By the power of the Old Gods and the New, there are spoilers that follow, so beware.
“You are on a path from nothing to everything.” Fortune tellers are notoriously vague, but this surely has to rank among the vaguest fortunes ever told, when the stargazing Zorya Polunochnaya (Polish actor Erika Kaar) takes the ever-reluctant Shadow Moon’s (Ricky Whittle) hand. And as character arcs go, it’s pretty vague too, though its extremity suggests a speedy, narrative momentum which the third episode of American Gods sadly denies us.
Not that we mind wallowing a little in Bryan Fuller’s apocalyptically baroque realisation of Neil Gaiman’s novel, especially when Mr Wednesday’s (Ian McShane) regular ruminations on religion and faith are so entertaining (“The white Jesus could stand a little more suffering,” he sniffs) and the plot diversions are so engrossing.
The Anubis scene, in which the Ancient Egyptian soul-usher (Chris Obi) surprises a just-expired Muslim woman and walks her up a fire-escape stairway to the heavens, is a wonderfully executed vignette. (“I was using that!” the just-departed complains when the god plucks her heart from her chest.) And the Jinn sequence, of course, has received the most attention owing to its “graphic” gay sex scene, between the fire-eyed cab driver (Mousa Kraish) and a failed Omani salesman (Omid Abtahi) — though what you truly have here is a tender interaction between two lonely strangers-in-a-strange-land, which culminates in the granting of a wish.
Still, despite Wednesday’s bank robbery antics and Shadow’s snowstorm summoning (is he starting to feel a bit Thor?), you really feel the main plot slowing this episode. Repetition doesn’t help: another game of draughts? Another magic-coin gifting? Definitely time to move on now, Bryan — though we are very encouraged by the promise of the closing revelation, when Shadow finds someone rather unexpected sitting in his motel room…
What exactly happened after the sex scene, then? Where did the Jinn go?
Yes, it is rather left open to interpretation, but our take on it is that Salim’s (Omid Abtahi) belief in the Jinn (Mousa Kraish) filled him with enough power to grant Salim’s wish for another, better life: the one Jinn himself had, driving cabs rather than doing door-to-door sales. So in that sense, the sex scene is really just a very elaborate lamp-rub.
Will these “Somewhere In America” scenes ever tie in to the main plot?
Absolutely. In fact, in the second episode, we saw the Jinn walk past Shadow in the diner, away from a meeting with Mr Wednesday. Which means he could already be recruited for whatever’s going to happen in Wisconsin, and we’ll be seeing him again.
Why do I recognise the guy who picked up Mad Sweeney and got a pipe through his head?
Because he’s a Bryan Fuller in-joke cameo. The kindly driver is played by Scott Thompson (formerly of Canadian sketch-comedy troupe Kids In The Hall), who was forensics whizz Jimmy Price in Fuller’s Hannibal.
American Gods airs on Sunday nights on Starz in the US and is available on Amazon Prime in the UK.