A Brand New You
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Atsula and her people faced a cataclysm in their native Siberian lands, a suggested volcanic eruption that tore asunder her community and forced them to become refugees in order to survive. They traversed across the bitter, frigid lands of Siberia towards the land bridge, across from where lay a fabled land where there was no cataclysm, but instead lay food. Atsula led her people across the treacherous bridge, only to find that there was no food in the forests of this fabled land. Desperate, Atsula prayed to Nunyunnini the Mammoth God, needing to know what she could do to protect her people. The starving cold in her homeland had already taken the life of her daughter. She could not bear to see the rest of her community suffer and perish after the journey that had brought them hear. Atsula is rewarded for her belief and approached by Nunyunnini in the dark forest. He whispers to her the terrible price she must pay to save her people’s children from certain starvation and knowing that there is no other choice, Atsula agrees. She waits quietly and sacrifices herself to Nunyunnini’s tusks as the other adults around her fall to arrows. As Atsula is carried off on Nunyunnini’s tusks, there is sadness etched throughout her visage but as she disappears into the forests, meat appears on the ground for the children who had survived the trek across the land bridge. The starving children rush towards the meat as Atsula’s voice rings throughout the air. Atsula, perhaps in a moment of what may be called blasphemy by some, recognized that gods were great, but people were greater. Gods lived and gods died, but gods were remembered only if people believed in them. The children who survived were taken in by another tribe and as the years went by, their memories of Nunyunnini began to slowly fade away, likely overtaken by the beliefs and memories of the god(s) worshipped by the tribe that had taken them in. Nunyunnini slowly crumbled away, his only remnants in that fateful forest a pair of tusks. Winds swept through, time kept on moving forward, and slowly but surely the tusks crumbled apart, their dust flying into the feverish wind.
Atsula’s story encapsulates the experience of many refugees and immigrants who face no or limited choices in their homeland. They may not want to leave, but there is war, there is a natural catastrophe, and or there is starvation. The journeys of refugees and immigrants are not journeys that those who have not undertaken them can easily understand. They are nor journeys that are free of obstacles and pain. They are often sustained by a fervent espousal of hope because there is otherwise nothing else left to latch onto. Once in the new land, there is sometimes a realization that this new land is not one that is ubiquitous with riches and fulfillment, that these new shores were imbued with some sort of greater abundance. Yet there are limited options of going back, if the option of going back even exists in the first place. Atsula has to make it work with the options available to her and there is something darkly poignant about her sacrificing her life so that the children would be able to eat. Perhaps a part of her was afraid that the children would forget Nunyunnini and or that Nunyunnini may forget them and that fear of losing that connection is paralleled in the refugee and immigrant experience. There is a desire to remember the homeland, its language, and its culture lest those realities and memories be lost forever. Yet there is also the reality that refugees and immigrants face significant amounts of pressure to leave those parts of their identity behind in order for the next generation to succeed where the first generation may have not. In this instance, as in so many others, the children of Atsula’s people were assimilated and their connections to their past were broken as thoroughly as the tusks of Nunyunnini.
There is a degree of stunning narrative power and thematic significance to the opening sequence that the rest of the episode does not entirely match up to, but there are sharp moments throughout and the introduction of Crispin Glover’s (Charlie’s Angels) menacing Mr. World is an absolute highlight. The seeming war between the old gods and the new ratchets up considerably as the new gods use some decent technological prowess to have Shadow and Mr. Wednesday arrested for the bank robbery from two episodes ago. Both of them are locked within a singular room, looking at each with other with different types of exasperation etched across their visages. The exasperation lasts only for so long, however, before they receive some unwelcome and unexpected visitors. Technical Boy is amongst them, forced to apologize for lynching Shadow because, as Media and the new, mysterious Mr. World noted with no trace of irony whatsoever, it just looked bad to lynch a black man in this day and age. Shadow’s expression of disgust and resignation is understandable and even the request to punish him for the lynching is met with an air of expectation. Shadow sees the faux distaste from Media and Mr. World for what it is, the privileged rich, white response that clutches at pearls but does not care as much as it would like to think it does. Even Media’s display of breathing a kiss and subsequently knocking out two of Technical Boy’s teeth reeks of an attempt to show what feels like a forced display of solidarity. What the mysterious Mr. World, Media, and Technical Boy are exactly offering remains to be seen, but the underlying gist is simple enough. They are the new world, the new land. Shadow and company can either assimilate and join the singular, corporate assembly of the new gods or they can be turned into dust that quietly floats away into the frigid, dark wind.
+“Next stop after the cemetery is the motel.”
+“People who die tend to stay in their graves.”
+“You need to think about your brand.”
+I guess this fits the character well, but I cannot stand Technical Boy being on my screen at all
+“Well, you’re fucked.”
+I LOVE the uninhibited, I-do-not-give-a-fuck Laura. Her playing dead and screwing over the idiotic Mad Sweeney was a special delight to behold
+“This one is filmed in glorious technicolor.”
+“I am sorry… for lynching you. I don’t want to add to that climate of hatred.” He would say that.
+Crispin Glover has perfected the art of the intensely creepy smile
+“We want to help you find your audience.”
+“A brand-new, lemon scented you?”
+Media’s turns as David Bowie and Marilyn Monroe are astounding, adding a layer onto the theme of this week’s episode with how she is able to assimilate and transform into everything and everyone
Episode Title: Lemon Scented You
Teleplay by: David Graziano
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali
Image Courtesy: Inverse
Every review from now on will have links to organizations who are in need of resources. Please contribute if you are able:
Syrian Refugee/Refugee Crises
Women’s Reproductive Rights