Alongside a quick recap of last season, culminating in the revelation that Wednesday (Ian McShane) is in fact Odin, a fitting question is voiced, setting a tone for the war on belief that will presumably make up the majority of the second season of American Gods – “What came first – Gods or the people who believe in them?”
This recap contains spoilers.
Rather than begin at the place we’ve all been waiting for – the strange attraction that is the House on the Rock – Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) and Mr. World (Crispin Glover), who has been experiencing abnormal facial glitches, have arrived in an underground garage, where a paper clip is enough to gain them entry to the Black Briar country club. Mr. World claims that it is time for preparation, instructing Technical Boy to find Media, claiming that he can’t sell the idea of war without his best salesman.
Meanwhile, we witness as Shadow (Ricky Whittle), Wednesday, Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) make their way to Wisconsin. Small connections fill viewers in on the characters and their relationships – while Shadow does sleight of hand coin magic, Laura attempts to hold his hand but is faced with rejection. The conversation shifts to magic, beginning with Sweeney’s sarcastic remark that Laura is living on borrowed time, effectively serving as a transition point to magical communities and the House on the Rock, “a place where people come to look, play and wonder.”
As we learn about the strange roadside attraction – a complex full of odds and ends built on a rock – we transition to Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) as she explores the House, looking for the meeting that she has not formally been invited to. At the door to Wednesday’s agreed upon meeting room – the carousel room (a magical attraction we’ve been dying to see since last season) – Bilquis meets with the Jinn (Mousa Kraish), disguised as a guard, and Salim (Omid Abtahi), who has followed him without his knowledge to rekindle their passionate relationship.
Back at Black Briar, Mr. World reveals that he needs to see through the eyes of Argus. The attendant at Black Briar, an old man, tries to reason with the new god, claiming that Black Briar is only for the President’s use. Mr. World, eerie and in control, demands the use of Argus, claiming that the President is nothing more than a cardboard cutout.
A glimpse of the Motel America from last season is shown before we transition back to Shadow, who’s trying to pick a lock to the gate to the House on the Rock, only to be greeted by another god – Anansi (Orlando Jones). As the group, accompanied by Laura and Sweeney (two unwelcome additions) make their way through the House, we witness a brief confrontation between Salim and the Jinn. Before any headway can be made regarding their relationship, Wednesday, Anansi and Shadow are given coins, leaving Sweeney and Laura behind. Before the group enters the carousel room, the attending party must receive their fortune in a brilliant scene transcribed from Neil Gaiman’s urban fantasy novel, with Shadow’s being quite ominous:
Every ending is a new beginning
Your lucky number is none
Your lucky color is dead
Motto: Like father like son
Afterward, Wednesday branches off from the group (Anansi, Bilquis and Shadow), giving us a glimpse of the strange and whimsical sights of the House on the Rock, leading up to a meeting between the Old God and Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman) where Czernobog (Peter Stormare) appears, not because he agrees with Wednesday, but because Shadow beat him in a game of checkers.
While Wednesday is making the rounds (now reunited with Shadow and company) – giving us a glimpse the House and old acquaintances, Laura demands a coin so that she can have her fortune told, only for it to turn up blank, leaving Sweeney to make one for her in which she returns his lucky coin and dies.
The long-awaited carousel finally comes into focus, and despite the signs stating that the carousel is not to be ridden, the group of four clambers on, soaking in the power of the attraction, which sends Shadow back into the dream realm – or the backstage area of Wednesday’s memories. Guided by Bilquis, Shadow makes his way into the meeting space, revealing that all of the gods have regained a semblance of their power, changing their appearances to that of their natural forms, where Wednesday, appearing as Odin, reveals that the old gods have lost their power in the wake of new beliefs. It is during this scene that we witness the ethereal and powerful aspects of the dozen in attendance, from Anansi’s true form that wavers between spider and man, to Bilquis’ stunning beauty illuminated tenfold.
As Shadow witnesses the old gods converge in their natural forms, ethereal, magical and stunning, he is moved and tries to persuade those present to embrace belief and join Wednesday who is attempting to persuade the old gods to rise up with him, which transports him back to the real world – the diner at the Motel America.
While Shadow struggles to comprehend what he has seen – questioning the nature of the gods and their reach, wondering who is a god and who isn’t – Bilquis approaches Laura, claiming that she is the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen before kissing her and leaving. As the after party begins to wind down, Shadow approaches Laura, who is the only person he can confide in about his confusion. Although Laura offers a warning, Shadow runs off to meet Mama Ji (Sakina Jaeffrey) – a powerful war deity new to the show – believing that he has finally found a purpose in life.
Mr. World’s plan begins to unfold – as bullets rain down upon the Motel America. His aim? To place fear in the old gods and demonstrate that he has power and knowledge; to show them what “real sacrifice feels like.” As death rains upon inhabitants of the Motel diner, Shadow, who plans on stopping the shooter on his own, is abducted by space ship – which is exactly where Mr. World wants him. He’s forgotten in the destruction (by all but Laura) however, when Zorya is dealt a lethal wound, sending Czernobog in a rage as the episode comes to a close.