American Gods: Donar the Great   Show Only 
April 15, 2019 7:34 PM - Season 2, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Wednesday and Shadow get a gift for a dwarf, which makes Wednesday think back to the 1930s and his son, Donar. [Show only]

American Gods Season 2 Episode 6 Review: Donar the Great (Ronald Hogan for Den of Geek)
It's hard to see the true person behind the character being played by Wednesday. He talks fast, he's charming, he's glib, and he’s funny. But behind that mask of humor is a core of what seems to be actual pain, as Odin's time in America isn't without trouble and loss. Granted, it's trouble of his own making, but at the same time, the Allfather's experiences as an actual father have brought him significant pain, as explicitly shown during “Donar the Great” and hinted at in previous episodes.
Episode soundtrack from Tunefind
posted by filthy light thief (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We are so off book, I'm not sure where the season is going.

It feels like we're getting backstory wrapped in short vignettes that may also be allegory and fable (maybe?). But I'm also confused - technical boy was hanging around Wednesday and Co in the 1930s? Is Columbia still around? Why don't we see her?

I wanted more time in the mall - the Quest for the Coat seemed like a quick caper and the rune carving took all of two minutes tops. And won't Hot Topic Carl see the coat on the dwarf when he goes to get an Orange Julius? The whole spear recovery story-line has just been a set of checkpoints - hit the Corn Palace, hit the mall, wam-bam-done. And Shadow just follows along like a puppy. Guess he lives up to his nickname.
posted by jazon at 7:01 AM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't think Odin is concerned about what happens to the coat once he has the spear. The coat serves that purpose. If whats his face wants to keep it, that's not Odin's problem (as he's pretty comfortable not caring about others including his son).

I thought the droopy sign saying "The Future is 1989" was hilarious.

Columbia becomes Rosie the Riveter (notice the "We Can Do It" poster behind Thor when he shoots himself). Tech Boy is deeply problematic being in the 30s. The idea in the show up until now Tech boy doesn't represent all technology, but a very specific hacker stereotype (in the book 80s punk hacker and in the show a more contemporary hacker bro). This is just like media being supplanted by new media. Media didn't represent ALL forms of media neither does Tech boy. Having him in the 30s played by the same actor goes against the transformation of media to new media. In the 30s, new technology was the telephone so more likely to be played by a female operator than say a fairly mundane young guy.

It does, however, demonstrate the Odin is willing to play both sides against each other for his own benefit (although he fails) and that he is as apathetic about his kids as he is everyone else.

The episode does make sense in terms of explaining why Thor, who is probably now one of the best known Norse Gods, is Sir Not Appearing in This Film. Although it's weird that Thor still uses such archaic speech, which seems vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvery like Marvelverse Thor.

I was a bit disappointed where the nazi subplot went. I was expecting Thor to die because he became tainted by his association with bigotry. Instead he's felled by something very human-lost love.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:27 PM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another side note, while I love Orlando Jones doing Nancy shoehorning his own backstory into this ep made very little sense to me although he fits in perfectly backstage at the burlesque.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:28 PM on April 16, 2019

This is a totally irrelevant side note, but the Almighty Johnsons was a fun tv comedy about the Norse gods being alive and well in New Zealand. Far more light hearted than this, but in terms of updated norse gods, it makes sense.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:39 PM on April 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Apologia/ Devil's Advocate - I'm sort of OK with Technical Boy in '30s, although I highly agree that it would be in the form of telephone operators instead - switchboards were terribly complicated. Look at that cable management!

The 80's hacking culture is a direct offshoot of the phone phreaking scenes, which have their own roots in military operations like SIGSALY and the golden age of Bell Labs.

I can't remember, but it might have been Neal Stephenson who - fictionally wrote - about an analogue version of SIGSALY being deployed in a previous war (instead of computers, one time pads were in the form of engraved (gramaphone?) records.

Alexander Graham Bell invented telephones as a result of his being an inventor - a hacker/ maker type starting from his youth. Hacking about with bits of electronics and an interest in sound transmission led to the telephone.

The counterargument could be that the 30s were kind of boring for tech, especially consumer tech? otoh, on which part of the 30's? The American Nazi suggests late 30's and the war was going to get things jumpstarted presently.
posted by porpoise at 6:42 PM on April 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Incidentally the 30s is when nylon was invented (1935) which would have tied in VERY easily to this episode. They could have made Tech Boy a nylon salesman. Problem solved.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:20 PM on April 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wasn't irritated by Technical Boy popping up in the 30s as Babbage had already built his first Difference Engine back in 1822. (I do find Technical Boy very irritating in general though.)
posted by Fiberoptic Zebroid and The Hypnagogic Jerks at 10:41 PM on April 16, 2019

The thing is if he's just general technology, then he's an old god because technology has been around almost as long as mankind. I mean the Romans made lots of technological advances. I could argue that Hephaestus is rightly the god of technology and therefore a very old god. So even if Tech Boy is linked to the telephone, we need a bit more explanation.

But honestly I think this is just super lazy writing.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:48 PM on April 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Columbia becomes Rosie the Riveter (notice the "We Can Do It" poster behind Thor when he shoots himself).

About that poster, it was only displayed for two weeks in February 1943 in some of Westinghouse Electric's factories as an internal morale program, then it was forgotten. It was rediscovered in the 80's and was able to be adopted by feminists and widely co-opted by marketers because the copyright protections had expired (presumably the same reason it was used in this show and not Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter which is still under copyright).

It would be very unlikely for Donar to have a copy of this poster on his apartment wall when he checked out in 1942, per Wednesday's narration. So it was either, 1) lazy writing*, or 2) a really obscure hint to obsessive war propaganda nerds that Wednesday is an unreliable narrator and Donar is still alive. But probably option 1.

* Technical Boy and Columbia would need no introduction, there's even a famous painting of her carrying his telegraph wires across the America. Also, if anyone was supplanting Columbia in the American imagination, it would be Uncle Sam rather than Lady Liberty.
posted by peeedro at 5:06 PM on April 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I don't think Tech Boy is THE god of technology but A god of technology. Just like there are several gods for fire, spring, romance, travel, in the religions of the world, I'm sure Hephaestus and Ogun and several others exist or existed in America in some form or another as gods of technology.

I think Tech Boy and the new gods are pretty much secular depictions of concepts that were once attributed to divine creation. That's why they have no names beyond what they are. Mr. World, Mr. Town, Media, New Media, etc.

I think this episode goes to show that the rift between the old and new gods is a new invention. The new gods have been fairly open to welcoming the old gods into their ranks (reviving Bilqis in the form of a dating app, branding Vulcan's name on bullets). And it's no wonder Wotan has had so little faith in the staying power of the new gods when Columbia's influence was fading in less than 300 years.

There's a huge hole in the story that remains from the book that you have to ignore to enjoy it, and if it isn't addressed it's going to seem like sloppy writing sometimes: what happens when the Old Gods "win"?

Say Mama Ji kills New Media. Does the internet shut down until people start praying to the Greek god of storytelling? Does she just reboot like we've already seen gods capable of, but with a newfound reverence to her elders? Curious to see if the show plugs this hole.
posted by elr at 8:06 PM on April 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

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