A Quick Primer On AMERICAN GODS Thus Far
American Gods is several episodes in, and the team behind the show is killing it. Everyone’s acting their parts beautifully, the set pieces and effects are stunning. One problem: you’re a little bit lost. Don’t worry! It’s not that you’re not paying proper attention. Bryan Fuller and the other creators are letting the viewers learn what’s happening as Shadow finds out. This can be a wonderful story-telling tool, but some folks have found themselves a little bit frustrated by the lack of information. If you’re one of those, this is for you! If you are not one of those, this is your warning that this will be very, very spoiler heavy insofar that it will discuss who some of these characters are, and what exactly is happening.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the general plot of the story as we know it from the novel. When immigrants came to the United States, they brought with them their gods. Those little “Coming to America” bits in the episodes? That’s what’s happening. As America has grown, what we worship has changed. This has created two factions of gods; the old gods, and the new gods. The core of this story is belief. The more people believe in a god, the more power they have. As belief fades, so does their power. And that, friends, is what Mr. Wednesday’s war is all about.
We’re going to keep the character breakdown to who we’ve met already. There’s a chance that once the plans are revealed we’ll find out about the other gods in real-time. If it becomes necessary we can do another one of these in the future, but that seems unlikely. We’re also not going to discuss all of the characters. Just the ones that we can talk about without spoiling any big reveals.
We’ve met a significant portion of the old gods thus far, but there are still a few more to go. So far we’ve met Mr. Wednesday, the Zorya sisters, Mad Sweeney, Mr. Nancy (Anansi), Mr. Jacquel (Anubis), Bilquis, Czernobog, and a Jinn. Some of these characters are less involved in the book, but seem to be getting more of a backstory in the series. Those include Mad Sweeney (leprechaun and more) and Bilquis (lady who eats people with her vag). Sweeney’s pretty straight forward, but Bilquis is also known as the Queen of Shiba and is thought to be part Jinn. Yes, there’s some information about Mad Sweeney intentionally left out of this paragraph.
The Zorya sisters represent the morning, evening, and midnight respectively, two of which are from Slavic mythology. Utrennjaja (morning) is supposed to embody Venus, while Vechernjaja (evening) represents Mercury. Polunochnaya was created specifically for Gaiman’s story and to give Shadow the silver dollar that you see him receive in “Head Full of Snow”. It is their responsibility to guard the world from the doomsday hound, Simargl. If he breaks free of the stars he’ll eat the world. You probably won’t have to deal with that anytime soon. As for the rest, well, it’s no fun to tell you about those yet! I do solemnly swear that not knowing exactly who they are just yet isn’t taking away from the enjoyment of the story.
To close out the new gods, let’s take a quick look at the Jinn. Those with a keen eye may have noticed that “Head Full of Snow” isn’t the first time we meet the mysterious figure with the fire eyes. Mr. Wednesday’s pit-stop meeting on the way to meet with the Zorya sisters and Czernobog was with him. A second glance at that scene shows that he’s still wearing Salim’s clothes, if you’re trying to get a grasp on how the timeline works out here. To clear a misconception: the Jinn did not take over Salim’s body, he simply took his clothes and belongings. We’ll be leaving the question of whether or not the trade in lives was to benefit Salim or the Ifrit for the show to answer.
The new gods are more straight forward. They’re also bigger dicks. Their ranks include Technical Boy, Media, and several other goons that you’ll meet soon enough. Technical Boy is the millennial disaster child from the limo that had Shadow lynched, and Media’s the nice creepy lady in the TV. The former is meant to be the living embodiment of the internet. The latter represents, you guessed it, media. She’s playing nice for now, but it’s only because she knows that you catch more flies with honey.
“What the hell is with that flaming buffalo” you ask? Sorry, friend. This is another one you’ll have to keep watching for. I only mention it here so it doesn’t get asked repeatedly in the comments. Or, rather, as a reason to ignore the question when it gets asked repeatedly in the comments. This paragraph applies to that random wolf we met in “Head Full of Snow” as well. Have faith, friends.
Before this season wraps up, you’ll meet many other folks on both sides of the war. I have no intention of giving those details here, but if you really can't wait, you know how the Google machine works. There’s also much more detail to be had about the characters listed. If you need to know that before the show gets to that point, there’s a whole wiki outlining each character from the novel. But be warned: you will spoil big reveals if you go digging too far. This didn’t answer any questions about what in the blue hell is going on with Laura, but that’s because you have a whole episode telling that tale in your very near future. In the meantime, the comments section is there for your questions.