Well, that was an interesting turn of events at the end of American Gods first season. Before we muse on the second season’s possibilities, let’s go over exactly what happened.
First of all, we FINALLY get a little more Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), seen here working at his sewing machine (with spider helpers), making some dapper new suits for Mr. Wednesday and Shadow. But before he goes much further, he insists that they should start with a story, and a heavenly light shines down as he begins to tell the tale of a queen from long ago.
That queen? Our gal Bilquis, in her temple way back in the day. As Mr. Nancy narrates, he tells us she was worshipped greatly because she had “the gift.” And that worship looks an awful lot like an orgy (or those sweaty rave scenes from The Matrix sequel). “Kings tried to knock her off her throne,” he tells us, but they never lasted long. When you weren’t with the queen you didn’t exist he says, and the would be king we saw attempt to overtake Bilquis sexually is instead absorbed with her orgy crowd into a sort of black oil that flows over and in her.
Flashforward to 1979 Tehran, where Bilquis is now a literal disco queen, getting her groove on with another woman on the dance floor. “But the kings kept coming after her,” warns Mr. Nancy, and they were angry that “our queen’s power” is that of rebirth and creation. That power makes some men kneel and other angry, and “anger gets sh*t done” Mr. Nancy reminds us. Masked men with guns enter the club, forcing Bilquis and others to flee. Bilquis then hops a flight to America, where she seduces a gentleman into joining the mile high club with her. Mr. Nancy describe the fact that she had to take a back seat, but it was a means to survive, and we learn where our sexy goddess is head: Hollywood, California.
“America too can take issue with a woman in power,” he says, as we see a woman in a hospital bed who’s been diagnosed with HIV, as Bilquis looks on in sorrow.
We then leap forward to the present, where Bilquis is now on the streets, homeless, and shuffling around with a cart. Mr. Nancy tells us “after a while, she forgot there was a queen inside,” as she approaches a restaurant and sees an old temple in Yemen destroyed by (presumably) ISIS militants. “And there’s no end to the cruelty of men frightened by strong women.”
Bilquis ends up laying in a gutter when she’s approached by Technical Boy, who acknowledges that her altar has been blown up. He tells her worship is a “volume based” business, and he hands her a phone with a Tinder-like app on it, that she swipes through until she sees her own image, looking gorgeous as before. “Wanna play?” asks Technical Boy.
Mr. Nancy contemplates that we judge her, but anyone may have done the same in her position. “Life is long when you live with regret,” he says, finishing his tale. He then asks Shadow what the moral of the story was. “Don’t compromise?” Shadow offers. He’s scolded for his wrong answer, and Wednesday chimes in that the moral is to get your self a queen. Nancy agrees, and calls Wednesday out for killing one of the New Gods’ people (Vulcan), and they won’t take it lightly. Wednesday says Vulcan had been one of his, and they should see what happens when he gets himself a queen.
Turning to Shadow, Mr. Nancy reminds him that he and Wednesday have spilled blood together, bonding them for life. Shadow refuses, saying that the terms of their agreement were violated when Wednesday cut off his friend’s head, and that he still doesn’t know Wednesday’s real name. Wednesday calms him by informing him he’s merely confused and not actually angry, but he’ll need to get angry soon. “Angry gets sh*t done,” Mr. Nancy reminds them one last time.
In a dream, Shadow sees himself climbing a wall of skulls against a blood red celestial sky, finally reaching the top and the tree he saw back in the first episode. The white buffalo also reappears, getting closer and closer to Shadow’s face before he jolts awake in the car with Wednesday. They’re in Kentucky, with rabbits everywhere chasing the car. Wednesday gives Shadow the rundown on the woman they’re about to meet, telling him to be nice but not too nice, and that they might not be welcome at first. Then he mows down a bunch of bunnies blocking the road, as they approach a gorgeous estate.
