The structure of this episode was the biggest thing to jump out to me, which is saying something when you think about all the big ideas packed into one hour. We get immigration, gun rights, corporate exploitation, Jesus, betrayal, and a parasitic tree. This episode is a three beat.
A three beat is a narrative device that allows you to emphasize a point through dramatic or comedic repetition. The first beat establishes the premise. The second beat reinforces the premise. The third beat undermines or inverts the premise.
The first beat is the opening prologue. A group of immigrants cross the Rio Grande with Jesus Christ among them. This is a journey to a safer place with better opportunity. At least that is what the immigrants believe. The reality is, that they have fallen into a vigilante militia's trap. Hedged between a cliff and the river, they are easily gunned down. This establishes the premise of fleeing to a safe place, and discovering that it is a trap.
The second beat reinforces it, but in an internal rather than external way. Laura steers her road-trip back to her hometown. The place she grew up. Where her mother and brothers are. The place she knows best, and that knows her best. A place of emotional safety. This is a trap, though. Not one that has been set with any malice, but a trap all the same. Laura is not the same person any more. Inside and out, she is a new woman and no amount of bluff toughness is going to compensate for her need to confront that.
The third beat comes in the town, and person, of Vulcan. On the surface, Vulcan seems like exactly the same situation as the other two beats. Shadow and Wednesday are fleeing to the safety of an ally, but are actually falling into the New Gods' trap. The inversion here is that Wednesday knew who Vulcan served before they ever set out on the trip to begin with. His entire recruitment of Vulcan is a con to get a god-forged weapon and sacrifice a traitor to his cause. Wednesday is the one setting the trap, not the New Gods. This inverts everything we came to expect and serves to underline Mr. Wednesday's ruthlessness and genius. We thought he was on the run and scared. Actually, he is exactly where he wants to be.
I think going forward we can't underestimate how smart Mr. Wednesday is or how complex his plans are. This episode is a great reminder, after his defeat last week, that there is a reason why he was the king of the Norse gods. He was the wisest, and the wiliest, of his pantheon. He needed to pivot after his encounter with Mr. World. Instead of hiding or recruiting, he went on the attack. Now the New Gods have lost a master weapon-smith. Where will Odin hit them next?