April 17, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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American Gods “The Ways Of The Dead”

Season Two, Episode Five.

So, is American Gods the sort of show that can handle the central concept of this particular episode?

See, this episode opens with a flashback to a lynching.  This is not the first time the series has hung a black man, though Laura rescued Shadow when it happened before.  This one is about the actual death of one Froggie James, a man accused and convicted of the murder of a white woman that he looked at once on a public street.  That was in Cairo, and the show implies that Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel have perhaps profited off a curse Froggie laid down.  Said curse is not on the people who lynched him but on other black people, leading to a steady stream of customers to the funeral home.

At least, that’s Mr. Nancy’s theory.

So, is American Gods the kind of show that can or should get into that sort of discussion of racial inequality?  The answer for me is it absolutely should.  I don’t know that the series has set it up well enough until now, but it probably should do something.  Black people wrote and directed this episode, and the Froggie James story comes from history, not the source novel.    We should know the story of Will “Froggie” James.  I am just unsure the way American Gods tends to frame violence really works for something as horrific as a real life lynching. This show often frames violence as aesthetically beautiful.  It looks stylized and unrealistic.  Should something like a lynching look like that?

Arguably, American Gods hasn’t really delved into this territory before.  The episode does have other plots, such as how Salim is still a devout Muslim.  That goes to the Jinn’s general disapproval but to Wednesday’s overall approval.  He’s hoping Salim might also worship Wednesday as well.  Then there’s Laura and Mad Sweeney meeting up with some neutral voodoo Loa, Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte.  That leads to some sex and more stuff involving Laura being an awful person who can’t come back to life because she’s awful.  A better person could do it by getting the last ingredient of true love’s blood.  Ditto Wednesday and his spear being unrepairable by the king of the dwarfs (and he’s a pretty tall guy actually).  Plus, Wednesday planted a new world tree.

But much of the episode focuses on Froggie James, who isn’t a god but may be something else.  There’s some really powerful stuff in there involving African Americans and whether or not things have gotten better for them in Cairo or American in general.  And, quite frankly, American Gods is about the way America as a land and country has been built.  It would be wrong not to mention racial inequality.  If they were able to do a whole episode about the search for Money, and Money is the god powerful enough to tell both sides to go jump in a lake, then yes, let’s look at some of the uglier aspects of our history.

I just don’t know how well the onscreen lynching helps with that sort of thing.

Mostly, I just want American Gods to tackle tough issues and do a good job of it.