“Did you just name drop Jesus Christ?”
Holy social commentary, Batman! “A Murder of Gods” took no time delving into some timely and difficult issues, all while tying those issues into the power and danger of belief. In the episode we reunite with old friends, meet a new god, and finally get to see a glimmer of Mr. Wednesday’s ruthlessness. If there was ever any question over him considering Mr. World’s offer, it’s gone now. It’s probably for the best. Y’all saw how creepy Mr. World was.
We’ve seen a lot of blood in the “Coming to America” segments. It’s fitting, considering the notions behind blood sacrifice to all of the gods in play. “A Murder of Gods” was certainly no exception to that rule, but it hit on a current issue so hard that it was difficult to not be shaken by it. The people who were slain in the episode weren’t the slaves or Vikings of the past, they were our neighbors of today. Illegal immigration is a complicated issue that spends a lot of time in our news cycle lately. Immigrants and refugees, people seeking better lives and safer shores are trying to turn to America for help, and are constantly scorned. We call them less than us, arrest them, or send them back to the very situations they’re trying to escape. The idea of a group of rednecks driving up to the border to shoot up a bunch of human beings because they want a better life for themselves or their children is not farfetched, and how horrifying is that?
In this segment we meet Jesus. One of the men trying to cross the river to America cannot swim. When he is about to drown, Jesus rescues him and takes him to the bank. When the “patriots” arrive, Jesus then tries to shield the immigrants from their gunfire. In turn, he finds himself as dead as all of them, splayed out on the ground as he was on the crucifix. Martyrdom has always surrounded Jesus Christ, but in this instance he was able to save no one. The idea comes up again later in the episode, which begs the question of whether or not Wednesday’s war will be just as bloody as the banks of the river. After all, the Old Gods were all immigrants, and now they find themselves with their way of life threatened, so can we really expect their story to be much different?
Things in the present find themselves increasingly complicated as well. Laura and Mad Sweeney have reunited (with this meeting being much more pleasant than the last) and have found an unlikely addition to their strange little group: Salim. Mad Sweeney tries to steal his cab so that he and Laura can chase after Shadow and Mr. Wednesday, but Salim catches them and overhears Sweeney say that he’s a Leprechaun. Salim believes that Mad Sweeney and Laura can take him to his Jyn, so queue the weirdest road trip ever.
Laura and Mad Sweeney’s tumultuous relationship may end up being one of my favorite pairings in the show. They’re not romantic, of course, but the way they play off of each other is hilarious. Each is trying to care less than the other while simultaneously trying to out-awful their counterpart, which results in some hilarious one-liners from both parties. Salim adds a welcome calmness to the trio. He, like Laura, is in this for love, or at least something akin to it. The sweetness he brought with him in his first episode remains unsullied here, and I can’t hope enough that it remains. He seems unphased by Mad Sweeney’s cruelty, but Laura seems to have taken a shine to him and goes out of her way to shut Sweeney up. She may be the bitch of a dead wife who doesn’t care about anything, but it’s obvious that she’s not accosting her simply because he called her a cunt more than once.
In Salim, Laura, and Mad Sweeney’s story, we also see the difference between faith and whatever it is that Laura had in her youth. Some people pray to ask for things, others pray to thank for things. Laura’s inherent selfishness has been front and center throughout the series, and the same can be said for Salim’s selflessness. Mad Sweeney is having none of it from either of them, but your beliefs are a little different when you personally know gods and have been around the block a few times. Their story ends with Laura saying goodbye to her past life that doesn’t involve Shadow and the unlikely trio restarting their hunt.
Speaking of Shadow, he’s not having a very good day at all! Not that Shadow’s had a particularly good day to begin with, but a black man walking into a town such as Vulcan can’t be too pleasant. Toss in some weird parasitic tree thing chomping away at your insides followed by a very close encounter with your boss to heal said wound? Bad day. Wednesday and Shadow’s trip to Vulcan is where all of the action in the episode takes place. From the happy-go-lucky factory worker’s blood sacrifice, to the hanging tree, all the way to Vulcan’s betrayal.
Mr. Wednesday is a clever man. More importantly, he doesn’t expect anyone to be someone that they’re not. He knows who each of the players in his little game are, and doesn’t toy around with notions of who he would prefer they be. Wednesday knew form the jump that Vulcan would betray him. Why would a god like him sacrifice the success he’s achieved to help the other Old Gods? Vulcan has it made in his small town of horrors.
What makes Vulcan’s factory town so terrifying is that it’s not a thing of fiction. Sure, the blood sacrifices are a little off the beaten path, but at its core it’s a very real thing. Small towns just like it are peppered across America. They’re filled with “patriots” who are fighting for their ideal country. One free of people who look like Shadow, or the immigrants from “Coming to America”. “A Murder of Gods” illustrates an idea that many often forget: the idea that nice is different than good. These proud, gun toting Americans with their outdated ideals and twitchy trigger fingers exist all throughout the country, and they’ll do all sorts of unspeakable acts to protect those ideals.
There’s a line from Vulcan in the episode, “Every bullet fired in a crowded movie theater is a prayer in my name.” I’ll be honest, y’all. I had to pause the episode and take a breath or two before continuing. I’m a three minute walk from the theater that shooting took place, and it was by sheer happenstance that we weren’t there that night. That seems anecdotal, but I mention it to drive home just how very real every single troublingly terrifying thing that came out of Vulcan’s mouth was.
Mr. Wednesday’s monologue as he and Shadow drive into town also rings true, and is just as frightening. Everyone in the town is dedicated to one thing: America. There isn’t just one, two, or even three Americas. Everyone looks at Lady Liberty and takes something different from her plaque, whether that takeaway stands against the very words engraved on her or not. Vulcan found a way to tap into that belief with bullets, and is stronger today than he may have ever been. Thanks, of course, to the New Gods’ help.
For that very reason, he betrays Mr. Wednesday after creating his sword. As mentioned, Mr. Wednesday never expected anything different, and the ruthlessness discussed earlier comes into play. Before his death, Vulcan speaks of a martyr. His mistake was thinking that Wednesday ever believed that the martyr would be himself. Just like that, Vulcan is dead, and Mr. Wednesday has a new story to tell the Old Gods. After all, it’s never really been about truth. It’s about what you believe.
Next week we’ll learn a little bit more about our troubled Leprechaun, his spotty past, and perhaps not-so-bright future. As always, we want to hear your thoughts on the episode in the comments!