The first season of American Gods did a wonderful job bringing to life the tangible and intangible aspects of one of Neil Gaiman’s best books. American Gods probably seemed bizarre to anyone who hadn’t read Neil Gaiman’s novel. Dramatic visuals, graphic violence and sex combined to make one of the most unique shows in recent TV history. Extreme close-ups and the excessive use of slow motion emphasized strange details, sometimes at the expense of dialog. An observant viewer could find Easter eggs galore in all the chaos of the first few episodes that would eventually lead to big revelations.
Hand in hand with the strange visuals of American Gods was its capacity to deal out numerous mind-blowing moments. The series slowly unspooled its truth at an almost maddeningly slow pace, but kept us interested by frequently offering some truly awesome scenes. Sometimes those scenes were surreal and saturated with blood, while other times they were simple story points that turned the whole show upside down. Those moments helped move the story along, but at the same time, left the audience with even more questions.. after they picked their jaws off the floor, that is. Here are 15 of the craziest WTF moments from American Gods.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FIRST SEASON OF AMERICAN GODS
15. BILQUIS AND THE DISAPPEARING MAN
American Gods made a definitive declaration about what kind of show it was from the very first episode. The audience watched as a voluptuous and seductive woman led a middle-aged man back to her room, wondering, as the man did, what she could possibly want with him. As they began their love-making, his awe at her beauty and sexiness took on an odd quality. Although it made sense that he was amazed that she chose him to sleep with, the gratitude he showed her was just too much.
Then, an even more curious thing happened. The woman seemed to grow. As she grew bigger, her enormous size was too obvious to ignore, except for the man, who had no idea what was happening, until he disappeared into her vagina. The nudity, graphic sex and the man’s disappearance announced that American Gods was a very different TV show.
14. LUCKY STAR
By the second episode of American Gods, anyone unfamiliar with the novel was wondering what the heck was going on. Like Shadow, the audience was becoming aware that there was a story behind the story, and that nothing was as it seemed. Although Shadow had seen some weird things so far, he still wasn’t convinced any of it was real.
He started to change his mind after spending time on a rooftop with Zorya Polunochnaya, the Midnight Star. Her night gig was to keep Simargl, the doomsday hound chained to Polaris, from devouring Ursa Minor. She also restored the sun at the end of every night. For Shadow, she plucked the moon from the sky and handed it to him, gifting him with a lucky coin.
13. EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING
Before the season finale, none of the gods had demonstrated their full power. Their power had been teased and alluded to, but none of it was on full display. Then, Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday rolled up to Easter’s house for her yearly celebration. Easter herself was pretty, charming, colorful and mannerly. Nothing about her appearance hinted at her terrific power.
It didn’t seem as if anyone could top the lightning-strike power of Mr. Wednesday, who finally revealed that he was Odin, one of the oldest and most powerful gods in the world. But with a little encouragement from Odin, Easter made quite a show. Ostara, a.k.a. Easter, let down her hair and lit up the day with blinding sunshine. Then, in a terrible show of power, killed all the plant life and crops for miles and miles.
12. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. PRESIDENT
Shadow first met Media on a bank of TV screens in a big box store. He thought he was imagining the woman, who looked like Lucy Ricardo, speaking to him personally. Although he was shaken by the encounter, he wasn’t convinced it had really happened.
He couldn’t dismiss Media, however, when she came floating into the police interrogation room, dressed as Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. She was not only floating, but had also brought her own updraft that made her dress billow and flip, just like the famous movie scene. Media was joined by Technical Boy and Mr. World, which increased the surrealism for Shadow. He could no longer ignore what was happening around him. Later, he even commented on the floating woman to Mr. Wednesday.
11. THERE WILL BE BLOOD
As soon as Czernobog came home for dinner, Shadow knew there was something off about him. Beyond being gruff, he was intimidating in a way that you couldn’t put your finger on. Sure, he was polite and showed fairly good manners, but he spoke in double meanings that were full of menace and dark possibilities.
Czernobog was one of the old Slavic gods who represented death and destruction. His purpose became clear during a simple chess game with Shadow. He described his job working in a slaughterhouse, where he relished smashing cow skulls with his hammer. As he described his work, Shadow was presented with an image of Czernobog with his hammer, which poured the blood of his victims from its head. Shadow realized Czernobog wasn’t just talking about cows anymore.
10. I DREAM OF GENIE
Samir’s story on American Gods was unique for two reasons. One, he was the first background character who wasn’t a god to have his story told as the main arc of an episode. (“Head Full of Snow” also told Mrs. Fadil’s story, but she died.) Second, he enjoyed a profound connection to his god and survived. His life was forever changed after encountering the Jinn.
Their time together was pretty astounding. They had sex, but that’s not what was so notable. We’d already seen Bilquis have sex with her worshipers, so the sex wasn’t terribly shocking. The shocking part was just how incredible the act was. How many people, during intercourse, are filled with glowing fire and sent into the starry expanse of the universe? Samir’s Jinn literally took him away, which made that scene so amazing.
9. COME TO JESUS
When Mr. Wednesday and Shadow arrived at Easter’s soiree in progress, Shadow was taken aback to see Jesus Christ at the party. His confusion and surprise grew when he saw another Jesus, and another, and another. Seeing a houseful of Christs was pretty impressive.
Although American Gods had spent seven episodes exploring a variety of ancient and pagan religions, Christianity hadn’t been depicted yet. Granted, we had already seen a Mexican Jesus Christ walk on water while crossing from Mexico to the United States, but that was part of the prologue. In the finale, creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green compared Christianity, the most popular religion in the United States, to the likes of Odin and Media, giving them equal status.
