American Gods - The Beguiling Man - Review + POLL By Kollin Lore (March 18, 2019, 1:00 am)
'The Beguiling Man' picked up right after the concluding events of 'The House on the Rock.'
Though it was an entertaining one hour, the episode was guilty of the same flaws that plagued the premiere, in which characters would speak in riddles without really saying much of anything. This was excusable as it worked within the context of the characters - these larger than life Gods; however, unlike the premiere, these nothing's this time around involved flashbacks that could've done with a little bit more emotion and a little less vagueness.
The episode title refers to Shadow whose past is slowly revealed as he is interrogated by Mr Town, played by the always excellent Dean Winters, who is trying to understand who Shadow really is and the role he has to play in Odin's war.
It is learned that Shadow came to America from France and that he was once a scrawny boy who did not fit in in his new home. Shadow didn't know who his dad was, but he was very close to his mom who constantly reminded him about the light that exists within him. We also learn that Wednesday had kept a close watch on him since he was young, giving him the coin that we see adult Shadow still fiddling with. Shadow's life is sad, made even more tragic by the passing away of his mother by cancer before she again reminds him of the light within him.
I'm sure what the mom means by the light within will be expanded upon in episodes to come. Maybe he is a God? But for now, this was ambiguity without meaning emphasized in flashbacks that went on way too long, dragging the proceedings down.
This is not to take away from the quality of 'The Beguiling Man,' which still had plenty of great moments. The pairing of Laura and Mad Sweeney was dynamic as it had been all series. The two play so well off each other. The fight scene on the train was exhilarating and brutal, and though I get what they were trying to say when Laura crushed that guys head in, it did feel a little too over the top. However, Laura's 'I had to save you' as she looked up at him with her bloodied face was amusing.
More Orlando Jones as Mr Nancy is always a good thing, and we see him paired up with Wednesday this episode. I felt like this is a pairing that could've benefited by a little bit more screen time in place of some of the extended flashbacks. Nevertheless, their moments, as brief as it was, were hilarious from Mr Nancy trying to fold the map and Odin's, "are you going to fold it or fuck it" line, to the overused but still funny black guy and fried chicken gag. I'm guessing I'm not supposed to know what the heck was going on near the end when Odin sacrificed Betty the car to the oncoming train, but judging by Nancy's reaction and the last shot of the horse in Odin's view, this sacrifice has serious implications.
Other characters had their brief moments to shine too. The opening scene was a joy as we got Czernobog's mournful monologue and then Mama-Ji declaring herself in on the war, but only if she can switch her morning shifts at the motel as she hilariously quips. There was also the Jinn, who begrudgingly allowed Salim to accompany him on his quest to retrieve Gungnir, Odin's spear.
Bilqus continues to be an interesting character as we see her feeling guilt at betraying the Old Gods, while also declaring she would never support the New Gods. Where Bilqus eventually fits in will be interesting to see play out.
Also, two episodes in and we still haven't seen new media, as Tech Boy continued to goad her out.
Overall, 'The Beguiling Man' did drag from the flashbacks and some wandering dialogue, but the interactions between Mad Sweeney and Laura, and to a lesser extent, Mr Nancy and Wednesday, helped make this a thoroughly entertaining second episode despite its flaws.