American Gods 2×02 Review: “The Beguiling Man”
If you thought we would be making progress in the plot after the attack on the diner, you would be mistaken. “The Beguiling Man” stalls a bit, focusing instead on Shadow’s backstory with his mother.
“The Beguiling Man” is extremely Shadow-centric. His capture and subsequent torture by Mr. Town allows for us to see flashbacks of his life when he first came to America. Raised in France, America is a different world to him, a world where he doesn’t seem to belong, except with his mother. She promises that they will only be in America for the summer, but then she gets sick and dies. There are a lot of insights into Shadow’s character from these flashbacks; we see his first real use of his anger, as well as his desire to find a place where he fits and something he believes in. You can also see just how long Wednesday has been keeping an eye on Shadow, as he visits him when Shadow is in the waiting room waiting for his mother to finish her tests.
What this episode manages to do well is show how complicated racism is. Shadow is mixed race, which in the tribal sense of racism means that he doesn’t fit in one particular box. For Shadow, lighter-skinned than his mother and from a different country, in the eyes of the other residents of his neighborhood, he is not black enough. They call him “white boy” as they beat him and tell him to, essentially, stay in his own lane. This fuels his anger almost as much as his mother’s illness does. Later, when he encounters a group of boys beating up a smaller boy, he throws himself into the fight and basically beats the crap out of them. His mother chastises him for it, reminding him of the light inside, but then his mother dies. I feel we see that light leave him after.
This episode also gives us the return of the comedy stylings of Laura and Mad Sweeney, who are once again on a road trip as they ride to Shadow’s rescue. Sweeney’s luck continues to come and go in “The Beguiling Man” – he manages to evade a cow on the road in time just to run over a nail and get a flat tire. And when the road they’re on suddenly ends in a field, Sweeney takes Laura through his hoard so that they can board the train carrying Shadow. What follows is a brutal beatdown reminiscent of the beating Shadow gave those boys, only more fatal. Shadow watches in horror as Laura stomps on a man’s head and kills him, but she swears it’s because she had to rescue him.
Laura and Mad Sweeney continue to have the world’s best chemistry, and this episode is further proof of that. Their madcap hijinks are entertaining, their banter is snappy, and though on the surface they don’t like each other, it’s clear they’re starting to depend on each other. I think their relationship may be the best part of the show.
What “The Beguiling Man” does poorly is move the action forward. Much of the episode is focused on Shadow – his torture, his backstory, and his rescue – but we do get smaller scenes elsewhere. Mama-ji pledges to fight (if she can get her shift changed). Salim and the Jinn head off to fetch Odin’s spear. Biliquis meets with Mr. World and warns him that his attack on the Old Gods will have only strengthened Wednesday’s cause. Technical Boy attempts to track down Media (who has been recast since Gillian Anderson opted not to return). Wednesday sacrifices his car for some reason. But everyone is still preparing for the war, always preparing.
American Gods has been renewed for season 3 (with yet another new showrunner) so we can only hope that all of this plodding will actually get us somewhere by season’s end. I’m always wary of rushing the story but there is also a danger in moving too slowly.
Have you seen “The Beguiling Man”? What did you think?
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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