American Gods season 2 has come to an end, and left many disappointed fans in its wake. The behind-the-scenes difficulties, which involved original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green being fired over budgetary and creative disagreements, meant there was a long wait for American Gods season 2, and now that it's over ,it doesn't actually feel like much was accomplished.
Fans had big expectations after the American Gods season 1 finale, which saw the goddess Easter unleash her power to steal away the spring and return the country to winter. This happened amid a showdown between Mr. Wednesday and Mr. World, which made it feel like the imminent war was about to begin. However, by the end of American Gods season 2 the war still hasn't really begun, despite the fact that the spark that should have lit the flame (the attack on the diner that resulted in Zorya Vechernyaya's death) happened at the end of the season premiere. In the season finale Mr. World finally made another move, using New Media to paint Mr. Wednesday and his associates as terrorists, but we'll have to wait at least another year to see how that plays out.
In the interim, it felt like much of the season was based around keeping characters busy - or simply keeping them around. Salim and the Jinn, who appear in only one chapter of the novel, were made into recurring characters in the TV show, yet weren't really given anything to do. After a quick fetch quest to pick up the two halves of Mr. Wednesday's spear, Gungnir, they just sort of hung around the funeral home in Cairo. Other characters kept asking Salim why he was still there, and American Gods didn't really have an answer for that question. Similarly, Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) was given little to do beyond her role in the season premiere.
It's impossible to separate the challenges of American Gods season 2 from the difficulties of its production. For starters, Kristin Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson both decided not to reprise their roles after Fuller and Green left, which meant that the show was forced to drop the plotline of Easter destroying spring and reinvent Media, one of the most highly-praised aspects of season 1, as New Media. Played by Kahyun Kim, New Media is bubbly and shallow and easily bored, which certainly fits with the online culture she's supposed to represent, but also makes her grating as a character. And as with the established characters, it felt like American Gods was struggling to figure out what to do with her - at one point resorting to a bizarre tentacle sex scene between New Media and the all-seeing god Argus.
Where American Gods season 2 really shone was in its flashbacks and Coming to America stories. A visit to the past to discover what happened to Mr. Wednesday's son, Thor, was a highlight of the season, as was the following episode, which explored Mad Sweeney's history and gave the character a truly epic send-off. In isolation, those sequences still make the show worth watching (Ian McShane's melancholy rendition of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" was a well-placed ode to the central concept of gods whose glory days are in the past) - but things dragged whenever we returned to the present day.
Much of the season was spent tracking down Gungnir and getting it repaired, so while Mad Sweeney taking the weapon into the Horde was undoubtedly a great moment for the character, it also set the season's progress back to near zero. A more restricted budget meant that much of the season was confined to the funeral home in Cairo, with characters milling about and making conversation (and Bilquis using a funeral as an opportunity to gather some precious worship). Overall it felt like the production problems had resulted in American Gods spending a season spinning its wheels.
American Gods has been renewed for a third season, with new showrunner Charles Eglee taking over, so hopefully it will be able to regain its forward momentum. Season 2 wasn't outright bad, after all - just somewhat directionless. Now that Shadow and the others have been forced back onto the road, perhaps they'll finally be able to decide where they're going.