‘American Gods’ Season 3 Episode 3 Recap: “Ashes and Demons”

American Gods Season 3 Episode 3
Emily Browning and Sochi Fried in ‘American Gods’ season 3 episode 3 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Starz’s American Gods season three episode three opens on a farm in West Pennsylvania, 1765. A mother and her two young daughters struggle to work the field, and one collapses in exhaustion. Later that night the mother follows instructions in the Rituals of the Ancients which includes slaughtering a pig. She removes its organs and spreads them in a circle as instructed. She prays before a shrine she’s built – again, as per the Rituals of the Ancients.

The cornhusk doll she’s made that sits atop a mound of dirt springs to life as the wind kicks up. The doll transforms into the goddess Demeter who places her palm on the mother’s head as all around them the fields fill with healthy crops.

Catching up with current events, Wednesday (Ian McShane) quizzes Cordelia (Ashley Reyes) as they prepare for his upcoming visit with an old friend. The news breaks that four members of the metal band Blood Death have been found dead. The lead singer, Johan Wengren (Marilyn Manson), was spared and he promises whoever did this will answer to the God of Justice in Asgard. Wednesday notes this is something he’ll deal with but not right now. Today’s all about looking snappy for his visit with Demeter.

We finally return to the story of Laura Moon (Emily Browning) who, as revealed in season three episode one, disintegrated after attempting to place Mad Sweeney’s coin in his dead hand. After a rough ride on some sort of crowded celestial transport she arrives at her destination and is given a pamphlet. The waiting room’s packed and when Laura makes it to the counter, the clerk doesn’t give direct answers to her questions. All he says is to acknowledge reality and wait for the blue card holders to be called. (Apparently your card color determines when your soul is called.)

In typical Laura Moon style, she decides acknowledging reality means she should acknowledge this place sucks donkey d*ck.

Growing impatient, Laura steals an orange card – the color that’s just been called. She hunts down the room number on the card but can’t find it. Beginning to panic, she checks the card again and the numbers change. It now indicates she should go to room 7125. Numbers on the doors also change and she opens one, only to find a cabinet full of Git Gone bottles.

Suddenly, the hallway is swallowed up behind her and she’s forced to take refuge in an empty room at the very end of the hallway. The room is set up like a theater auditorium. Two people introduced as 1940-ish usherette and the AV guy suddenly appear in the auditorium which is apparently part of purgatory. They’re her facilitators and again request she acknowledge reality.

The curtain opens and a screen appears. A DVD with her name plays and shows her dad as a young man checking into a hotel with her in tow. Laura steps into the screen in place of her younger self. This is a memory she claims to vividly remember, down to the fact she was angry with her mom for not accompanying them.

Laura was so upset with her mom that she set up her dad with a pretty stranger checking into the hotel at the same time. Dad and the stranger get all flirty after spending pool time alone together and wind up in the stranger’s room.

She steps back out of the screen, assuring the usherette everything went downhill from there. She wants her pass out of purgatory and is told no deal. Her story continues and she confirms her father screwed around a lot and so did her mom. Laura admits she followed in her father’s footsteps and then married Shadow. She screwed that up, died, and now she’s in purgatory.

She confesses she’s the architect of everything that went wrong in her life. She doesn’t believe these two can teach her anything and leaves the room, immediately falling into a pit filled with water. She’s only able to escape with a hand-up from AV guy. “What’s wrong with me?” she asks, genuinely upset.

Laura returns to watch the tape and it starts over again. This time she watches herself rather than stepping through the screen. It turns out her memories of the event were way off. Laura never said a word and it was the stranger and her dad who did all the flirting without her input. It was her dad who suggested she stay in the room so he could go to the pool with the woman without her. Laura did nothing wrong and didn’t facilitate her dad’s infidelity.

Usherette tells Laura she wasn’t the architect of everything wrong and that her parents should have protected her. They failed – not Laura.

It’s a hard lesson to absorb and one she wishes she knew when she was younger.

This time when she leaves the room everything is back to normal and the waiting room is filled with people. The crumpled brochure is on the ground and she actually looks it over instead of tossing it aside again.

Meanwhile in Lakeside, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) joins Marguerite (Lela Loren), Chief of Police Chad Mulligan (Eric Johnson), and others to help search for the missing shop clerk, Alison. Ann-Marie (Julia Sweeney) attempts to take over and passes out disposal cameras to the searchers, much to Chad’s chagrin. Chad advises the searchers to walk carefully and report anything that’s out of place.

