‘American Gods’ Season 2 Trailer: A Divine War Is ComingNYCC 2018: The American Gods Cast Gives Us a Glimpse of Season Two Stay on target After two episodes ending up in the same place, it was time for American Gods to move its story forward. It did it with amazing performances, fantastic visual effects, and cleverly-hidden exposition. We’re now in the back half of the first season. The show has established its world and the goals of its main characters. Now, it’s time to set up what they’ll do for the rest of the season. American Gods’ greatest trick is making expository scenes feel like they’re driving the plot forward. Not a ton of shows can accomplish that. Even when it’s transparently hiding its set-up behind flashy imagery, there’s a reason for it.The first part of the show gives us the confrontation between Shadow and Laura we’ve been waiting two weeks for. Laura switches between tactics to avoid talking to Shadow about her infidelity, but Shadow isn’t having it. They miracle of her being alive is just another drop in the bucket of weird stuff that’s happened to Shadow the last couple days. At this point, it’d be stranger if his dead wife wasn’t trying to talk to him in a hotel room. He wants answers, and no miracle is going to distract from getting them. Not that he likes what he hears. Laura says promising to wait for Shadow wasn’t a lie; it was just something she knew could become a lie.Still, no amount of explanation, pleading or kisses from a warm (sewn up) body can make Shadow forgive Laura just yet. While it’s clear that she loves Shadow now more than she ever did in life, she never learned how to express it. She appears to Shadow to just be going through the motions. Even when his kiss makes her heart beat for one second (which might hint at the reason why she’s so drawn to him in death), Shadow pushes her away. He is no longer her puppy.Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, Emily Browning as Laura Moon. (Photo via STARZ)Laura’s later sequences in the episode, after Shadow and Wednesday are taken away, focus on her interactions with Mad Sweeney. Sweeney wants his coin back, and Laura won’t give it to him. The leprechaun is a tragic comic relief figure for this episode, but he has a couple of moments that are very important. He hints at just what it is Shadow has gotten himself mixed up in, outright telling Laura who Wednesday is. He calls Wednesday “Grimnir” (one of Odin’s names) and says Shadow shouldn’t trust him. His other big contribution is more subtle. In trying to get the coin back, he offers Laura a hat-full of gold coins “just as good.” She deduces that if he’s offering her all those in exchange for her one, they’re really not just as good. Sweeney puts a suddenly empty hat back on his head.He was trying to con her by showing her a flashing trick that ultimately amounts to nothing. Which is exactly what’s happening to Shadow and Wednesday at the police station. At that moment, the New Gods are attempting to con Shadow and Wednesday into joining them with a flashy, colorful, ultimately meaningless presentation. They were the real stars of the episode, particularly Gillian Anderson and Crispin Glover as Media and Mr. World. We got to see Media twice in this episode. First, as a scarily uncanny recreation of David Bowie. I had to look a second time to make sure it wasn’t somehow really him. Later, we saw her as a purposefully less convincing facsimile of Marilyn Monroe. She walks on air and speaks in half-hearted catchphrases. It’s an unconvincing performance that Shadow and Wednesday see right through. There might be a reason for that, but only those who have read the book can guess why at this point. For everyone else, let’s just say there may be more than one con at work here.Crispin Glover as Mr. World. (Photo via STARZ)Crispin Glover is charming, funny and menacing all at once in his portrayal of Mr. World. He gives the show a much-needed antagonist standing in the way of Wednesday and Shadow. His rainbow-unicorn version of death, destruction, and Valhalla perfectly crystallizes what’s at stake for Wednesday in a way the show hadn’t yet bothered to do. It’s not just erasure of the old gods he’s worried about; it’s sanitization. “A New Lemon-Scented You” is what Media offers Wednesday. Odin will no longer be an old, feared god. He’ll be a missile guidance system, and a cleaned-up, cutesy, marketable version of war.That’s the power of the new gods. Through the power of Media and Technology, they can make any story they want true. Wednesday confirms this when they’re escaping the police station and find all the cops dead. One, played by Tracie Thoms of Bryan Fuller’s short-lived FOX series Wonderfalls, is impaled by a living tree. (Possibly Yggdrasil?) It’s an effective bit of horror that makes Shadow trust Wednesday even more, and possibly hints to the audience at what Mad Sweeney meant when he said Shadow shouldn’t. We’ll have to see if the show is truly going where book-reader me thinks it is. That’s not a guarantee. The show has surprised me before, and will likely continue as the first season goes on.Gillian Anderson as Media (Photo via STARZ)As the first episode of this season’s second half, it was naturally heavy on the exposition and set-up for what’s to come. You almost wouldn’t notice though, because it delivered it with the subtlety and distraction of a perfectly executed con. Seeing the New Gods in all their glory gave us such a strong scene that you barely noticed all the exposition being laid out in it. It helped that the reveals were all completely necessary for the story to move forward. The stakes were raised not just by introducing an antagonist, but by hinting at why Shadow is so important to Wednesday. Shadow didn’t believe in anything, and Wednesday is making him believe in him. As Media says, sometimes a god only needs one person to believe. The episode also showed us what happens when people stop believing in their gods. The opening Coming to America sequence focused on the first people to cross the Bering Strait, bringing their gods with them. After a while in the new land, their gods were forgotten. With no believers, the gods died. That’s what Wednesday is trying to avoid, and turning Shadow into a believer is key to his survival.