Inside the house is an elegant party with Easter treats everywhere. Shadow admits he loves Easter. Wednesday says there’s lots to love, and describes the pagan origins of the holiday and that all the traditions we do (like rabbits and eggs and so on) are in the name of Ostara (Kristin Chenoweth). Jesus (Jeremy Davies) strolls by and greets Shadow, who is totally taken aback to see him. Wednesday tells Shadow that believing is seeing, and that gods are real if you believe in them. Shadow turns to see the Virgin Mary, and Jesus in his various forms from around the world, as Wednesday reminds him that everyone sees a different Jesus when they go to pray (calling back to his speech from episode three). “So who are you?” Shadow asks
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Wednesday answers (something he’s often repeated).
As Easter (as I’ll simply call her going forward for the sake of clarity) finishes a toast reminding her guests of the day, she is less than thrilled to see Wednesday and Shadow. She demands to know what they’re doing at her house, and Wednesday flatters her as they go for a stroll on the grounds. Easter mentions this must be the guy who has everyone upset, and offers him some direction wisdom, in contrast to what she refers to as “secret societies” keeping too many secrets. Wednesday interrupts to tell her she’s a forgotten god, but she insists she’s doing just fine. He scoffs and blames Jesus for her being forgotten, but she argues back that people still do things in her name, but he counters again that she does all the work and Jesus gets all the credit. Jesus interjects that he feels terrible about that, and Easter reassures him that everything is fine. Wednesday snaps that Jesus benefited when people got burned in his name, ending with “Happy F**cking Easter!”
Easter pulls Shadow and Wednesday inside to tell off Wednesday for being disrespectful and ruining the party. She admits she knows she’s not worshipped anymore. Wednesday lies and tells her the New Gods killed Vulcan, but not before he pledged himself and forged a sword, which he magically pulls from his jacket, startling Shadow. He tells her they need her, and she will be worshipped again. Shadow mumbles something about her not being a goddess of spring, and is dismissed by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the revived Bilquis is observing an ancient artifact in a museum when her phone buzzes with Technical Boy’s face, but she dismisses it. Technical Boy appears behind her anyway, a weird haircut and bad grill. He’s talking to her about favors and give and take as she approaches seductively, but he shuts her down, saying he doesn’t want to be in her cosmic business, so to speak. Then he tells her if she points “the gun” in the right direction, it could be useful, and that he’s officially calling in the favor she owes him for her revival.
Outside Easter’s house in Kentucky, the ice cream truck with Laura and Sweeney arrives. Sweeney asks how she even knew where to go, and we see that she’s been following Shadow’s light. They head towards the house and Laura realizes there are a tons of Jesuses (Jesus-i?) milling about.
Shadow is with one of the Jeremy Davies-Jesus inside, watching as he hovers above the water on an indoor pool. “Do you always believe?” asks Shadow. “I am belief,” he replies. “I don’t know how not to believe.” Shadow explains his conundrum about belief to Jesus, and how he’s not sure if he’s dreaming or not. Jesus tells him even if he doesn’t believe, he cannot go any other way than what his senses tell him, and he must walk that road to the end.
Back with Wednesday and Easter, Wednesday proposes that as the goddess of spring, she should deny people the growth of crops and starve them. He tells her it will remind them to pray to “Ostara” and if she withholds, she’ll return, based on the ancient contract of prayer and reward. A bunny interrupts with a message for Easter, and she dashes off from the conversation.
Laura checks herself in a bathroom mirror, seeing that she is slowly deteriorating more and more (with maggots involved no less). Sweeney keeps guard for her, as Easter approaches, scolding him for bringing “a dead girl” with him. Easter examines Laura as she explains she wants to live again, and Sweeney says he wants her to be alive for selfish reasons, calling in the favor Easter owes him. When Laura explains that her last name is Moon, Easter puts it together that she’s with Shadow, as Sweeney warns that it’s best if Wednesday didn’t know they were at the house.
