‘American Gods’ Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: “A Winter’s Tale”

American Gods Season 3 Episode 1
Ricky Whittle stars in ‘American Gods’ season 3 episode 1 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Season two of Starz’s American Gods ended with my favorite character, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), dead at the hands of Shadow Moon who, in a shocking twist, learned he’s actually Odin’s son. (Those familiar with Neil Gaiman’s book weren’t surprised by this turn of events.) Laura Moon pledged to kill Wednesday while Shadow found himself on the run, the target of a massive manhunt by law enforcement in connection to the Bellefontaine massacre.

Season three episode one, “A Winter’s Tale,” begins with…of all things…a ballet dance. The dance devolves into a performance by Viking death metal band Blood Death in honor of the Allfather. Odin (Ian McShane) rises to cheers from the crowd as lead singer Johan Wengren (Marilyn Manson) demands the crowd spill blood in his name. Odin leaps from a balcony and crowd surfs as the performance continues.

His followers chant “Odin” and he screams his approval and acceptance of their devotion.

Elsewhere, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) has adopted the name Mike Ainsel and is sporting a glorious full head of hair. Although he’s new to the job at Northwest Foundry Steel Casting and Machinery, his co-workers seem to like him and his boss even offers him a promotion. This new job is a government contract which means a thorough background investigation is required. Shadow knows he’ll be in deep trouble if his real identity is discovered.

Laura Moon (Emily Browning) pays a visit to Maman Brigitte (Hani Furstenberg) and learns Baron Samedi is out of town. Laura’s looking for a way to bring Mad Sweeney back from the dead. Although she claims she’s only doing so to obtain something from his horde so she can get revenge on Wednesday, we know it’s because she genuinely likes the towering leprechaun. Unfortunately, Maman says resurrecting a god isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Although she can’t really help Laura, Maman’s happy to announce Mad Sweeney’s dead body is in good shape.

Laura fumes as she wheels Mad Sweeney’s body away in a shopping cart covered by a tarp. She’s not exactly gentle when she pushes the cart down a short flight of stairs. Mad Sweeney’s body – which is in fact in great shape – flies out and lands in the dirt. She carries him into a crypt, arranges his body, and then writes “Get Spear Kill Odin” in marker on Mad Sweeney’s forehead. She then slices open her abdomen and retrieves Sweeney’s coin.

Her strength is waning as she places the coin in Sweeney’s hand. Unfortunately, it falls to the floor and rolls away as Laura’s body disintegrates into dust. (I screamed “No!” watching this as Laura Moon and Mad Sweeney are my favorite American Gods tag team.)

Wednesday reenters Shadow’s life, something which pisses off Shadow to no end. Wednesday reminds “Mike” he was supposed to head to Lakeside, Wisconsin, and Shadow reminds him he’s no longer his man. Shadow, who’s figured out Wednesday set it up so that he’d have to pass a background check, warns Wednesday to stay away. He’s done playing Odin’s games.

Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) slips into a different form. He appears to his minions gathered around a conference table as Ms. World (Dominique Jackson) and they’re impressed with his new form. Ms. World’s unhappy about the social media response of her team which was supposed to ensure the first components of their new project (building a virtual church of the mind) trends on all platforms. Instead, video of Odin crowd-surfing is generating all the buzz.

Ms. World demands her team make people pay attention to them, not Odin and the Old Gods. They need to do more to control people’s minds.

Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) arrives at the meeting and quickly expresses his approval of Mr. World’s new look. She reminds everyone that Wednesday becomes more powerful with all this attention. Ms. World also warns her minions Wednesday only needs to throw a lightning bolt into the power grid to take them offline. One minion makes the mistake of disagreeing with her and she bashes him to smithereens with a bat. Blood squirts everywhere as he’s taken permanently offline.

She warns her remaining underlings they will suffer the same fate if they disappoint her.

Technical Boy asks for a moment alone, confessing he’s concerned Ms. World’s angry with him. She ticks off a list of things he’s done wrong including basically declaring war on Shadow Moon, messing up his own upgrade, and not delivering Bilquis. Technical Boy explains he’s playing it slow with Bilquis but remains optimistic she’ll come around to their side.

Ms. World orders Technical Boy to finish up with Bilquis as well as explain why he hasn’t procured funding for their project. Technical Boy says it’s because of the huge expense of creating a “digital pipeline direct into every cerebral cortex” and that bankers don’t want to lend $20 million to a yet-to-be-developed technology that will alter humans forever. Plus, he believes asking the humans for money for the project makes them appear weak.

Ms. World reminds him the humans need to be convinced to fork over the funds in order to feel like they’re the ones actually building the project. Once it’s done, the New Gods will control it and wipe out the Old Gods. She adds that while the other Old Gods might not be powerful enough to hurt them, Wednesday is. Ms. World declares she’s taking care of that problem by taking Wednesday out of the game.

And back to the Shadow Moon story we go… Shadow is returning home when he spots cops knocking at his door. Wednesday’s parked nearby and Shadow flips him off as he hurriedly walks away. Shadow winds up at a diner and Wednesday follows, showing up uninvited at his table. Wednesday offers Shadow the opportunity to pepper him with questions, and Shadow’s first inquiry is to whether he’s truly his father. Wednesday, as usual, talks in circles and his answer angers Shadow.

Wednesday admits his relationship with Shadow’s mom was a mistake because she was too young. Wednesday confirms he did love her but couldn’t follow her when she left America. If he left, he would cease to exist per the rules of gods who come to America. Wednesday attempts to convince Shadow he’s just trying to save the human race, but, again, Shadow’s having none of this.

