So far the episode opening of American Gods have harkened back to another time, where gods were brought to the new world. The prologues have had just as much to do with setting up the story as it is the mechanics of the world Shadow and Mr Wednesday now travel through. Episode 3 adds more to the mechanic of worship that perhaps surpasses ideas of belief.
Episode 3 opens with a Muslim woman preparing a meal for her family. Without being aware, she has, in fact, passed on. Yet, even to her surprise, it is an Egyptian god that arrives to take her to the next place. Anubis explains that she was introduced to the Egyptian gods of old in her youth and the inference is that although she has faith, it's this that carries more weight in her heart. It's a canny way to cement what's to come and how the new gods have come to pass.
One of the more consistently satisfying elements of American Gods is it's technique of showing and never telling. Much like Neil Gaiman's book, the inference may seem clear, but without something explicit you're left to figure it out for yourself. The recipe of never placating the audience leaves a satisfying and ethereal taste, which fits the story perfectly. Creating a new mythos is one thing, but doing so while keeping the very essence of what it's built upon (intangible belief) is something else entirely.
Thankfully, in amongst the celestial subtext is still a very coherent odyssey. We pick up where Shadow last left us; with Peter Stormare's Czernobog waiting to cave his skull in the morning. Shadow get's something of a reprieve when he awakes in the middle of the night to meet with the third Zorya sister. The scene is a perfect mix of vivid reverie as the last sister explains their "origin" and offers him something of a talisman to protect him and a warning not to give the coin away.
Following this is a comical crime caper - of sorts. Wednesday and Shadow are to rob a bank. We already know that nothing is as it seems when it comes to Mr Wednesday (his knowing musings are still played with perfect charm by McShane), so it comes to no surprise that this is no stick up. However, more important than the job itself is the curious snow spell Shadow casts under the (mis)guidance of Wednesday. Just how it's happening is confusing enough - seemingly all that's needed is a hot chocolate and marshmallows - but just whom is actually casting it is something else entirely.
Mischievously mixed into all the whimsical goings on is the idea of belief, not necessarily that of religion. Wednesday lists the number of Jesus' that are out there, but later offers to Shadow that his belief in something as intangible as love made him see things differently once he knew it was there. Just like Anubis' introduction, it's a brilliant twist that reinforces the mechanic as well as the ethereal elements of the story.
4* - God(s) Is Dead
Other Episodes in American Gods - Season 1: