American Gods: “Lemon Scented You” Season 1 Episode 5 Review

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American Gods desperately needed to do this episode. After four episodes that can be described as intrinsically beautiful, lyric gibberish, “Lemon Scented You” finally started highlighting the big picture. It did so with some great character emergences and re-emergences in an extended sequence of surreal conflict.

But before that, we still have to deal with Shadow and Laura’s cold reunion, a scene that plays a little better for comedy than the entirety of “Git Gone.” Laura is astoundingly aloof concerning her half-baked resurrection, which plays well against Shadow’s “confused but here for the ride, I guess” attitude. The previous episode’s greatest accomplishment—emboldening Shadow’s everyman stature into something a bit endearing—continues in “Lemon Scented You.” He takes everything bizarre going on around him in stride, but this is the episode where he finally expresses that he’s going to need answers at some point. Refreshingly, Mr. Wednesday is more than ready to provide them.

After Shadow calmly confronts his zombified wife, he and Wednesday are arrested just before any of those answers get a chance to reveal themselves. Luckily for us, they are well on the way. It’s notable that in Wednesday’s interrogation, and not to Shadow, does he lay out the premise of the series so plainly. American Gods took its sweet time getting there, but eventually every show has to reveal what exactly it’s going to be about. Most viewers are at least casually aware of the premise, or even read the book, but having Wednesday say it out loud feels like a green light for the show to go ahead and play with its own premise out in the open now.

And boy does it. Early in the episode, we get what could easily just be another trippy non sequitur, where Media, this time in the form of David Bowie (Gillian Anderson is a goddamn QUEEN), approaches Technical Boy about his lynching of Shadow in the first episode. She’s demanding an apology directly to Shadow, like a parent frustrated by her teenage son.

Having this pay off in the very same episode did wonders for the show’s overall pacing. There is definitely an “okay, now we’re getting somewhere” feel to when Media, now as Marilyn Monroe, floats into the interrogation room as Wednesday is concocting his and Shadow’s escape. She introduces us to Mr. World (Crispin Glover), the first figure on the show to showcase a true sense of omniscience. Mr. World approaches Wednesday with an offer to join them, which for some reason involves a missile going to North Korea that spreads unicorns and rainbows (the comedy was on point this week). Technical Boy is then forced to apologize, because Mr. World knows to respect his adversary. The whole sequence is delightfully weird, but it gives Wednesday’s quest and what he’s fighting against some much needed context. We, alongside Shadow, are learning what this world entails. The next thing American Gods has to accomplish is to give Shadow a reason to stay in this world.

But for now, “Lemon Scented You” is the episode where things really started to click together. The show needed it. There are still some narrative clunks to work out, as the subplot between Laura and Mad Sweeney doesn’t quite gel as well as the rest of the episode does, but American Gods is confidently on the right track now. Whether it improves from here is up to Bryan Fuller, but he’s certainly done it before. The first season of Hannibal took its sweet time as well, and look how that turned out. Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • If we ever get a prequel episode of Mr. Wednesday as he’s looking for Shadow or whatever, can we just get a ton of Ian McShane acting opposite a raven? A truly blissful moment of television that was.
  • That raven, however, marks the first of two moments in the episode where Wednesday’s true role peaks out. The second is when Media tries to sell him his new role with the Odin rainbow missile.
  • You did have to laugh at Mad Sweeney cursing at Laura for playing dead.
  • There’s a theoretical chart in my brain that highlights the correlation between the quality of a series and the amount of screentime Gillian Anderson gets.

By Matt Dougherty

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