Wednesday calls the New Gods parasites that allow humans to indulge in their most destructive instincts. Shadow doesn’t know whether to believe Wednesday or not, but he’s done with this conversation for now. As he attempts to leave, Wednesday grabs his arm and tells him he needs him. Shadow asks why and Wednesday replies, “Because war is coming, Shadow, and if I don’t have the loyalty of my own son, how can I expect support from anyone else?”

Wednesday hits the road with Shadow in an old RV which he confirms is Betty in a new form. They’re on the road to see Wisakedjak (aka Whiskey Jack), a Native American deity who doesn’t exactly get along with Wednesday. They haven’t been on speaking terms in hundreds of years – a fact that doesn’t surprise Shadow in the least.

As they drive, Wednesday answers Shadow’s questions about the New Gods. He confirms they’re both dangerous and powerful but doesn’t sound worried. Shadow turns his questions to more personal topics, asking again who he is. Wednesday replies, “You are the son of the Allfather so walk this path with me and greatness shall be yours.”

Wednesday doesn’t actually reply when Shadow asks if he’s a god, too. Instead, he turns his attention to the road where up ahead minions sent by Ms. World have set up a barricade across the road. He momentarily hits the brakes before speeding ahead, rising from the driver’s seat and instructing Shadow to take over.

Those set up on the road prepare to fire but Wednesday concentrates, symbols appear, and he instructs Shadow to take a hard right. Shadow hesitates and Wednesday suggests he trust himself on this. Shadow speeds forward a few yards more and then turns the wheel to the right. The RV’s lit by blinding yellow light and appears on the verge of overturning. It settles and Shadow steps out into another dimension lit up like the aurora borealis.

Half an hour into season three episode one we catch up with Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) as she’s scrolling through her Sheba app looking at available men. None seem to be to her liking. Technical Boy shows up and although she attempts to send him away, he pushes his way into her home. After reminding Bilquis he rescued her from sleeping in doorways, he asks that she join the New Gods and their war against Wednesday. Bilquis refuses.

Although Wednesday didn’t help her when she was down, Bilquis is fully aware Technical Boy did so only to get her on the New Gods’ side. Bilquis has no intention of going to war ever again.

American Gods Season 3 Episode 1
Graham Greene and Ricky Whittle in ‘American Gods’ season 3 episode 1 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Wednesday and Shadow arrive back at the RV, with Wednesday warning that once they enter it it’s easy to get lost. They step through and are transported into a forest. Birds chirp, the sun shines through tall trees, and up ahead Shadow spots a man by a campfire. It’s Wisakedjak (Graham Greene) and he announces he’s been waiting for Shadow. Wednesday’s nowhere to be seen and Wisakedjak tells Shadow Wednesday’s on the wrong path.

“The twilight of the gods and the end of humanity are at hand. But you have a destiny to fulfill so don’t screw it up or everything will come to an end,” says Wisakedjak. He admits he doesn’t know what that destiny is but there are those who do.

Shadow looks into the flames and sees figures but doesn’t know who they are. Wisakedjak says once Shadow’s head and heart are in alignment, he will know the answer to their identities.

Wednesday shows up and Wisakedjak tells him he’s not welcome there. That doesn’t deter Wednesday from joining them and discussing their upcoming war against the New Gods. Wisakedjak remains angry that Odin’s followers slaughtered his people and stole their land, blaming Wednesday for allowing that to happen.

Wednesday wants to mend fences but Wisakedjak refuses to agree to join his war.

Wednesday and Shadow exit the RV, stepping out into a chilly North Dakota. An old VW van pulls up with Cordelia (Ashley Reyes) driving. Wednesday introduces her as his fiancé and she announces they should hit the road immediately to Utah to beat the storm. Shadow’s confused about their choice of destination and Wednesday explains they’re off to see another old friend of his. Wednesday offers Shadow a ride, and Shadow accepts but says he’ll find his own place to lay low. Wednesday suggests Lakeside, telling him there’s a paid apartment waiting for him there and he’ll be safe.

Shadow declines and again asserts he’s going to make his own way. Wednesday’s okay with that and agrees to drop Shadow off at the nearest bus stop. Although he turned down Lakeside, Wednesday tries to hand him the apartment keys just in case Shadow changes his mind.

They hop into the van and Shadow instantly recognizes it as a new version of Betty. “Same soul, different chassis,” confirms Wednesday.

They drop Shadow off at a bus station after dark. His attempts to buy a ticket to, well, anywhere other than Lakeside don’t work. Every bus is canceled to Chicago, Kansas City, Springfield, etc. etc. etc. Shadow chuckles as he realizes he’s being forced to head to Lakeside against his will and that Wednesday put the apartment key in his jacket.

Hours later Shadow arrives in Lakeside and heads into the general store. The clerk can’t believe his coat is so thin and offers him a cup of coffee to warm up. She’s super friendly and overly talkative, and even calls up a friend – Chad Mulligan – to take him to Gorman Street. The woman introduces herself as Ann-Marie Hinzelmann (Julia Sweeney), and when Chad (Eric Johnson) arrives it turns out he’s not just helping out with taxi service – he’s also the local cop.

Chad gives Shadow a history of the town as he drives him to Gorman Street. After that small talk ends, he begins questioning Shadow about his visit to Lakeside. Shadow explains his uncle rented a place and he’s planning on checking out the town out for a few days.

Chad issues a friendly warning about Shadow’s neighbor. The neighbor, Marguerite Olsen, runs the paper and Shadow needs to watch what he says in front of her.

Chad drops him off and Shadow tries the door to his apartment. The key breaks off and he heads outside to look for another way in. As he’s trying a door, someone comes up behind him and puts a gun to his head.