American Gods Review: Donar the Great


I have so many mixed feeling about American Gods Season 2 Episode 6.


On the one hand, it was an entertaining weaving of past and present, showing us how Wednesday’s single-minded drive for power has spanned generations.


On the other hand, not a lot happened to further the story in the present-day.


Gungnir’s runes get recharged. Cool. Was it worth an entire episode for that one piece of war prep?


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Returning to my first point, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of glitz and glamor, especially when it’s done well.


The Regius Theater is the perfect backdrop for the sort of fast-talking, crowd-pleaser the All-Father likes to be.


And while he and Donar and Mr. Nancy are ancient, there are origin stories sprouting up around them.


First, we have the fresh-faced Technical Boy, shining like a new penny in the gutter, recently birthed by the invention and adoption of telephone and television.


Of course, he’s every bit as ascerbic and snarky as he was when Mr. World “retired” him on American Gods Season 2 Episode 4.

Your bubbly is flat. Your cherries are stale. And your girls? Are cheaper than your suit.

Technical Boy


Here we see him as he’s just feeling out his power and his interest in Miss Columbia is that of an artist finding his first muse.


And there’s our second origin story as I have no doubt at all that once Miss Columbia puts herself in Technical Boy’s hands, he shapes her into Media.


It just makes sense that technology creates media, doesn’t it? Printing presses churned out newpapers. Radios gave rise to broadcast shows. Television and movies created celebrities.


Miss Columbia, as the original American pioneering spirit, is the perfect choice to inspire the troops as they face the next World War. Technical Boy might not have a lot of respect for his elders but has a great eye for potential.

America needs a goddess of substance to take us into the fight.

Technical Boy


It also drives home exactly how deep a betrayal it was for New Media to usurp his position.


Mr. World’s comment about a “new friend” the “fellows in the Valley” are working on is intriguing. (Honestly, blink and you’ll miss it. Crispin Glover is taking subtle delivery to a whole new, almost imperceptible, level.)


Assuming “the Valley” is Silicon Valley, does this mean Technical Boy has been upgraded himself or possibly mashed-up with Argus in some way? 


Whether it’s a weapon or a new New God, there seems to be another player in the works.


In such a Wednesday-heavy episode, it would be remiss to not mention his utter consistency.


His tactics don’t vary much whether he’s dealing with Donar or Shadow, Nazis or Girl Scouts, Columbia or Laura.


He makes gestures of generosity — sending champagne to Technical Boy, buying copious candies from the Girl Scouts — if he knows there’s a power struggle ahead.


He offers seemingly-well-meaning advice to those he wants out of his way. To Laura, he promises to stave off the rot while he dangles a new life of worship in front of Miss Columbia.

Boy’s ship came in. I guess he’s busy building his immortality. That’s what you should do too. Manifest your own destiny.

Wednesday


The most noticeable similarity between the narratives of the past and present is his interest in separating his champions from their lovers/wives.


In Shadow’s case, he thought killing off Laura before Shadow got out of jail was a slam-dunk move. Best-laid plans and all that, I guess.


In the 1940s, he sets Donar up as the Nazis’ golden boy, feeding off the attention that the news and posters create, while driving a wedge between him and Columbia.


The difference is that Donar (aka Thor) is a god in his own right who recognizes his own value and worth.


As he grows in popularity through his strong-man competition wins, his god-value rises. But, unlike Daddy Grimnir, he’s not willing to hitch his wagon to any group willing to kowtow to him conditionally.

I won’t be their puppet. Humans serve us not the other way around.


It’s the increase in his power that allows him to break Gungnir when Wednesday challenges him. 


It’s that increased power that Wednesday mourns when Donar walks away, not the loss of a son.


Related: American Gods Season 2 — It’s All About Faith


No matter how pretty a song Al sings at the end about needing a dime, there is no sense that he has experienced anything more than a setback.


In the present-day, his mission to repair Gungnir is a fun throwback to the quests of the Greek and Roman heroes of myth. 


Usually those quests involved blinding a guard or acquiring a cloak of invisibility.


In a modern setting, all it takes a good old-fashioned con job.


I wonder if Shadow ever thought when he signed on as a driver/bodyguard that he’d be required to impersonate a federal agent while his boss posed as a rock ‘n’ roll loving bishop?


Still, it only took a bit of smooth talking (and a couple of guys willing to look like official muscle) and Dvalin got his Lou Reed jacket in the end.


We’ve seen Shadow in his scam mode a few times now and I’ve always wondered if his marks are particularly gullible or he’s supposed to be casting a glamor unintentionally because his pitches never fly for me.


In any case, the runes get zapped and Gungnir’s looking good (despite still being in two pieces). Mission accomplished.


And that brings me back to my mixed feelings about the episode.


In a season of only eight episodes, it seems ludicrous to spend an entire episode with only 20% of the main cast.


Although Mr. Nancy gets a couple of memorable scenes (and some great lines!) in the flashback, this was predominantly Wednesday’s stage with Shadow/Donar as a central prop for him to interact with.

I’m going to count to SEVEN! And I’m starting at FOUR!

Mr. Nancy


I’ll admit that I miss Bilquis most but Mr. Ibis, Mama-Ji, and the Jinn are also M.I.A.


Mad Sweeney and Laura probably need a cooling-off period after all that transpired on American Gods Season 2 Episode 5 but what about Salim and Ruby and Sam Blackcrow?


Mr. World and New Media made only a token appearance to drive home the fact that the runes being etched was an important development.

The war begins and nobody sees it. The storm lowers and nobody knows it.

Mr. World


I feel like the purpose of the episode is ambiguous and either it needs to be tied into the finale in some significant way or it gets written off as (very appealing) filler.


If it was trying to paint Wednesday/Grimnir as a more sympathetic character, a father who has lost a son and looking for someone to fill that hole, I’m not convinced.


Donar’s abandonment cost him the attention and audience worship he had been catering to. That, I believe, he felt loss for.


The fact that Donar was his son and he had betrayed him by letting Technical Boy lure Miss Columbia away? In his own words: “I regret nothing.”


If it was trying to draw parallels between the past and present conflicts, I’ll give it a passing mark. There were several interesting mirror moments in Wednesday’s relationship with Donar.


Related: Book to TV Adaptation — The Good, The Bad, and the WTH Were They Thinking?


If it was trying to pull a bit of a con job itself and keep us entertained with an episode long on story but short on costly special effects? Gold star.


When you watch American Gods online, applaud McShane’s performance all you want (he totally deserves it), it still leaves a LOT of logistical questions unanswered.

Shadow: I thought we were looking for dwarves?
Wednesday: We are. Someone built a mall over their center of power so they do what they have to to get by. In this case, retail.


Where did they find costumes and back-up actors for their con?


Who/what killed Donar? He was still a god. Were the bullets engraved that the one that killed Zorya? Also, who got his hammer when he died?


Who or what is Mr. World’s “new friend”?

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.



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