In the climax of Episode 5, the new gods didn't so much as damn with fake praise as respectfully threaten Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane). So following his escape with Shadow Moon, our duo's odyssey now has a little more urgency. Not just because the law will be on their heels - Mr World and Co have taken care of that - but because Wednesday's recruitment drive for the battle in Wisconsin hasn't been the most successful.
However, Shadow and Wednesday aren't the only ones on a mission. Shadow's not-so-dead wife, Mad Sweeney and Salim (previously introduced during the Jinn interlude) have undertaken their own - literal and metaphorical - journey. Mr Wednesday's interactions with those around him have always kept American Gods' episodes playfully amusing, but this unlikely trio's antagonistic dynamic, offer something just as entertaining. The exchanges are mischievously spirited between Mad Sweeney and Laura. In any other story this would be irritable banter, only serving an obvous will-they-won't-they. However, as that isn't the end game here, it frees up the pointed dialogue to get as cutting as it likes.
We still need to rejoin Wednesday and his demigod draft. It's here that American Gods offers up something new to the rules our deities play by. Wednesday visits Vulcan, the god of the fire and the forge. But rather than a revisiting what we've seen so far, where the gods of old are living in some self imposed witness protection for the almighty, Vulcan has managed a spiritual slight of hand to create his own world. Smack bang in the middle of the town Vulcan has repackaged worship and belief using a bullet factory to forge his own special kind of worship. Vulcan, Virginia is a twisted reflection of american fascism, where the population proudly brandish their very own portable volcanoes in the form of firearms. It's a devilishly clever subversion on the rules already set up.
Vulcan himself is as charismatic as our very own Mr Wednesday. Even if he weren't offering a powerful skillset, it's easy to imagine why they'd be old friends. Played with an enigmatc gravel by Corbin Bernsen, even his racially loaded comments to Shadow are as slippery to nail down as his true motives.
As always, show runner Bryan Fuller makes sure American Gods never lets up on its offering of brazen stylistic choices. The music swings from noir-ish trumpets, echoing in an empty space to the Partridge Family's "Come On Get Happy". Visually, the frame ignites with with gorgeous, short-focused detail that invites you to draw it all, and then offers an almost flippantly simple road map to show us our characters journey. It really is a wonder how it seamlessly galvanises into one of the most ambitiously produced shows gracing our small screens.
4* - Fear and Loathing in Vulcan, Virginia
Other Episodes in American Gods - Season 1: