Contains spoiler for Episode 203 of American Gods
Directed by Deborah Chow, Teleplay by Heather Bellson
In this episode, viewers are introduced to several new characters and the journey continues on the convoluted path that Odin/Wednesday has laid out for them. For those who are up on their Norse mythology, the title, “Muninn,” refers to one of the ravens that are frequently seen reporting to Wednesday. Viewers also meet Sam Black Crow (Devery Jacobs), who gives a slightly injured Shadow a ride to Cairo. New Media (Kahyan Kim) makes her debut during this episode, along with Argus Panoptes (Christian Lloyd). The Jinn and Salim recover Gungnir from Iktomi (Julian Richings), a Native American trickster, and Laura finally realizes too late that she is no match for Wednesday.
At the end of the last episode, the train that held Shadow prisoner crashed into Wednesday’s car (it survived the crash). In this episode, Shadow lived but suffered injury. Oddly, Wednesday and Sweeney, instead of helping Shadow, they grab Laura and her body parts and leave Shadow to extricate himself. As Shadow digs himself from the wreckage, viewers see the entire process as a rebirth. Laura even sees the beacon of light that is Shadow as he emerges from the wreckage.
An injured Shadow hobbles off in search of a ride. If Wednesday’s abandonment of Shadow seems heartless, viewers need to remember that Wednesday is old school. He believes in the old saying, “He who learns must suffer.” Wednesday/Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil and gouged out his own eye for knowledge so it is not surprising that he has no qualms about letting Shadow suffer. However, it is not clear what he expects Shadow to learn from his suffering.
After the accident, Shadow stumbles through the forest. In his mindless perambulation, he comes across a well surrounded by ancient stones. Muninn arrives and observes Shadow as he drinks from the well. Muninn is able to communicate to Shadow that he has to go to Cairo. Shadow is unaware that the well contains an eyeball. The well is Mimir’s Well. This is the well where, in ancient times, Odin gouged out his eyeball as payment to drink from it to gain knowledge. Shadow’s sacrifice for knowledge was being tortured and then almost dying in a train wreck. There is a symmetry here between Shadow and Odin. Think of all of the sufferings that Shadow has endured. Odin has a plan but neither Shadow nor the viewers know what the plan is.
Later, at a gas station, Shadow uses his charm to trick an attendant into giving him extra change but a young woman, Sam Black Crow, convinces the attendant that Shadow wants to use the extra money to gas her vehicle. The trickster becomes the victim but Sam has a greater role to play as she offers to give Shadow a ride to Cairo.
Their meeting is not a chance encounter. The character of Sam Black Crow appears in the novel as well and she serves the same purpose there as she does in this episode. She is the voice of the old and new. She represents both the contemporary view of America and well as an understanding of the traditional Native American values both of which she incorporates into her philosophy of life. She gives Shadow a different perspective on life, as well an additional insight into life in the new world. Perhaps Shadow will gain wisdom from the interaction or, at a minimum, knowledge. Meanwhile, Mr. World and Technical Boy have been busy.
In many ways, Mr. World’s power and influence seem diminished after the devastating blow delivered by Odin during the party at Ostara’s estate. His relationship with Technical Boy has become more contentious as Technical Boy recognizes his weakness. Into this very intense situation, New Media arrives. She manifests as the ubiquitous young woman popular in Manga comics dressed in a schoolgirl outfit. New Media is a radical departure from the Media portrayed by Gillian Anderson. Her entire dialogue is laced with trendy and topical sayings. Mr. World sends them to bring Argus Panoptes in line.
At the Argus building, Technical Boy falls back on his tried and true method of browbeating and intimidation to force Argus to do his bidding. New Media takes a different approach. She proposes a merger in the biblical sense with the use of technology. Into this odd coupling, Laura and Wednesday arrive.
Wednesday wants to remove Argus because Argus is playing both sides of the war between the old and new gods. Laura goes along with him because he promises that he would revitalize her body and she believes that she has figured out his “con.” She’s wrong.
As Wednesday confronts Laura and reveals facts about her life, she is forced to realize that she is completely out of her league. Wednesday is almost giddy as he tells her how he has manipulated her throughout her life and how he truly knows her and what motivates her. Laura believed that she accompanied Wednesday because he promised to give her body life again in order to be with Shadow. Wednesday tells her that she only wanted to feel again. It wasn’t Shadow she wanted but the sensation of living that he gave her. Clearly, this is correct as her life was meaningless before Shadow. If she wants that feeling again, she has to murder Argus because Wednesday can’t.
Laura murders Argus and her body comes to life. However, Wednesday, always the master manipulator, has a surprise for her. She can feel again but Wednesday leaves her in the Argus building. He never had any intention of reuniting Laura and Shadow. In fact, he killed two birds with one stone; he maneuvered Laura away from Shadow and manipulated her into murdering Argus. Laura has her “life” back, Wednesday has a dead Argus, and most importantly, Wednesday has a Shadow Moon who is not burdened with his dead wife.
Salim and The Jinn have recovered Gungnir from Iktomi. Shadow arrives at the funeral home of Mr. Ibis, where Wednesday greets him. Mad Sweeney is headed to Louisiana aboard a bus full of devout Christians and Laura is stuck in the Argus building. On the face of it, this is an insane situation but Wednesday clearly has a plan, albeit an incredibly complex one. Viewers should not assume that Wednesday wants all-out war with the New Gods because he has plans within schemes within plans.