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American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 8, “Come to Jesus”

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Come to Jesus”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Come to Jesus”

“Come to Jesus” ends the first season of American Gods on an awkward and anticlimactic note. Creators and co-screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green seem to be aware of their own perversity, cracking a joke about it early in the episode. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) are at the office of Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), the present incarnation of the god Anansi, who’s tailoring suits for the next leg of their journey. For a moment, it seems that we’ve dodged the obligation of sitting through a deity origin tale that typically opens each episode, until Mr. Nancy announces that he has a story, which Wednesday greets with comic frustration while nursing a tall whiskey. Wednesday is clearly speaking for the audience here, who may be understandably weary of yet another damn flashback.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 6, “A Murder of Gods” 

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “A Murder of Gods”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “A Murder of Gods”

Tonight’s episode of American Gods, “A Murder of Gods,” has a central image that’s particularly resonant when seen a few days after Donald Trump announced that the United States would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement, fueling bipartisan exasperation. The image is a master shot of a fictional Virginian town called Vulcan, which offers a parodic microcosm of the issues of pollution and gun lust that grip this country. White townspeople stroll the streets with rifles and red armbands, while a great plant operates in the background, dwarfing the foreground and pumping vast and supernaturally dark plumes of smoke into the sky.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 5, “Lemon Scented You”

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Lemon Scented You”
American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Lemon Scented You”

Whether we’re talking cinema, television, or theater, conventional drama is predominantly made up of exposition, which experimental art seeks to transcend or obliterate so as to theoretically tap into deeper meanings. For better or worse, deeper meaning often equates to obliqueness, which means less to most audiences than repetitive variations of common pop-art symbols. There’s another way to approach exposition, though, as American Gods and the new Twin Peaks illustrate: double down on it so transparently that it serves as an orienting device as well as a flourish of stylized abstraction. “Lemon Scented You” is entirely expositional on one level, but it’s so flamboyantly and decadently realized that it doesn’t matter, as it satirically equates exposition to sales as necessary binding agents of contemporary life.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 3, "Head Full of Snow"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 3, “Head Full of Snow”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 3, “Head Full of Snow”

After the enraged and despairing racial-religious politics of “The Secret of Spoon,” “Head Full of Snow” serves as a tonal palette cleanser for American Gods, reveling in the solace of belief during times of loneliness and despair. The episode is appealingly scruffy around the edges, as television isn’t usually allowed to roam this freely. At times, “Head Full of Snow” suggests that creators and screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and director David Slade are getting high on the existentialist fumes of Mad Men. And this episode also once again recalls certain portions of Fuller’s Hannibal, notably the first half of the third season, in which the characters wandered the Italy of our opera- and horror-film-fed imaginations.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 2, "The Secret of Spoon"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “The Secret of Spoon”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “The Secret of Spoon”

Starz’s American Gods comes into its own with “The Secret of Spoon,” achieving a free-associative emotional ferocity that wasn’t fully present in last week’s “The Bone Orchard.” While the phrase “free-associative” feels right as a descriptor of this episode’s wandering, hallucinatory emotional texture, “The Secret of Spoon” is actually quite tightly structured and governed by rhyming symbols, in a manner that recalls co-creator Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 1, "The Bone Orchard"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “The Bone Orchard”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “The Bone Orchard”

While reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I was often stopped in the street by people who saw it in my hands and wanted to have an impromptu pow-wow about its greatness. I often have a book in my hands, and I’ve never before encountered such reactions, which I enjoyed more than the novel. Gaiman’s narrative is imaginatively conceived, but it’s composed of hundreds of pages of exposition preceding a battle that never commences. Gaiman tells a long shaggy-dog joke, in which humankind’s various gods across the ages are revealed to be as gullible as their worshipers, subject to the manipulations of a rigged society that distracts us from our subservience with a trumped war between cultural factions that serve the same leader. It’s quite resonant politically, but the novel is all theme. There’s barely a plot, the characters are ciphers, and Gaiman’s prose is lean and studiously workmanlike. The notion of gods as scared and foolish projections of their scared and foolish creators (for we are their gods) is poignant though, and it’s this idea that’s ostensibly captured readers’ imaginations.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 7, "The Broken Man"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 7, “The Broken Man”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 7, “The Broken Man”

Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) have come to Bear Island, home of the Mormonts, to ask them to honor their pact with House Stark and to aid them in reclaiming Winterfell. The scene could be set as a sad comedy, what with Jon, the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, reduced to humbly petitioning a 10-year-old, Lady Lyanna (Bella Ramsey), for troops—and there’s a grim humor in the fact that she has but 62 soldiers to pledge. But that’s not at all how writer Bryan Cogman and director Mark Mylod establish the scene, for they understand that war is a serious thing, regardless of the ages of those involved. Lyanna is impatient, but not impetuous, and though she’s reluctant to endanger the men and women she’s found herself responsible for, she understands Davos all too well when he warns her of the undying who will split a divided North. “This isn’t someone else’s war,” he tells her, not as a superior, but as an equal comrade. “This is our war.”

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, "Come, Ye Saints"

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<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Come, Ye Saints”
<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Come, Ye Saints”

So let’s talk about God.

I mean, He’s arguably the most important character in Big Love, even if we never directly see Him, even if we never are sure how He feels about the Henricksons. Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is always so concerned about how the two of them are getting along that we are forced to take these sorts of things into account, even if we don’t particularly believe in God in any way, shape or form. Bill’s deteriorating relationship with his faith has provided a hidden spine to Big Love’s third season, and it finally erupts in tonight’s episode, in one of the all-time great television images to my mind.

Coraline: How Awesome? So Awesome.

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<em>Coraline</em>: How Awesome? So Awesome.
<em>Coraline</em>: How Awesome? So Awesome.

How awesome is Coraline? So awesome. That’s the Twitter review, and that’s really all that needs to be said up front.

Coraline is that rarest of creatures, the PG-rated kids’ movie with no big scares (there’s one “boo” moment, but it’s pretty wan) that can still creep you out through tone and theme alone. Neil Gaiman’s come up with a plot mirror to, well, Mirrormask: young girl feels neglected by well-meaning parents, enters a much more appealing fantasy world, wants to stay, discovers her desire to escape is actually selfishness that could literally kill her parents, saves the fantasy world’s oppressed and her parents, returns to a reality where it seems it’s all been a dream, and has ambiguous confirmation of her heroism at the end. The difference, visually, is money and medium: Mirrormask’s relatively low budget led to conceptually clever but necessarily murky CGI visuals roughly interacting with live-action players. Coraline has more bills, hence 3D stop-motion animation, which is the perfect way for Gaiman’s fantasy to come alive.

Deadwood Recap Season 3, Episode 12, "Tell Him Something Pretty"

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Deadwood Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, “Tell Him Something Pretty”
Deadwood Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, “Tell Him Something Pretty”

The closing shot of last night’s Deadwood episode was never meant as a series-ender. But that’s what it was, and for a number of reasons, it was both appropriate and troubling: Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen kneeling on the floor of his office, cleaning up a bloodstain.

The blood belonged to one of Al’s prostitutes, Jen (Jen Lutheran), whose only crime was vaguely resembling Trixie (Paula Malcomson). Trixie impulsively shot and wounded mining mogul George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) in last week’s episode to avenge Hearst’s contract killing of the good-hearted miner Ellsworth (Jim Beaver), husband of Alma Garret Ellsworth (Molly Parker), owner of Deadwood’s bank and its second largest gold claim.

Of course Hearst demanded that Trixie be killed. Al realized Hearst never got a good look at Trixie’s face because he was too busy looking at her exposed chest. So Al decided to sacrifice someone he didn’t care about in order to save a woman he still loves—and save Deadwood in the process.

The shot of Al scrubbing that floor didn’t just remind us of how many throats he’s slit. (He’s so experienced he’s been known to lecture employees on their scrubbing technique.) It suited the narrative of this episode, “Tell Him Something Pretty,” which complicated the show’s master narrative—barbarism giving way to civilization—and showed how the former never really gets pushed out by the latter, just enclosed and domesticated.