I can describe the third episode of American Gods simply as the episode where “everything begins to gel.” A prime example of this is the relationship between Shadow and Wednesday, displayed beautifully by Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane.
An incredible performance out of Ian McShane is to be expected. The man has a resume and a body of work that demands respect. He slides ever so comfortably into the overcoat of Mr. Wednesday without skipping a beat. Whittle, on the other hand, is relatively unknown in the business, having only a few roles before this. Yet, it is here in this episode, where he shows not only that he can hang with McShane, but hold a scene on his own and stand out.
Whittle shows his comfort playing Shadow in specific moments here: when he meets Zorya Polunochnaya, played by Erika Kaar, and has his rematch with Czernobog, played by the go-to “shady Russian” character actor Peter Stormare. As Shadow, he shows a genuine interest, all be it slightly confused, in her explanation of a creature up in the sky that must remained chained to the stars, or else it well spell doom for the world. He then reeks of confidence as he challenges Czernobog to a rematch of checkers, stating that if he wins this round, Czernobog must join them on their quest and not be allowed to kill Shadow until they are done.
Shadow wins round two.
When Wednesday reveals to Shadow that they plan to rob a a bank, in comes the comedic banter and strong chemistry between the two. Shadow is no longer just a freed prisoner, numb by the death of his adulterous wife, following Wednesday’s moves. He is now letting Wednesday know exactly how he feels, whether he’s heard or not. Adding to the partnership, Shadow discovers something new about himself; how the repeating of the word “snow” reveals an ability hidden within our main character. It could be that Wednesday has just revealed to Shadow himself, as well as the viewing audience, that Shadow is a bit more than just some regular guy.
Moreover, the other angles are equally as engaging. The apparent bad luck of Mad Sweeney, wonderfully played by Pablo Schreiber, due to his missing lucky coin. The digging up of a grave. The “somewhere in America” short of a woman who dies and meets Anubis. The eye-catching angle in “coming to America” of a gay immigrant meeting a special taxi cab driver. Throw in a simple bank robbery and a surprise that happens to be standing in Shadow’s motel room and what you have is easily the best episode in this series so far.
Of course, with the source material coming from a Neil Gaiman novel and five more episodes to go, I have a feeling things are only going to get better.
American Gods airs Sunday nights at 9pm on Starz and is available for viewing on the Starz mobile app.