American Gods season 3, episode 1 recap – “A Winter’s Tale”

January 10, 2021 (Last updated: January 11, 2021)
Jonathon Wilson 0
Weekly TV
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“A Winter’s Tale” is as thematically relevant now as it’s ever going to be, bringing American Gods back to our screens just in time to ask us if there’s anything left worth believing in.

This recap of American Gods season 3, episode 1, “A Winter’s Tale”, contains spoilers.

There’s something to be said for a show quite unlike any other, and American Gods has always qualified. It still qualifies as of “A Winter’s Tale”, the third season premiere, which arrives in the wastelands of January but also right on time considering what it has to say about the current state of American media and demagoguery. It has wildly deviated from the source material at this point, for better and worse, but it also remains one of the most visually fascinating and thematically relevant shows airing right now. So, swings and roundabouts, in other words.

This opening episode, despite sparing some time for Laura’s efforts to try and revive Mad Sweeney and Technical Boy trying to convince Bilquis to join their side in the upcoming war at the urging of now-Ms. World, is very heavily focused on Shadow, found lying low under the alias of Mike Ainsel, and Mr. Wednesday, who’s on a tour of the U.S. in an effort to recruit all of his old acquaintances, almost all of whom hate him. “A Winter’s Tale” actually opens at a metal concert during which Mr. Wednesday, aka Odin, aka All-Father, aka Ian McShane, is given all the attention of a headlining act – exactly the kind of attention he thrives on, obviously.

Shadow, meanwhile, has grown his hair and beard out, though still looks implausibly handsome, which doesn’t go unremarked upon. But his seemingly cushy new life of factory work obviously has a short shelf life, which becomes clear when a potential promotion is threatened by an FBI background check and an old woman speaks to him almost immediately afterward with the voice of Mr. Wednesday. Next thing anyone knows, Wednesday himself is there, and with his options rather limited, Shadow has no choice but to join his father on an RV tour, much to his annoyance.

The first stop on the tour is the domain of Wisakedjak, a Native American God who, all together now, can’t stand Mr. Wednesday but has some words for Shadow about his inevitable destiny. It’s all very ambiguous, of course, but that’s what you get when you commune with smoky spirits. A running gag in American Gods season 3, episode 1 is nonetheless the inevitability of Shadow’s destiny, with fate conspiring to funnel him along one very narrow path after another, forcing him to consider the fact that his free will is simply another illusion. For instance, a sharp turn away from a roadblock set up my Mr. Road lands Mr. Wednesday and Shadow right on Wisakedjak’s doorstep, and they step out just in time for Wednesday’s fiancé, Cordelia, to pick them up. They’re heading to Utah to hook up with another of Wednesday’s old mates, which Shadow wants no part of, and he also isn’t keen on venturing to the prearranged hideout spot of Lakeside, Wisconsin. Wednesday and Cordelia agree to drop him off at the nearest bus station, where he learns that the only bus that hasn’t been canceled is the one to Lakeside, and the keys to the apartment that has been rented for him there have conveniently found their way into his belongings. See? It’s fate!


  • Laura’s efforts to try and revive Mad Sweeney end on an ambiguous note for both when she attempts to use the coin inside her to do the deed, causing her to deteriorate into dust. I’m sure we’ll see more of both, but “A Winter’s Tale” is deliberately vague about it.
  • Ms. World smashing in the head of one of her automaton acolytes with a baseball bat while blood is swiped all over a static-y television screen displaying the American flag is quite a metaphor, isn’t it?

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