‘American Gods’ Season 2 Episode 4 Recap: “The Greatest Story Ever Told”

American Gods Season 2 Episode 4
Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle in ‘American Gods’ season 2 episode 4 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Starz’s season two of American Gods episode four begins with a young boy’s game of Pong interrupted to practice piano. His father stands nearby, hoping his love of music and appreciation for its beauty and meaning while have an impact on his son. A few years later the same boy, now a teenager, stops playing Game Boy to listen as his father plays a record. It’s a composition by Bach and his dad relates the story that even though Bach had just learned his wife died, the music shattered his own rules as the joy came through the notes.

In college, the now young adult man is writing a computer program when he hears Bach from another room. He’s inspired to write a new program that will allow the computer to write original songs that mimic Bach’s cantatas. He gives his program permission to shatter the rules and the result is a beautiful piece of music. He plays it for his father who’s overjoyed his song composed a piece that honors Bach.

The young man explains the computer wrote it, and his father’s devastated. Can you die of a broken heart? It appears so, as the next scene is of the father’s funeral. As the music plays, we see Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) emerging into focus behind the coffin during the church service. The man, it turns out, is Tech Boy’s first worshipper.

Fast-forward to current events and thunder roars as Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) has a restless night. A woman appears in his room and although he warns her Laura will kill her, they begin passionately kissing and making love. Shadow jerks forward in mid-sex, confused and concerned but unable or unwilling to stop.

Lovemaking complete, the woman tells him to rest and let “her” go. He falls asleep, waking the next morning to a cat meowing. He examines his body and finds scratch marks.

Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) is preparing to perform an autopsy on a dead body when Shadow Moon begins his day. Shadow can’t adequately describe his night, so he remains mute. He asks if this is a coroner’s office and is given an explanation of his work by Mr. Ibis. As Mr. Ibis speaks, the cat joins them and meows.

Shadow finally asks if there’s anyone else around and is told Laura’s not there. Wednesday (Ian McShane) arrives but watches from the doorway, silently indicating Mr. Ibis should deny knowing Laura’s whereabouts. Mr. Ibis warns Shadow dead people who return are different. Laura isn’t who she was when she was alive.

Wednesday finally makes his presence known, telling Shadow it’s time to hit the road. It’s obvious by Wednesday’s references to someone licking Shadow’s wounds that he knows Shadow had a visitor during the night. He also continues to assure Shadow that he doesn’t need to be with his wife any longer. Monogamy is a thing of the past.

They’re off to St. Louis to gather Money and after they pull away, Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) enters Mr. Ibis’ funeral home. She’s searching for Shadow Moon and a woman mourning the death of her mother apologizes for her loss, misunderstanding Bilquis’ presence. They discuss the woman’s faith and Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) interrupts, quoting Maya Angelou: “A woman’s heart should be hidden in God so that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”

Nancy reminds Bilquis of her shifting allegiances in this upcoming war, and she reveals World’s murder of Zorya Vechernyaya tipped the scale toward the Old Gods at this point.

Meanwhile, New Media (Kahyun Kim) believes she and Technical Boy need each other, but he only laughs in response. She confesses she can still feel Media inside of her and wonders if future versions will be able to also feel the past versions of Media. Tech Boy attempts to explain that unlike this new version, the other version of Media understood she’s a god.

They fall silent as Mr. World (Crispin Glover) arrives. He summoned them to discuss the death of Argus and when Tech Boy tries to label it a setback, Mr. World describes his current situation as “blindness” and demands his sight be restored. Tech Boy whimpers as Mr. World sinks his fingers into his eyes, begging Mr. World to trust that he’ll provide an upgrade to fill the void.

Wednesday and Shadow arrive in St. Louis and during lunch in a diner Wednesday uses a one-dollar bill to describe what they’re after. The $1 is only a piece of paper that’s importance comes from the story attached to it. We use this paper to get what we want, and what Wednesday wants now is to get Money on their side in the impending war. Calling Money “the greatest story ever told,” Wednesday is sure they can beat Mr. World and the New Gods with Money’s help.

Shadow’s surprised to see Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey) serving them coffee, but she explains she works at every Motel America. Wednesday reveals Mama-Ji and her followers own half the motels in America. They discuss past skirmishes as Wednesday tries to get her to admit she yearns for more battles.

Tech Boy tries to redeem himself with a visit to the now mature young man who wrote the Bach program. Tech Boy tells the man, who we only know as CEO, it’s “time to get back in the game.”

Back at the funeral home, Mr. Ibis lavishes compliments on Bilquis. Nancy isn’t as friendly, calling her out on her switching alliances. Nancy asks why Mr. Ibis didn’t ride the carousel and he explains he prefers peace. “I am old as dirt and I’ve seen things, as you have. Why do you bring this rage to my doorstep?” asks Mr. Ibis.

