Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Enter The American Gods Adversary: "Lemon Scented You"

The Good: Wonderful performances, Good plot, Decent character progression, Impressive directing
The Bad: ? I'm still not certain, but the episode is not perfect.
The Basics: "Lemon Scented You" finally brings explicit purpose to American Gods and is makes for a near-perfect hour of television!

Sometimes, a show is presented in such a way that it starts and presents itself without making its story explicit right away. Character-driven stories often take some time to develop the protagonist as their own, well-rounded person before the essential conflict of the story begins. The first season of American Gods was only eight episodes long and the true purpose, antagonist and reason for the series is only made explicit in the fifth episode. That episode is "Lemon Scented You" and it is nice that, after giving the show the benefit of the doubt for four episodes, it finally is set-up to become something other than a meandering tale that seems more about getting fans to guess what is going on than actually tell a coherent story.

"Lemon Scented You" follows on the heels of "Git Gone" (reviewed here!) and it starts out with establishing the premise of the series explicitly and then finally advancing the story of Shadow Moon from the surprising moment two episodes prior. American Gods, at least in its first season, explores a world populated by actual gods wherein old gods have been dying off, utterly forgotten and are struggling for their survival. The old gods are in conflict with a host of new deities who not only want to control humanity, but eradicate the old gods who refuse to adapt to their new way of doing things.

Opening in the snow with the story of a tribe that crosses the tundra with their ancient god, that is ultimately forgotten, Shadow Moon returns to his motel to find Laura waiting for him there. After determining that she is real, the two discuss how Laura cheated on him. Shadow returns to the room after getting her a pack of cigarettes to find Laura in the tub, warming up for him in case he wants to touch her. A crow brings Wednesday a message and Wednesday interrupts Shadow and Laura's reunion. The men are arrested then.

Technical Boy falls victim to one of his own virtual reality devices, where he encounters Media, who tells him he needs to apologize. Technical Boy refuses to apologize directly, despite it being a asked of him by Mr. World. Shadow Moon and Wednesday are interrogated, but neither breaks under the local police's questioning. While they are being interrogated, Mad Sweeney finds Laura and he tries to take his coin back by force. Unable to do that, Mad Sweeney is arrested when the police arrives and Laura plays dead. Back at the police station, Media and Mr. World arrive to offer Wednesday a deal instead of a fight.

Coming on the heels of "Git Gone," "Lemon Scented You" is a refreshing change of pace. "Git Gone" was a fairly intimate character study of the unlikable Laura Moon as she makes her way through life, dies, and comes back confused and no more fun to be around than when she was initially alive. So, moving the story ahead in explicit and interesting ways was pretty much demanded by "Lemon Scented You" and it, blissfully, provides.

"Lemon Scented You" marks the return of Technical Boy, who was in so little of the pilot episode (reviewed here!) that it was hard to actually define him as an antagonist for the season. Mr. World bursts into "Lemon Scented You," after being referenced by Media and Technical Boy, with an incredible presence and a body count. Coming on the heels of Mr. Wednesday telling his interrogator explicitly about his conflict and his upcoming war with the new gods, Mr. World's entrance into the story is powerful.

Bryan Fuller must have been great to work with as Tracie Thoms, who was on his show Wonderfalls (reviewed here!) back in the day, pops up in "Lemon Scented You." Thoms plays Shadow Moon's police interrogator and it is nice to see that after all these years, she has not lost her on-screen grativas. Unfortunately for Thoms, who is good in her brief role, she gets completely overshadowed by the return of Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney - who has amazing presence - and Crispin Glover, who's entrance as Mr. World is quite memorable. The acting in "Lemon Scented You" is universally great, though it certainly helps by having Gillian Anderson playing both David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe in two exceptionally well-written tongue-in-cheek scenes that allow her to show off.

Director Vincenzo Natali translates Maria Melnik and David Graziano's story and script into a truly beautiful hour of television. There are amazing shots in "Lemon Scented You" and this is the episode that finally hooks viewers who are on the fence about the show.

"Lemon Scented You" is a near-perfect hour of television. There is an ineffable quality to perfection; I cannot recall a perfect anything (other than album of music) where I did not know on the first pass that it was perfect. "Lemon Scented You" comes close, but misses narrowly. Is it the arrest of Mad Sweeney? Is it Laura Moon getting the episode's last scene? Whatever element of "Lemon Scented You" robs it of perfection, most viewers are unlikely to see the difference between what is in the episode and what a perfect story contains. Regardless, this is easily the best episode thus far of American Gods and it is a treat to return to multiple times!

For other works with Crispin Glover, please check out my reviews of:
Hot Tub Time Machine
Alice In Wonderland
Epic Movie
Charlie's Angels
Back To The Future

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into American Gods - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the surreal series here!


For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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