In the beginning... there were some ungodly expectations for the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman's epic novel.
How were they going to take a story involving nearly EVERY god in human history and contain it in a television series?
Sacrifices got made, and prayers got answered and American Gods Season 1 knocked it out of the park with phenomenal effects, stellar casting, and an admirably-controlled unreeling of the tangled web of narratives.
And it was good. Man, oh man, was it ever good.
But then ... silence.
Well, not silence since we kept getting more information about the real-life drama going on in the production department.
But the new season kept getting delayed and all the changes behind the scenes amped up the concerns that the bar had been set too high for a second season to aspire.
First, there was the messy departure of both showrunners -- Bryan Fuller and Michael Green -- in November 2017, with budget demands and artistic differences allegedly at the center of the dissolution.
Then, unsurprisingly, Gillian Anderson who played the iconically-imagined New God, Media, announced that she would not be returning for Season 2.
It wasn't until June 2018 that Starz announced that Kahyun Kim would play New Media in the second season.
But that didn't restore the faith for long as new showrunner, Jesse Alexander, was removed from his position just as the Season 2 finale was getting developed.
American Gods Season 2 premiered on March 10, and so far, we have attended a war council of the Old Gods, watched Shadow get beaten up in the past and the present, and gotten educated on the nature of Wednesday's re-incarnating Cadillac, Betty.
The changes in style and narrative have been subtle but distinct.
For simplicity's sake, they can be categorized as (1) Spectacle, (2) Story, and (3) So, Yeah, That Happened.
The best illustration of spectacle is on American Gods Season 2 Episode 1 where one of the most definitive scenes of the novel came to life with the Old Gods convening a war council.
To meet as their godly selves, they travel to a space described as the "Backstage," an alternate dimension which manifests as the Valhalla of Odin/Wednesday's memory.
Shadow: I'm dreaming.
Bilquis: It is real. We're just Backstage, waiting in the wings, inside Wednesday's memories.
And to access the Backstage, they descend on one of America's greatest roadside attractions, The House on the Rock in Wisconsin, which is a real-life place I kind of NEED to visit one day.
And that's the point of gathering the Old Gods there. Roadside attractions like The House on the Rock are America's temples of faith.
And they build that faith on sheer spectacle.
From Disneyland and the Las Vegas Strip to the weirdest little garage-based museum or strangest roadside monument, the people of America feed their money and attention into these shrines of the bizarre.
Wednesday: In the good old USA, people still heed the call of the transcendent void but they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they've never visited or by erecting a giant bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit.
Shadow: Or they sell t-shirts and hot dogs.
Wednesday: Roadside attractions! Where they buy that hot dog and they buy that t-shirt. Then they wander around, feeling satisfied on a level that they cannot truly describe and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.
When the Old Gods get down to arguing over the war Wednesday wants to fight, it's Shadow's faith in his boss that turns the tide and adjourns the meeting.
Transported to the diner at Motel America, the gods and sundry settle into some good-natured banter when Mr. World attacks from his control room in Blackbriar.
As ambushes go, it's brutal and violent and indiscriminate in its casualties.
And because it must end spectacularly, Shadow doesn't get secretly black-bagged and kidnapped in a stealthy unmarked van.
Nope, he gets TRACTOR-BEAMED into a waiting aircraft and flown away to an undisclosed location.
It all segues elegantly into the shift into story on which American Gods Season 2 Episode 2 focuses.
Shadow spends practically the entire episode suspended in a torture device, being interrogated by Mr. Town.
His brain seeks refuge in memories of his youth, living with his mother in New York City and learning about how everyone, both black and white, is gunning for him because of the color of his skin.
The backstory fills in a lot about Shadow in high-resolution while Mr. Town's insults seem pretty fuzzy in purpose and effectiveness.
Shadow's mother is all kinds of awesome but also very ambiguous about many aspects of life. She wants her son to take a lot on faith. Including, it seems, her illness and death.
It's no wonder Shadow wandered into some sketchy habits as an adult.
You're different. There's a light in you that's stronger than anything else....It's there....I gave it to you. I gave it to you every day.Shadow's mother
Laura and Mad Sweeney's road trip together is driven on another sort of faith, and the writing seems inconsistent on Sweeney's motivation.