Easter examines Laura, and she asks is Easter brought Jesus back to life. She says no, he happened to be dreamed back to life on her day. Finally, she agrees to bring Laura back because life is her gift, even though this isn’t something she normally wouldn’t do. Laura tells her she has a lot to live for and can really feel it, but Easter tells her the why isn’t as important as the how, and they can go from there in bringing her back. Sweeney sulks outside the door (because we know why). Easter is suspicious of him, but takes Laura aside and explains that some people believe that at the moment of death, some people believe the last image they see can appear like a photograph on the retina. As she looks deep into Laura’s eyes, she sees an image of Sweeney.
Backing away, she asks if Sweeney is still “working for the man.” He nods quietly, and Easter informs Laura that she can’t bring her back to life because she was killed by a god, and that’s a dead of a different kind that can’t be undone (at least not by her). Another bunny runs in to inform Easter of more guests, and she leaves wishing them both good luck.
Laura ponders for a moment before she turns to Sweeney and asks, “WHICH F**CKING GOD?”
Outside, Easter is greeted by Media, but is confused at her arrival. Media insists that they always have a standing date on Easter’s day, and that they’re working together (“we practically built brunch” she says).
Upstairs, Laura has Sweeney by the literal balls up against the wall, interrogating him as to why she was killed. Sweeney tries to take the blame, but Laura says he’s not a god, so which one ordered it? He says she already knows, and she acknowledges that, but wants to her him admit it too. Then she asks why she was murdered, and Sweeney says it wasn’t a murder, it was a sacrifice to make sure Shadow has nothing left to lose. Laura asks if the ruined robbery, Shadow in jail, and everything that’s happened is Wednesday’s doing, and he admits it is. She realizes this whole time the gods have been messing with them, and she wants to know why. He tells her the gods are doing what they’ve always done, and they’ve always messed with us.
We return to Media and Easter’s semi-cordial conversation, where Media asks if “he’s” here. Easter replies of course Jesus is there, but Media means Wednesday. She lies to Media that he had been there trying to enlist her, but she told him she was doing just fine, so why would she need him. Creepy, faceless dancers begin to circle Easter as Media tells her that she’s an old god made new, and that’s what the New Gods can continue that offer. The only reason she’s around is because she’s tied to a Christian holiday, and that it’s not easy in more atheist world. But they need to continue to adapt and survive, and Easter should be thrilled anyone believes in anything without a screen. “What happens is they all decided god doesn’t exist?” she asks.
“What if they do believe?” Wednesday asks, approaching the group. They talk back and forth about how belief is distributed. Media says they control the story and the flow of it, but Wednesday says it’s simply an existential distraction, telling people to look here and there. Technical Boy appears from the faceless dancers, telling Wednesday that he’s old and can’t fight progress. Wednesday asks why they’re here then, if he doesn’t matter, but Media says they’re here for Easter not him.
Wednesday tells them that people create gods when they want things to happen, and that things happen when gods make them happen. Be good to your gods, give a little, get a little, he says, and that simple bargain is why he matters.
Mr. World appears, telling Wednesday he only matters when it comes to war, and that there won’t be one for him to fight. As thunder and lightning roll in, he tells Wednesday that the New Gods fight to win, and that it’ll either be a blood bath or they can wait him out. Either way he’s worthless in their eyes.
“I don’t have to fight,” responds Wednesday, “I have faith.” And then, “I dedicate these deaths to Ostara.” Media and the New Gods are confused, but then lightning strikes and kills all the faceless dancers. He turns to Shadow and asks him if he has faith. Shadow asks, “What are you?”
Wednesday rattles off his various names and titles, and dominions, finally ending on “I am Odin!” as the storm rolls in more heavily. He turns to Easter and reminds her that she is Ostara, and asks that she show them who she is. Easter steps forward and clears away the storm, the wind blowing her hair loose. But then the grass and trees around the estate turn brown, and the death rolls through the fields and crops shrink into the ground.
Shadow looks on in horror as Media asks what she’s done. Mr. World appears one last time to tell Odin that if he wanted war, he’s got one, but it’ll be the war he dies in. Odin/Wednesday tells them to inform believers and non-believers alike that they (the Old Gods) have taken spring, and they can have it back when they pray for it. He turns to Shadow and asks if he believes, and he says he does. “What do you believe Shadow?”
