Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 5. Not seen American Gods? Read our spoiler-free review of the first two episodes here.
Not that the previous four episodes of American Gods were lacking in flirtation with horror, but Episode 5, Lemon Scented You, is the show’s most showily spooky outing to date. David Slade, at the helm for the first three episodes, has numerous horror films on his resume, but Episode 5’s director, Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice and, like Slade, a Hannibal alumni), gets a lot of body horror moments to play with, from reanimated Laura’s interactions with Shadow, Mad Sweeney and one unlucky morgue employee, to the squirm-inducing contortions that various police officers find themselves in after an encounter with the New Gods. Oh, and a sentient tree grows up through a corpse and tries to kill Shadow – Groot, why have you forsaken us?
While creepiness may be in abundance in Lemon Scented You, there are also some of the show’s biggest laughs so far, primarily in the confrontation between Laura and Mad Sweeney (“You’re an asshole, Dead Wife”). The super-powered revenant isn’t budging at the leprechaun’s insistence that she return his unintentionally bequeathed magic coin, mainly because it’s what’s keeping her alive. Sweeney’s description of the fate that will eventually befall Laura once her body starts properly decomposing promises a more consistent element of body horror going forward (and even more time in the makeup chair for Emily Browning, no doubt), although the level of detail also makes one wonder whether Sweeney’s accidentally resurrected someone before.
Speaking of details, the episode’s scattered with a few delightful nods to other media, largely through the character of, well, Media. Gillian Anderson returns in the guise of Marilyn Monroe, but it’s her David Bowie impression, while tearing down Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), that’s her episode highlight, with perfect Bowie mannerisms and some enjoyable nods to the artist’s work: there’s the Life on Mars video outfit and hair she’s sporting, but also a cute reference to Cat People (Putting Out Fire).
Wednesday seems adamant to put out fire with gasoline, initially shook up after encountering the leader of the New Gods but remaining persistent with his goals. After being third-billed for four prior episodes without an on-screen appearance, Crispin Glover’s Mr. World makes his grand entrance, with tiles lighting up under his feet in a surprising homage to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean video. Glover brings his trademark intensity and menace to the part, with a detectable rage simmering under outward polish and quiet line delivery.
He seems to know everything about Shadow, including his blood type and the face he apparently makes when he masturbates, although there seems to be one thing he’s missed while in the interrogation room with Shadow and Wednesday. Before Mr. World, Media and Technical Boy enter the room, a spider that Wednesday tells Shadow is a friend is assisting with breaking them out of their handcuffs. Viewers will recognise this as Anansi from Episode 2’s opening vignette, whose human form (Orlando Jones) we’ll presumably see again in Episode 6. But it seems a little odd that, for all of Mr. World’s knowledge, he doesn’t address or seem to notice that there’s another Old God in the room with them. Time will tell whether that’s a deliberate script choice to undermine the New Gods’ projected superiority or just a plot hole…
American Gods is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. You can watch American Gods online every Monday, with new episodes arriving within 24 hours of their US broadcast.