A while later, Shadow’s waiting back at his borrowed car after spending time searching. Chad offers him a ride back into town since Marguerite’s still occupied in the field taking notes on the search. Chad stumbles his way through an apology about pulling Shadow in for questioning, claiming Lakeside isn’t “that kind” of town…you know, a place where racist cops assume a Black man is the most likely suspect. Shadow acknowledges that but replies, “Lakeside’s still in America, right?”

Thankfully, the radio interrupts and Chad doesn’t have to finish this uncomfortable conversation.

Cordelia drives Wednesday to Demeter’s place which turns out to be the Haven Glen Retreat. Wednesday suddenly remembers he should bring her a gift, opting for calla lilies as an offering. (Pig’s entrails were in the running).

A quick stop at the flower store later, Wednesday arrives for his visit with Demeter, calla lilies in hand. Janice the receptionist appears not to know who Wednesday’s asking about, but another resort worker reminds her she knows Demeter from Mount Olympus. He volunteers to take Wednesday to see her after he signs in.

Demeter (Blythe Danner) is relaxing with her fellow resort residents when Wednesday surprises her. (The worker explains the residents are there to escape from reality.) Demeter delivers a hearty slap to Wednesday’s face and demands he leave. He doesn’t and quickly learns she doesn’t own the place; she’s actually a patient at the facility.

Demeter turns her attention back to helping women learn how to make cornhusk dolls, effectively dismissing Wednesday.

Wednesday talks to the staff about getting Demeter released into his custody, but that can’t be arranged by the resort. He’s told he needs to speak with Larry Hutchinson, Demeter’s court-appointed conservator.

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

And once more to Lakeside we go where Shadow and Marguerite are bonding over books and tea. When he reveals he suffers from insomnia, she hands him a large book containing copies of the Lakeside City Journal from 2000-2004. Shadow jokes he can feel himself getting sleepy already.

Marguerite’s sure Alison will turn up.

A quick peek at what Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) is up to reveals she’s still not feeling well after absorbing Bill Sanders. She finds his phone and it’s full of messages from his family asking if he’s okay.

Shadow returns to his apartment and looks through the newspapers while eating dinner. He nods off while reading about a missing boy. He dreams of being in a grocery store where magazine covers depicting Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Nina Simone, and Angela Davis speak to him. The lights in the store flicker as freezer doors ice up. He clears away the frost to expose three women dancing and beckoning him to join them. He does and is immediately absorbed into a frigid winter storm.

Cordelia forges a marriage certificate to get Demeter out of the resort, asking Wednesday if this woman is actually his wife. Wednesday swears she is and lavishes compliments on the goddess. Their conversation’s broken up by a call from Shadow.

Shadow jumps straight to the point, despite Wednesday’s attempts at small talk, asking where to find Bilquis. Wednesday knows it’s concerning Shadow’s dreams and recites her address in New York City. Shadow hangs up without saying thanks or goodbye.

Wednesday delivers the certificate to Larry Hutchinson (Sebastian Spence), explaining that in their time apart a “few screws went loose.” Larry lets slip that Demeter’s financially well off and Wednesday beams with pride. (And with the prospect of getting his hands on money to fund his war.)

Shadow says goodbye to Marguerite before taking off for NYC, and she shocks him by pulling him in for a hug. As he’s walking out the door, he tests his powers by placing his hand on a photo of Alison in the paper. Nothing happens while he’s touching it but when he leaves the headline changes to read “Bloody scarf found in the woods.”

Wednesday gives Demeter a gorgeous outfit and chocolates, neither of which she wants. He explains they need to convince a judge they’re married and that he can take care of her so they can get rid of Larry Hutchinson the conservator.

Demeter declares she doesn’t want to leave the resort. People there accept she’s a goddess and she loves being worshipped. Wednesday reminds her it’s a mental institution and she needs to get off her meds and remember she’s a god.

Demeter has Wednesday figured out and knows he’s after her money – money he needs for his war.

Season three episode three ends with Shadow arriving at Bilquis’ place to discover it’s been ransacked. There’s a large pool of blood on the floor along with a bloody blade. There’s no immediate sign of Bilquis, however Technical Boy is seated nearby, grunting in pain.