Laura clears her throat and appears behind the gathered group, asking to have a word with her husband.
But that’s not quite the end, as we see Bilquis on a bus, riding through the dead looking countryside. She hits on her seatmate, and they head to the back of the bus so she can be worshipped. The bus arrives at a sign for The House on the Rock, located in Wisconsin, along with a few other vehicles.
And that’s where the first season of American Gods ends. Overall, I think the series is off to a great start, putting forth a lot of interesting ideas, and pulling up uncomfortable ones, from racism to guns to death, with a directness that sometimes only fantasy can handle. The show confronts all these with impressive storytelling and visuals, and just a touch of dry humor to make it all go down easier. Faith and belief are always in question, and I think there’s a little something for everyone in American Gods no matter what or how you believe.
I also think the series is expanding in really effective ways from the original novel, and touching on very specific American things that I feel Neil Gaiman missed in book. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the series was the pacing, with things dragging a little in the middle of the season before picking up in the last three episodes.
Questions for Next Season
- So, did Easter/Ostara doom all of mankind, or America at least, by killing all the spring growth until she gets worshipped again?
- Is this war going to go from the edges of human perception to front and center when there’s no food?
- How is Wednesday going to justify sacrificing Laura to Shadow?
- Will Sweeney be punished for helping Laura?
- How will Media spin the famine?
- Is Jesus going to be mad at Easter for the famine?
- Was that bunny in the last episode sent by Easter? Or Wednesday via Easter?
- WILL WE EVER GET MORE MR. NANCY??
Points of Interest
- The season did technically end on the appearance of The House on the Rock as promised, but come on, was that one shot of the sign really what anyone was expecting?
- The scenes of Bilquis in the disco in Tehran were meant to reflect the Islamic revolution in Iran that created the country we think of today. There’s a pretty detailed wiki history of the revolution here, and it’s worth reading up on because there’s so much more to the country’s history than we get in mainstream U.S. media.
- It was really nice getting a more detailed backstory on Bilquis, and see her do more than inhale people with her lady bits.
- Mr. Nancy’s story about Bilquis and men being afraid of powerful women was too real, especially when you consider they’re afraid of a powerful black woman.
- “America too can take issue with a woman in power.” Again, TOO REAL, AMERICAN GODS, TOO REAL!
- One of the more interesting points too, is why would the Old Gods fight the New Gods, when they’re offering a chance to be reborn and worshipped in the modern world. There must be more to it than simple pride, and I think it ties into that bargain between worship and reward Wednesday kept bringing up throughout the episode.
- Jeremy Davies was credited as Jesus Prime, and I just laughed my head off at that.
- I understood the impact of Shadow saying he believes at the end of the episode, but man, it still felt like it took too long for him to get on board with everything he was seeing.
- The Easter treats all looked good until I saw bunnies pooping out jelly beans and these religious cookies, which I find a little gruesome (just my opinion though, not an indictment of anyone’s personal beliefs).
- Best Character: Laura. She was a jerk a lot, but I dig her, and I liked her expanded backstory.
- Worst Character: There’s no worst in terms of performance/storytelling, but god I just wanted to punch Technical Boy (which is kind of the point).
- Best Character Pairing: Sweeney and Laura. I know Shadow and Wednesday are the focus, but they just popped more in their scenes.
- Best Episode: “A Prayer For Mad Sweeney”
- Worst Episode: There weren’t any outright terrible ones, but “The Secret of Spoons” lost all its moment after Mr. Nancy’s rousing speech.
- Best “Coming to America” Sequence: Salim’s encounter with the Jinn. It was totally unique, heartfelt, and woven in to the series better than most others.
- Season MVP: Tied between Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning. Give me the leprechaun and the dead wife any day!
- Season LVP: Gillian Anderson. I just wasn’t blown away by her impressions or performance, there was just something too flat about everything. Yeah, I said, it. I didn’t care for Scully. COME AT ME, BRO.
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