‘American Gods’ Season 2 Ends With the World In Panic

Fear defines the season two finale for “American Gods.” The new deities have figured out a way to try and defeat the old ones by instilling terror in the masses. At least that’s the clearest plot development in a climax that’s somewhat confusing, but never boring. This season has zig-zagged around in its war of the gods, killing off at least one notable player and now finding the key character on the run.

The finale, titled “Moon Shadow,” begins with Mr. World (Crispin Glover) narrating over a flashback of the infamous 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Welles’s “War of the Worlds.” A family sits around a radio at night, listening as descriptions of an alien invasion slowly begin to inspire a sense of panic. It’s merely an example from Mr. World on the impact of fear. Cut to the present and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is still reeling from recent events, including his sudden killing of Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber). He tells Laura (Emily Browning) what has happened and she confesses her open hatred for Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who is really the god Odin, waging a war against the new, emerging gods. She makes it clear she plans to kill Wednesday and warns Shadow Moon to stop trusting him. But Mr. Wednesday is missing, leaving his comrades to lounge around a funeral home. Meanwhile The CEO (Andrew Koji) is able to bring back Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), who then dumps a bunch of data into Mr. World’s headquarters. Right on queue New Media (Kahyun Kim) appears to create a panic over the airwaves, making TV news shows report on massive data dumps and security breaches, connecting Wednesday, Shadow Moon and their gang to a massacre, framing them as a threat to America. It seems Mr. World has found the way to corner Wednesday and snuff out his plans, but making everyone fear the old gods and come after them.

It is useful to remember that the cult Neil Gaiman novel this show is based on was always structured as a road trip, and so the show follows the format. If some of this season seemed to stall a bit, it now goes full throttle into fugitive mode. “Moon Shadow” is both a puzzling and engaging hour of television. Some questions still linger over who exactly the CEO is, or where Mr. Wednesday has gone, but the key developments are razor sharp. It is all shaping up into a battle between Wednesday and Mr. World, and Wednesday and rebellious former followers like Laura. She makes the first two big moves, first by trying to convince Shadow Moon to turn on Wednesday, and then attempting the same with Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). Other members of the group, like Salim (Omid Abtahi), reveal their weaker side when New Media’s TV assault makes him panic. But Jinn (Mousa Kraish) is still around, keeping the cooler of the two heads, and they run off. By the end credits everyone seems to spread out, even Shadow Moon, who is stopped by the police and discovers he suddenly has a new I.D. with a new name, “Mike Ainsell.”

Mr. Wednesday is sorely missed throughout the episode, in particular because Ian McShane is so good at playing the deep-voiced, sly warring god. But he does appear at the end, sipping coffee in a diner, cryptically implying that, “my boy’s gonna be just fine.” Fans of the novel will immediately begin connecting the dots. These epic chronicles of warring overlords always have to feature one surprise offspring. In terms of pop cultural mythology, it makes sense that Shadow Moon would be Mr. Wednesday’s son. This would explain perfectly why Wednesday even recruited the guy way back in the beginning of the first season. A lot of “Moon Shadow” has moments hinting at revelations that will come later, including when Bilquis approaches Shadow Moon naked, alone in a room, and tells him their fates are linked. This is before he is pulled under by a mystical tree and tossed into one of the show’s standard, trippy visual montages. It is his form of escape as the police, due to New Media’s fake news onslaught, begin to surround the funeral home. Our last glimpse of Laura is her carrying Mad Sweeney’s corpse down a street. To where? We have to tune in next season to find out.

Always a show of ideas, “American Gods” also ends its second season with an interesting take on the theme of fear of the Other. The “War of the Worlds” section connects to Mr. World’s later scheme through the thesis that we are always terrified of the unknown. Even if we trust in technology in this millennium, it takes little to turn us into a terrified, rampaging pack. While this is an entertaining, hallucinatory show, it also has much thought put it into it. We would expect no less from a series based on a work by Neil Gaiman. Now with Shadow Moon and the gang on the run, the next chapter promises to feature bigger clashes of will and faith.  

American Gods” season two finale airs April 28 at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.