. He can roam the country in his cab, not be afraid of everyone around him and pray by the side of the road when he needs to.I like this quirky road trip the show has added to the story. The book didn’t really give us this much detail on Laura’s journey, and it’s fun watching her bicker with Sweeney and find a friend in Salim. It adds a lighthearted diversion to the heavy, violent adventure Shadow is on, and allows the show a different perspective from which to tackle its philosophical questions.Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney (Photo via STARZ)Last night’s episode of American Gods was captivating even without the surreal special effects of last week’s episode. (Though there were a few.) From the commanding performances of the cast to the fascinating questions about America’s identity, to the simple beauty of the American wilderness, I didn’t want this episode to end. As a fan of the book, a detour like this is admittedly a little frustrating. All of this was added, and since I desperately want to see what’s coming, any diversion like this is an unexpected delay. But if all the diversions are as good as this, it doesn’t matter. I love the fact that having read the book doesn’t automatically mean you know everything that’s going to happen. We’ll see Mr. Nancy again, eventually. We’ll get to the House on the Rock. For now, I just want the show to keep surprising me like this. Stay on target ‘American Gods’ Season 2 Trailer: A Divine War Is ComingNYCC 2018: The American Gods Cast Gives Us a Glimpse of Season Two last_img read more