Starz’ American Gods
Season 1, Episode 8: “Come to Jesus”
Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Written by Bekah Brunstetter & Bryan Fuller & Michael Green
* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney” – click here
More spiders, crawling all over a garment shop, as clothing is sewn and fitted by Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). Sitting by, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) listen to Nancy tell a story while they wait. He speaks of Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), her “place of worship” in a temple below the red planet Mars shining bright in the sky. A large room full of writhing, naked bodies. They lift her above the crowd, carrying her, worshipping, as she anointed them. Men came to challenge her, to try knocking her off her throne. But she absorbs her lovers. She takes them into herself, into her “vagina nebula.” The source of her power.
In fact, Bilquis is a version of the Queen of Sheba.
Mr. Nancy: “Clothes and hair change with the times, but this queen, she kept the party goin‘.”
In the era of disco, we see Bilquis go from sitting on top of the world to dealing with the misogynoir and plain racism of supposedly modern times. Yet, she played the game, the part, adapting when necessary. Never forgetting she is a fucking queen; always. Until she falls farther and farther.
Perhaps like never before with the other Old Gods, the story of Bilquis illustrates how far respect for the old traditions, the ancient and first peoples of human history. Monuments being destroyed by ISIS perfectly show us the cruelty of men, the relentlessness of modernity. Likewise, we see Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) offering Bilquis a way back towards remembrance, towards worship – social media. This is the new form of worship. Instant gratification.
Will she accept her position as a New God in his company?
Meanwhile, Shadow’s not particularly happy about the way things are going. He doesn’t understand what Wednesday is doing, seeing as how he just killed one of his old buddies. Now the old man says they’re going looking for a queen. Shadow doesn’t even know Wednesday’s real name. He’s not sure how his dead wife Laura (Emily Browning) came back to life. No easy answers.
At the same time, he’s having his dream of the bone orchard again. Of the ancient buffalo, breathing fire from its nose. He has no idea what it all means, any of it. Yet.
Mr. Nancy: “Angry gets shit done”
Then Shadow and Wednesday arrive in Kentucky, to see a lady called Ostara a.k.a Easter (Kristin Chenoweth). Apparently they “might not be welcome at first” and it could have something to do with him running over a pack of rabbits on his way up her massive estate’s driveway. The lady is quite a piece of work. Her house is a saccharine pastel fever dream, full of decorations and more rabbits and even Jesus Prime (Jeremy Davies). There are different Jesus’ for each denomination. Every god, every depiction of every god has a form. Sort of a Platonic form for each sect’s ideal of what their god looks like.
Mr. Wednesday: “Believing is seeing. Gods are real if you believe in them.”
We’re privy to the difference between worship and celebration, as Wednesday calls out how Jesus is a New God of his own. Ostara is tossed to the wayside nowadays for Christ, he hijacked her day. People don’t worship her, they don’t pray to her as they do the son of God. The old man uses this to get her alone, so they can have a proper chat. He tells her about the New Gods, the coming war.
So it looks as if Bilquis has taken the bait, she’s been given the gift of modernity by Technical Boy. She is no longer homeless, on the streets. She’s the curator of a museum, looking after the artefacts of the past. However, she avoids him. So he shows up to call in the favour for returning her to glory. She does seem reluctant, which gives me hope.
In other news, Laura and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) also get to Kentucky, at the big Spring festival wit all the different Jesus Christs. Inside, Shadow talks with Jesus Prime. They talk about faith, belief, and fate. And Wednesday, he’s still busy convincing Ostara to come with them on their journey.
Poor Laura ain’t doing so hot. Throwing up maggots and her skin is getting worse, starting to peel back, come apart. Ostara isn’t thrilled about a dead girl being in her house during a big to-do. Mad asks her to help, and to keep it quiet from the unknowing husband upstairs. The only problem? She gets a look at the last image in Laura’s eyes before her death; Mr. Sweeney himself. Uh oh. This might cause an issue if Shadow were to find out. Plus, the girls is dead “without undoing.” She was killed by a god. Later, Mad admits it was him who did the deed, but it was the old man made the call.
Arriving at the party is Media (Gillian Anderson). She’s been part of building the Easter holiday, of course. She made it a brand, ushered into modernity with chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs and bright coloured decorations and capitalism. Hmm, wonder if it’ll pop off with them all kicking around.
Media: “You‘re an Old God new again”
The sinister presence of Media doesn’t even need the Children around. Goddammit if they don’t make her creepier, though. She and Easter have it out, the latter feeling misrepresented by the media. But as Media makes clear, this is – more and more – an atheist world.
When she and Wednesday come face to face, Technical Boy at her side, there’s a feeling of change coming. Or is it? Media says they’re taking Easter with them. Even Mr. World (Crispin Glover) turns up to threaten, saying they’ve got all the power, and the Old Gods have none; he’s one unsettling dude.
And above them all, a storm rages. Lightning strikes the Children down. Then he asks if Shadow has faith, before revealing his true self: Odin, among many names. He calls up all his powers, bringing them forward, as does he command Ostara to do the same. Which she does, proudly. As the sun comes out, the life is sucked from the trees and the fields and shows the New Gods how she can take Spring away. Only returned when people pray for it. Lots to look forward to next season!
Not to mention we see Bilquis on the road again, sucking souls into her nebula. She’s headed into Wisconsin. What’s her task for the New Gods, exactly?
Now that Laura and Shadow are back in one place, the Old Gods are coming together more… what will happen next? Wow. Just wow! This whole season is fucking fantastic. A visual head trip. The plot’s been written well, too. Neil Gaiman should feel good about this adaptation, I hope he loves it as much as fans do.
Here’s to Season 2. I’m dying for it already.