Starz’ sixth episode of American Gods season one begins with a prayer being said as Hispanic men, women, and children prepare to illegally cross into the United States at night. They’re warned the river’s current is strong and they proceed with caution. As they emerge from the river, the first to make the crossing thanks the Lord for guiding them to safety. However, one man who isn’t a strong swimmer lags behind and begins to sink. A stranger pulls him up and once on shore, the group of immigrants watch as this stranger walks on water to join them on the sand. They believe he’s Jesus Christ, however before they can react men in trucks with shotguns arrive and begin firing into the crowd.
Many of the immigrants are shot by a man whose shotgun is engraved with the words “Thy Kingdom Come.” Jesus holds out his hand asking for the killers to stop firing, and he’s shot through his palms. Another bullet pierces his heart and he falls to the ground on his back with his arms splayed out to his sides. As the camera pulls back, a crown of thorns appears on his head and his position resembles Christ on the Cross.
Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) have escaped the police station and are walking down the middle of the road. Shadow demands to know how someone floated into the interrogation room and why they massacred the cops at the station. Plus, Shadow would like to know why Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree stabbed him. Mr. Wednesday asks what he believed he saw and then explains in truth it was a sacrifice to the New Gods. They then engage in a discussion about what came first, gods or people who believed in them. Mr. Wednesday won’t explain who he is because he thinks Shadow wouldn’t believe him.
Shadow seizes this opportunity to confess he saw Laura in his motel room and that she’s back from the dead. They return to the motel but Laura’s no longer there. Mr. Wednesday suggests they leave and wonders if maybe Laura was just a ghost. Crows watch from the motel’s sign as Mr. Wednesday and Shadow debate their next course of action. Shadow continues to swear Laura was solid and she kissed him, and Mr. Wednesday advises him the dead don’t usually return without a purpose.
As Mr. Wednesday pulls out of the motel parking lot with Shadow in the passenger seat, he notices Laura (Emily Browning) chasing the car. He cranks up the radio so Shadow doesn’t hear her call out for them to stop.
Laura storms into the motel lobby because she can’t find her car. The clerk tells her the cops towed the dead woman’s car and she asks why the police aren’t still at the motel investigating the crime scene. Before the clerk can answer, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) arrives and matter-of-factly reveals the cops are dead.
Laura asks Mad Sweeney for a ride and in exchange she breaks the handcuffs that are still in place behind his back. He steals a taxi while Laura moans and complains about his choice of getaway vehicle. He keeps calling her “dead wife” and explains he’ll only be able to get his coin back from her if she’s resurrected, like his friend Jesus. If she doesn’t want to turn into soup, she’ll do as he says. When he sarcastically suggests she put that on her scales and weigh it, Laura desperately wants to know what exactly he is. He admits he’s a leprechaun but any further explanation is halted by the appearance of the taxi driver who has a gun and demands Mad Sweeney stop trying to steal his cab. The driver is Salim (Omid Abtahi) who’s had the cab since his encounter with a Jinn.
Salim asks if Mad Sweeney’s seen the Jinn, and Mad Sweeney says he’ll take him to the Jinn if Salim drives them to Kentucky. Mad Sweeney knows where there’s a murder of gods, demi and otherwise, and he’ll tell Salim their location as soon as they’re in Kentucky.
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow discuss Laura while on the road, with Mr. Wednesday claiming he knows a charm that can remove grief. Shadow asks Mr. Wednesday if he knows a charm that can stop bleeding and only then does Mr. Wednesday notice the horrible wound in Shadow’s stomach made by the tree branch. Something inside the wound moves and Shadow freaks out. They step outside the car and up to the headlights so Mr. Wednesday can see what’s going on. Mr. Wednesday cradles Shadow from behind as he places his left hand directly on the wound. Shadow screams and Mr. Wednesday removes the pain as he works on removing the living branch from inside of Shadow.
Salim drives and talks about what scares him, but Laura barely pays attention. Mad Sweeney, however, is getting annoyed. From the backseat he says, “I’m scared you’re never going to shut the flapping hole of yours. I’m sitting back here having a f*cking anxiety attack because I am genuinely terrified that you are never going to shut the f*ck up.”
After his mini-rant, Mad Sweeney looks at the taxi driver’s ID that’s on display, and Salim confesses he never met the real driver of the cap. He also explains he’s not sure his name is even Salim anymore after encountering the Jinn.
Laura gets a bit nostalgic for all the things she’ll never do anymore and when she lights up, Salim tells her either she or the cigarette smell dead. She confirms she’s dead and this is her afterlife. Salim reveals he prays he finds the Jinn because they “knew” each other, the Jinn’s his afterlife, and he wants to know more about him.
When Mad Sweeney settles back in his seat to sleep, Laura pulls on the steering wheel, urging Salim to alter their destination and head toward Indiana.
