By Piya Sinha-Roy
April 29, 2019 at 08:04 PM EDT
Ian Watson/Starz
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It’s been a long, difficult road to get to the season 2 finale of Starz’s surreal drama American Gods, not just for the weary mish-mash of gods, humans, and mythical beings on the show but for the actors and crew behind the scenes.

Sunday’s finale episode, titled “Moon Shadow,” picks up in the aftermath of Mad Sweeney’s episode 7 death at the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor, where the body of the leprechaun-king lies on Ibis’ table to be prepped for the afterlife. Protagonist Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) sees his undead wife Laura (Emily Browning) again and they realize their paths are no longer intertwined together; he doesn’t feel the same about her as he did when she was alive. Laura instead has to face the death of Sweeney, her unlikely partner-in-crime and friend over the past two seasons, and carts his body off herself to presumably bury.

Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover), with the help of New Media’s (Kahyun Kim) influential reach, conjures up a manhunt targeting Shadow and Wednesday (Ian McShane) tied to the bank robberies they had committed together in the first season. As the police dragnet closes in the on the funeral parlor, Shadow is suddenly tangled into the roots of the World Tree left behind by Wednesday in the conservatory, where he is dragged into another realm. He learns that Wednesday, a.k.a. Odin, is actually his father and somehow manifests a power in himself to make the manhunt disappear.

The season ends with Wednesday hiding out in a diner as Shadow finds himself with a new name heading to a new location. Executive producer Neil Gaiman, the author of the American Gods novel, gave EW a breakdown of what to expect from the lead characters in season 3 and how a new showrunner is mapping out the future of the series.

Shadow’s Discovery

The brooding, handsome Shadow Moon spent a lot of season 1 in confusion about the world of American Gods that he had suddenly been thrust into when he agreed to become Wednesday’s right-hand man. After discovering that gods are indeed real, he enters season 2 as a believer but his world is rocked again at the end as he learns that his roguish Norse God employer is actually his father and caused his wife’s death.

“Part of the fun of taking Shadow through the journey he’s come through in this season is he’s waking up,” Gaiman said. “He’s learned a certain amount of belief — in season 1, Shadow was saying ‘I don’t understand, this is impossible.’ Season 2 is him saying ‘I may not get all the stuff is happening but I believe this is happening.'”

In the book, Shadow doesn’t learn that Odin is his father until much later in his journey. “It’s the nice thing that American Gods does where it always rewards people who have read the book but also tries to surprise people who have read the book,” Gaiman said.

Laying Low in Lakeside

After making the police manhunt suddenly disappear, Shadow awakens to find himself on a bus to the town of Lakeside with a new identity — Mike Ainsel.

“Shadow is going to try and find a place to be safe, and we’ll find out how well that works for him. Wednesday is also going to be determined to get Shadow back, and we’ll find out how well that works for him,” Gaiman said. “He believes the madness is over, that his dead wife is gone from his life, Wednesday is gone and he’s going to adopt a new identity and know who that is.”

In American Gods the book, Shadow encounters a host of new characters in Lakeside, including police chief Chad Mulligan, his new neighbors Marguerite and Leon Olsen and the kind, elderly Hinzelmann. Lakeside is also haunted by the disappearance of its children in its past century.

Gaiman says that the one thing he and Eglee definitely want to do with Shadow in season 3 is a romance. “We haven’t seen Shadow awkwardly dating, he hasn’t until now had to deal with anyone except Laura.”

Laura’s Journey

After Mad Sweeney dies, speared through the heart by Shadow, it’s the undead Laura who is privately grappling with the loss of her frenemy in the season 2 finale, as she hauls his body over her shoulder and walks away from the funeral parlor.

“I love Laura in the book but she’s a shadowy figure mostly because you see her when Shadow’s interacting with her,” Gaiman says. “What Emily has brought to that character was something that wasn’t in the book, something gutsy and angry and really smart and something bleak and nihilistic and depressed at the same time. Laura is not a very nice person in death but she was really a very nice person in life. She does have this remarkable integrity in death where she doesn’t need to bulls–t, so putting her with Mad Sweeney gives you this fabulous dynamic and it’s not over yet,” he teased.

Even in death, Laura and Sweeney are connected together, Gaiman explained, as what happens to the body of the dead Irish former king is tied directly into Laura’s journey and will be “one of the engines that is going to drive season 3.”

After all, Laura is only kept in a semi-alive state because of Mad Sweeney’s lucky gold coin inside of her … so could she have the ability to bring Sweeney back?

Wednesday’s War

All of Wednesday’s trickery and manipulation has somewhat backfired at the end of season 2, as the Old Gods are still grappling about whether to join his battle against the New Gods or just continue living their lives. We’re left with Wednesday hiding out in a diner as he watches a police manhunt, conjured by the New Gods, close in on his son Shadow and his friends inside the funeral parlor, but he doesn’t help Shadow.

After being paired together for most of the first two seasons on a precarious journey where Shadow’s life is changed as he learns of this world of deities, season 3 will separate Shadow and Wednesday initially as Shadow heads to Lakeside. Meanwhile, the Old Gods have once again scattered in the winds, on their own journeys.

“Wednesday is going to have a much bigger task in season 3 because there is a war that he is determined to have and it’s one that he is ready to have. The cold war is going to be finishing soon and it’ll be time soon for the real war to begin,” Gaiman said.

What it means is that Wednesday will be “more chastened and charming” as he embarks on a journey to try and win the Old Gods over again and show that he’s worthy of their trust. There’s also another key element in the Wednesday-Shadow relationship that Gaiman said will be answered. “We’re going to learn why it is that it doesn’t seem to matter who tells Shadow that Wednesday is trying to f–k him over, he does not appear to hear this. There is actually a reason for this and why that is is going to become an important part for season 3,” he teased.

New Season, New Showrunner

It’s no secret that American Gods faced a production battle behind the scenes in season 2, after the departure of the first season showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green over creative differences. Jesse Alexander was brought in to helm season 2, but departed before the series aired. “Anybody who was on American Gods in season 2 in any capacity deserves a medal, they have been through a small war,” Gaiman said.

Season 3 will be helmed by Charles “Chic” Eglee (The Shield, Dexter), who is already plotting ahead to the fourth season and how to conclude the book’s narrative within the show.

“I got to specify that I wanted an experienced showrunner, somebody who would not be intimated by anybody, somebody absolutely familiar with every single part of the TV-making process,” said Gaiman, who himself just completed his first time showrunning the Amazon series Good Omens, based on his novel of the same name.

“I wanted a steady hand on the tiller. American Gods, people love the characters and they love the world and with the seasons we plan to do, our plan is to get it sharper with better story-telling.”

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