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American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

Tonight’s episode of American Gods, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney,” pivots on another extended flashback, illustrating once again that the series is concerned less with tending to a singular narrative than with offering riffs on a theme. The show’s first season is nearly over, and we’re nowhere near the end of the story told by Neil Gaiman’s source novel, which also allowed for thematically intertwined tangents. The loose structure works better in the series than the book though, as the former has a decadent and melodramatic style that renders the plot nearly beside the point.

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.

The Wire and the Art of the Credit Sequence

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<em>The Wire</em> and the Art of the Credit Sequence
<em>The Wire</em> and the Art of the Credit Sequence

walk the straight and narrow track.”

—Tom Waits, “Way Down in the Hole”

The Wire returned Sunday, September 10th after two years in limbo, a stretch equal to the last Sopranos hiatus. Yet while The Sopranos’ production gap was seen as an affront to the show’s fan base, The Wire languished in relative silence. Its largely non-white cast, tangled narrative, and bleak assessment of public institutions pretty much guaranteed a minuscule audience so it was unsurprising that HBO chairman Chris Albrecht shelved the drama after three seasons and then told TV columnists, “I have received a telegram from every viewer of The Wire—all 250 of them.”

After lobbying by fans and pitches by Simon, Albrecht reconsidered and gave the show another year (and the love continues: the show was recently picked up for a fifth and final season). Having viewed Season Four in its entirety, it seems to me that two years away from Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) and the gang may have actually been beneficial, giving the writers the necessary time to think about The Wire’s vision of America and how each season progressively enlarges the scope of that vision.

Over time, the show has evolved from cops versus gang-bangers into a look at the similarities between organizations on both sides of the law, and how their struggle affects individual citizens and failing public institutions. Each main plot and subplot affirms that every part of society is somehow connected to every other part—that we’re all part of the same (to use a phrase that often crops up in discussions of Deadwood) “human organism.”