In Vulcan, Virginia, factory worker Richard Miller clocks in to start his day at work. He’s in a happy mood; we know this from his huge smile and from the song “Come On, Get Happy” playing as we’re introduced to this new character. He waves at his co-workers and even gives a high five to one man as he passes him by. Richard’s happy day comes to a quick and grisly end when he falls from a scaffolding into a boiling vat. The Vulcan plant makes bullets, and in fact their bullets were used to shoot the illegal immigrants and Jesus at the beginning of the episode.
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow drive into Vulcan, cruising down the surprisingly empty main street with its American flags hanging off every lamppost. Mr. Wednesday explains this place is dedicated to its own America as they drive past well-armed citizens in uniforms with Vulcan armbands. Mr. Wednesday says, “People will defend the warm, safe feeling their America gives them. They will defend it with bullets.”
They drive toward what looks like a parade but is actually a funeral (or a “celebration of sacrifice.”) Apparently, a couple of times a year an employee falls into the volcano (the vat) and the citizens gather to honor that person’s sacrifice.
After the crowd salutes Richard Miller by firing their guns into the sky, Vulcan (the town’s leader, not the town itself) dismisses them. The bullets rain down but come nowhere near hitting either Mr. Wednesday or Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen). They do, however, ding up Mr. Wednesday’s car.
Mr. Wednesday’s stopped in this town to recruit Vulcan for the upcoming war.
Laura and Salim arrive at Jack’s Crocodile Bar, and Mad Sweeney finally wakes up and realizes they’re not in Kentucky. They order drinks and Mad Sweeney makes fun of Laura’s rotting smell and her deathly pallor. When she reveals her heart beat one time when she kissed Shadow, Mad Sweeney makes her realize she must have tasted like cigarettes and vomit. For good measure he adds that Shadow would have known for sure that she was dead after that kiss and that Shadow’s now Mr. Wednesday’s man, not hers. He’s moved on and so should she, says Mad Sweeney.
Night falls and Shadow walks up to a tree and a noose pops down. Shadow wants to get going, but Vulcan – God of the Fire and the Forge – and Mr. Wednesday see no need to leave so soon.
Inside Vulcan’s home, they discuss sacrifices while Shadow looks out the window at the hanging tree. Vulcan talks about how he’s franchised his faith. “You are what you worship. God of the Volcano – those who worship hold the volcano in the palm of their hand,” says Vulcan, while holding a gun. “It’s filled with prayers in my name. The power of fire is fire power, not god but god-like. They believe. It fills their spirits every time they pull the trigger.”
Mr. Wednesday asks Vulcan to come with him to Wisconsin, and Vulcan’s actually surprisingly anxious to accompany him on his journey. Before they leave, Mr. Wednesday needs Vulcan to forge him a blade and Vulcan promises him one worthy of a god.
Shadow seems distracted and admits he’s thinking about Laura. Mr. Wednesday asks him to close his eyes and passes his hand in front of Shadow’s face, telling him to look for Laura. A light glows inside Shadow’s closed lid as he pictures Laura in Indiana outside of her mother’s house. No one can see her as she watches from the window. Mr. Wednesday asks if Shadow can let her fade away and Shadow doesn’t reply.
Laura returns to the cab and tells Salim to drive. They head off with Mad Sweeney still in the backseat.
Once more back to Virginia we go as Vulcan forges a sword for Mr. Wednesday. It’s gorgeous and has engravings on the handle, but Mr. Wednesday is more concerned about Vulcan’s desire for blood sacrifices than the blade. He’s figured out Vulcan has sold them out and that he’s not going with them to Wisconsin.
Vulcan’s been told it’s best to appear neutral and not fight the New Gods who he claims have put power back in his hands by giving him a gun. Whenever anyone fires a gun, it’s a prayer in his name. Vulcan adds that he doesn’t need his religion to be moral, and Mr. Wednesday says religions need martyrs. He takes Vulcan by surprise, saying, “You pledged allegiance to me and forged a blade and they killed you for it,” and then quickly slices Vulcan’s head off with his new blade. He kicks Vulcan into the fiery pit as Shadow is nearly sick to his stomach.
Mr. Wednesday whips out his penis and pisses on the vat, proclaiming he’s cursing “the whole f*cking thing.”
Meanwhile, the traveling threesome of Laura, Mad Sweeney, and Salim take a break from driving so that Salim can pray on the side of the road. Laura lights up again and flies are drawn to her as she watches Salim. Mad Sweeney heads back into the car as Salim and Laura agree life is great.
More on American Gods:
– American Gods Season 1 Episode 1 The Bone Orchard Recap
– American Gods Season 1 Episode 2 The Secret of Spoon Recap
– American Gods Season 1 Episode 3 Head Full of Snow Recap
– American Gods Season 1 Episode 4 Git Gone Recap
– American Gods Season 1 Episode 5 Lemon Scented You Recap
– American Gods Season 1 Episode 7 Prayer for Mad Sweeney Recap