Peace is an imperfect idea, and Nancy asks Bilquis what the New Gods are giving and what they’re taking away. She doesn’t answer his question so Nancy continues, calling out the worst behaviors of humans (slavery, human trafficking, the Alt-Right). Nancy describes the snatching of young girls with colored skin once every 30 seconds, and the pipeline that’s been built to “take our children from school to prison quicker than a cut can bleed.”

He adds that those who are lucky go from the school to the NFL where they’re not allowed to even take a knee. He speaks of their programming from birth with bad schools, corrupt police, and gun violence. Those with melanin in their skins are subjected to trauma after trauma. (Orlando Jones is fabulous in this scene.) Mr. Ibis and Bilquis understand and each feel this shared pain, but Mr. Ibis still doesn’t believe war is the answer.

Nancy asks Bilquis if over all these years she’s seen any progress. he reminds them there are three African gods in this room and they are quite powerful, yet two of these gods campaign for restraint. Nancy says Wednesday would not avenge their deaths, but he is avenging Zorya’s – a white woman. Bilquis is moved by Nancy’s words, knowing he and Mr. Ibis see her for the goddess she is – unlike contemporary men. She kisses him and asks what he proposes. Mr. Ibis interrupts, proposing they have a drink. As they walk away, Nancy whispers, “A king needs a queen.”

American Gods Season 2 Episode 4
Crispin Glover and Bruce Langley in ‘American Gods’ season 2 episode 4 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Tech Boy explains that while Argus had a lot of eyes, courtesy of his disciples he now has eyes everywhere. Tech Boy needs CEO (Andrew Koji) to help but CEO wants a demonstration. Mr. World surprises Tech Boy with his presence. Mr. World believes Tech Boy has argued a case for his own obsolescence and commands Tech Boy to show CEO what he asked. When Tech Boy won’t, Mr. World steps in and provides a demonstration. Tech Boy loses his first worshipper and he’s confused by what took place. “It looks like he’s forgotten about you,” says Mr. World, matter-of-factly.

Tech Boy races through the building next to walls that repeat the word “delete” as he passes by. The exit won’t open and he’s absorbed into the system.

Mr. World walks past the reception area and the three Girl Scout types (known in the series as Penny Girls) are seated in the waiting area. They ask if he wants to buy candy and he claims he doesn’t need to. “I retired a god today,” he explains. “Access granted,” they chime in response.

At the diner, Wednesday also speaks with the Penny Scouts. He introduces himself as Odin and introduces Shadow Moon. Unfortunately, Shadow Moon is denied access to Money because that’s not the name on his birth certificate. He also has never established credit and doesn’t have an ATM card. Wednesday wonders how that can be, and Shadow says it’s because Laura took care of all that.

Both Shadow and Wednesday are denied a meeting with Money. Wednesday, frustrated, demands Shadow try to buy some candy but the girls ignore him. Shadow’s had enough of this and once again asks Wednesday why he chose him as his bodyguard/traveling companion. Wednesday angrily asserts it was because Shadow meant nothing to anyone, dead or alive. No one cared if he lived or died. “You have no value, no worth, in this world or the next,” says Wednesday.

Shadow confesses he’s been trying to figure it out since they met and the only thing that makes sense is that he does have value to Wednesday. He doesn’t understand why Wednesday doesn’t want to tell him the truth.

Mr. World pops into the Motel America café and has a face-to-face with Mr. Wednesday. Mr. World apologizes for killing Zorya and reminds Wednesday he should have expected consequences from gathering the Old Gods to go to war. “Mess with my people, expect disproportionate consequences,” warns Wednesday.

Mr. World asks Wednesday if he realizes it’s no longer cash or gold that rules the world, it’s zeroes and ones – digitized and encrypted. Wednesday snarls, “Money loves profit, and war is always profitable. It also moves people more than anything else.”

Mr. World tells Wednesday his kind are dying, and at that point Money (William Sanderson, reuniting with his Deadwood co-star Ian McShane) – who has been quietly sitting in a booth in the diner – tells them he’s heard enough. He doesn’t make emotional investments because there’s too much risk and not enough opportunities. Money will not join either side in this war.

After Money leaves, Wednesday assures Mr. World he’s going to win this war because people like him more. Mr. World grins and says he prefers to be feared. Before leaving he tells Wednesday he’s not his enemy.

The diner in the Motel America returns to normal, filled with customers eating and employees hard at work. The episode wraps up without a sign of Mad Sweeney, Laura Moon, Salim, or The Jinn.