8. HEADS OR TAILS
When we first met Mad Sweeney at Jack’s Crocodile Bar, he seemed like your average belligerent drunk. The red hair was a dead giveaway that he had a temper. In short order, he picked a fight with Shadow, who was trying to stay on right side of the law. Shadow couldn’t resist the idea of winning the golden coins Sweeney offered him if he won.
Mad Sweeney’s red hair also hinted at what kind of being he really was. Although Shadow was pretty handy with a coin — flipping it over his knuckles or pulling one from thin air — Mad Sweeney was even better. He could pull coins from anywhere, kind of like magic. Mad Sweeney’s coin tricks were Shadow’s first inkling that he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
7. IT’S TECHNICAL
Shadow Moon was dealt a one-two punch with the death of his wife. The first was, obviously, that his beloved wife was dead. He had been looking forward to reuniting with her after getting out of prison. The second punch, the knock-out blow, was that she had been cheating on him, even at the moment she died.
It is at, perhaps, Shadow’s lowest moment, after leaving his cheating wife’s grave, that something strange hurtled through the night air toward him. Before he could utter a swear-riddled exclamation, that mysterious something wrapped itself around his head and he wound up inside a limousine with two faceless henchmen and a spoiled kid. Before Shadow could get oriented to what had just happened, he was back outside and getting lynched. What a night!
By the time we reached “A Murder of Gods,” Shadow was well on his way to figuring out who Mr. Wednesday was, and why they were recruiting seemingly random people. They reached Vulcan, Virginia after a deadly run-in with Media, Technical Boy and Mr. World. What greeted him was an intimidating display of firepower, and a hanging tree.
Like the rest of the gods, Vulcan played his cards close to his chest. He said one thing, but seemed to mean another. Shadow was confused not only by Vulcan’s hidden messages, but also by Mr. Wednesday’s insistence on hanging around. He seemed to get his answer when Wednesday asked Vulcan for a blade that could kill a god. Wednesday, sneaky dude that he was, had already deduced that Vulcan had betrayed them. Much to Shadow’s surprise, Wednesday neatly separated Vulcan’s head from his body in a dramatic way.
5. EVERYBODY DANCE NOW
In the season finale, we finally learned the backstory of Bilquis, the goddess who consumed people in a most pleasurable way. Mr. Nancy told her story, which began in ancient Africa. She was a queen, who was worshiped by many, and who threatened many a king.
During Mr. Nancy’s story, dozens of worshipers writhed and swayed around her. Then a king, who wished to usurp her, stepped forward, only to be ensnared by her. As she and her king coupled, so did the worshipers who filled the temple. Their combined energy reached a fever pitch. Then, unfortunately for the worshipers, their queen was sated. Everyone ashed into a thick, black liquid that she consumed in her usual fashion. The visual was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
4. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
In “A Head Full of Snow,” Mrs. Fadil was standing on a chair, trying to reach a jar of pickled something to add to her special sauce. Her chair rocked this way and that, until she heard a knock at the door and stepped down. There stood a man who seemed to know her, although she didn’t recognize him.
Her confusion was cleared up when he explained that she was dead, and he was there to take her to the next part of her journey. The first fun WTF moment was when she saw her own body lying on the floor, and talked about mundane things, like who would find her. The next cool moment came when she climbed the fire escape outside her window, and kept climbing right up into the sky. This scene also set the stage for an important future scene.
3. MY BACK IS KILLING ME
Hell hath no fury like a woman who returned from the dead, crawled her way out of the grave, only to see her man getting lynched by a bunch of faceless henchmen. When Laura Moon followed her Puppy’s sunshine, only to find him hanging from a tree branch, she got a little angry.
Little did she know that being a zombie would give her super strength. After her first punch obliterated a henchman, she realized she could take down all of them and rescue Shadow. What followed was an insanely bloody and violent scene. The WTF moment came when Laura kicked a Henchman between the legs and his spine shot up and out of his body. You don’t want to mess with Zombie Laura.
2. UNDER MY SKIN
Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon hated each other, but their onscreen chemistry was delightful to watch. Their time together in the ice cream truck was especially fun, but also very illuminating. Several moments in “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney” led up to one giant WTF moment.
First, there was a moment in the truck when Laura questioned Sweeney about his previous dealings, and a tear slipped down his cheek when he said he had done bad things. Then, he dropped coins on the road after seeing a white rabbit. (Someone’s spy?) Next, a white rabbit ran into the road, effectively crashing the truck and killing Laura, again. Just as Sweeney was about to take his lucky coin and leave a flayed Laura behind, he flashed back to when — wait for it — he killed her the first time.
1. I, ZOMBIE
The biggest, and most important, WTF moment wasn’t really one moment, but a series of them, beginning with Mad Sweeney’s discovery that Laura Moon’s grave was empty. Then, we saw Anubis come for Laura, just as he previously had for Mrs. Fadil. However, his usual sequence of events was disrupted by Laura’s insistence that she wasn’t going anywhere. His consternation and his scolding increased, until she finally told Anubis how she really felt — then disappeared into the stars.
Laura’s return from the dead was one of the strangest and most disgusting sequences on an already strange and disgusting show. American Gods dealt with her return as a zombie as a matter of fact, which made her undead state even creepier. She was not only an anomaly, but also a woman who needed body parts reattached.
What was your favorite WTF moment from American Gods? Tell us in the comments!
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