He states that he's just staying close to Laura to get his coin back, but then it seems important to him that she gets to complete her mission as well.
Without a doubt, he is the world's tallest, most unlucky, and internally conflicted leprechaun EVER.
There's a story there, but I'm not sure they're telling it right.
Mr. Wednesday has a surprising story to share in the form of his Cadillac, Betty. It turns out she's not just a ride, she's a steed, capable of being honored and commanded and rein-CAR-nated even. Wow.
Wednesday: Betty. Betty the Barbarian. You were forged from blue-collar sweat in the heartland of a forcibly Christian land. You are not what you came into this world as but instead, a berserker and worthy of a berserker's honor....You are the standard of my world though it may not be your way. I honor you in the most holy way that I know. The looming locomotive is the flaming arrow that soars through the heavy air from the bow of a Viking king. Let it strike you true and light your path to Valhalla!
Mr. Nancy: Valhalla? Ain't nobody going to fucking Valhalla. I see you in Cairo.
Wednesday: You will dine at the table of the Hooded One. We will meet in your reincarnation. Be proud, Betty. Be proud.
Mr. Nancy's not impressed by all the story-telling going on here (or with fried chicken, apparently). He marches off to Cairo before Betty can teach that train carrying Mr. Town and Shadow a thing or two.
I only find that funny because he told his share of stories both on American Gods Season 1 Episode 2 and in Odin's Valhalla Backstage.
When the curtain goes up on American Gods Season 2 Episode 3, the train has derailed, Betty has returned to her pristine Cadillac form, and Mr. Wednesday and Mad Sweeney are literally picking up the pieces.
Of Laura, that is.
It's darkly funny that she continues to berate them as they pile her dismembered limbs into the trunk on top of her talking torso.
Grisly and gross, but funny.
So, yeah, that happened.
Sweeney: You sure you want to leave the oaf?
Wednesday: Am I the only one who has faith in Shadow?
Sweeney: My faith is waning.
Wednesday: The quickest way for Shadow to get where he's going is sometimes the longest.
While Shadow spends this chapter finding his way to Cairo (pronounced "KAY-roh") Illinois, the focus here is all about Laura and Mr. Wednesday and THAT scene with New Media and Argus.
Laura and Wednesday explore the nature of sacrifice and its connection to faith as they track Argus through his memories, -- mostly of being murdered -- to his modern lair of technology.
Argus is an Old God, but his current incarnation as the God of Surveillance makes him a pawn of the New Gods.
Wednesday knows (because he IS the Allfather, after all) that Mr. World has been using Argus to track the Old Gods.
Their timing is amazing, interrupting New Media's, um ... "courting" of Argus through a never-again-unseeable anthropomorphized intercourse between media and surveillance.
Entropy leads logically to disorder. All systems evolve towards chaos. Even alliances with gods.Argus
She orgasmed emojis, people.
So, yeah, that happened.
The best face to watch in that room belonged to Technical Boy. From that initial abject horror to calculating odds to cutting his losses, he's not the only god willing to play both sides of the algorithm.
So this new season has given us a lot to think about so far.
It's taken a distinct diversion in the narrative of the source material but maintained a consistent momentum in entertainment velocity.
However, the faith it's exploring extends to that of the audience as well. It hearkens to Bilquis' speech in Odin's Valhalla. She warned that they must change to survive.
I accept my worship my way and I grow in power. The choice is yours. Evolve or die.Bilquis
With all the changes in direction the show has undergone, it remains to be seen if the season can get steered true, but it hasn't run ashore yet.
Ultimately, I'd say there's a little less polish and a little more chaos with the writing. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Over to you now. What have you liked about this second coming of American Gods?
Has Wednesday's tongue given you anything to complain about so far?
Does Laura's heartbeat make yours beat a bit faster?
How successful do you feel they've been in adjusting to their cast changes?
Is it all smooth sailing from here?
Yeah, right. Where's your faith?
Be sure to watch American Gods online to catch up with all of the latest!
American Gods premieres on Starz each Sunday in the U.S. and new episodes become available the day after the U.S. broadcast in Canada and internationally on Amazon Prime Video.
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.