Kristin Chenoweth making a stunning debut as Ostara, Goddess of the dawn
A return to the plotline with some long overdue revelations
Gillian Anderson as a malevolent Judy Garland
The return of some beloved old gods we were feeling the absence of
The lack of a major explosive moment we wanted from a season finale
The odd placement of a major actor in a seemingly minor role
More noir jazz
American Gods gives Shadow his “come to Jesus” moment in the revealing season one finale
We’ve reached the end, #godsquad. And what a doozy of an American Gods finale! We open with more noir jazz, and it appears that we’re in the 1930’s again when in reality we’re in the present and we see Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) once more. This time he’s making a suit for Wednesday and Shadow when he takes a small break to give us Bilquis’ (Yetide Bedaki) “Coming to America” story. And we’ll discuss it more because it’s every bit as delicious as you think it will be. Up to and including when she sells herself to Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) to survive. Mr. Nancy gives them their suits and tells them to go find their queen before Shadow has another dream about climbing a mountain of skulls to look at a tree and come face-to-face with Tetanka Ska again before waking.
RELATED | American Gods Roundtable 107
Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) end up in Kentucky (yes, that’s right, you recall that Sweeney and Laura were on their way to Kentucky as well) where they meet Ostara, or Easter (Kristin Chenoweth). She’s the goddess of spring, rebirth, fertility and all that. Only Jesus (Jeremy Davies) has co-opted her holiday with his resurrection. Ostara has to take whatever scraps from the pagan rites still practiced on Easter but it’s the twenty-odd depictions of Jesus that come from all over for the holiday are the ones getting the prayers. Wednesday appears to remind Easter just who she is. She’s pretty reticent at first to listen to him, though Shadow’s presence helps as they appear to be quite taken with each other. Wednesday spins his “they killed Vulcan” story, but so far Easter isn’t really buying what Wednesday is selling.
Back with Bilquis and she’s visiting her old possessions and temples in the world’s coolest museum before she’s visited by Technical Boy. He reminds her that she owes him a pretty large favor and she’s going to have to follow through which doesn’t really sound too good for Shadow and Wednesday. Meanwhile Laura Moon (Emily Browning) arrives in Kentucky looking as if she’s falling apart and she is vomiting maggots so the sooner she’s resurrected the better. Unfortunately for her Easter looks into her eyes and sees she’s been killed by a god and that’s a rather more permanent death than a usual death. Laura’s no fool and realizes that nearly everything leading up to her death was orchestrated by Wednesday, which Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) confirms.
In the meantime Media (Gillian Anderson) has arrived at Easter’s easter soiree, this time as Judy Garland in (what else) Easter Parade. Media’s no fool and sets about reminding Easter what she’s done for her, much in the same way Technical Boy did to Bilquis. Her henchmen multiply and amp up the implied threat to Ostara. Wednesday appears and the verbal battle ramps up as the old gods and new gods try to put on displays of power before Mr. World (Crispin Glover) appears in one of the henchman’s bodies and explains there won’t be a war because he will always win. Wednesday decides to prove him wrong by putting on a display of his true power and lightning-striking the henchman and dedicating their deaths to Ostara and revealing who he truly is to Shadow. This inspires Easter to similarly show who she is and she blights the land to remind everyone who she is and force them to pray to her.
Mr. World again takes the body of one of the henchman to say that if Wednesday wanted a war, the old gods now have it. Laura Moon chooses that moment to reveal to Shadow that she’s at the house as well. And remember Bilquis? Well she’s on her way to the house on the rock that was mentioned in the last episode. So how did this work as a finale? And who were the shining stars of the episode? Let’s dive on in!
We get (re)introduced to several but learn what we already knew
It’s the finale, so blessedly we were back to the main plot the entire episode. This wasn’t the kind of finale where you were gasping the entire time or tossing things at the television screaming (just us?). But there were some decent revelations plot-wise, including the return of some characters we needed to see. Mr. Nancy is back as a tailor/storyteller. It was nice to see Orlando Jones for this brief time though it felt a little shoehorned in there. We shouldn’t be complaining- We’ll take any excuse to see Jones’ Mr. Nancy, and they did manage to tie in his “anger gets shit done” mantra by speaking of the downfall of Bilquis. They’ve taken the same tactic with Nancy as Ibis and Jackal- placed them in modern times but sort of living in the 30’s. Will this be the way we’re going to tell which old gods have stayed “old” (as in, loyal to Mr. Wednesday) or become “new”, like Vulcan and Bilquis?
“Come here, sweet Shadow. Allow me to impart some wisdom. There’s far too many secret societies out there. They have no loyalty, and no love. They range from barely competent, to deeply dangerous.” -Easter
Other introductions we received were the glorious Kristin Chenoweth as Ostara who we’ll dive into more depth with later and Jeremy Davies as one of the incarnations of Jesus. Davies was wasted here and we’re wondering why he took such a small part. He was amusing as Jesus and it’s a gas seeing anyone from the Fullerverse but will his part increase as we move forward in the show? He didn’t advance the plot in any meaningful way and we could’ve lost every moment with him and not missed a thing. Why not spend more time with some re-introduced gods, or even beefed up the confrontation between the new gods and the old gods?
The introduction of Mr. Wednesday as Odin (finally) we’re not counting as a revelation at all; other than the words are coming from Wednesday’s own mouth of course. We understand this was going to be a big character revelation but the moment itself fell flat because we’ve been smacked in the face with it from episode 1. McShane can sell snow in the wintertime and he was really wonderful here but even he couldn’t make this feel finale-climatic for us. To be fair he was really great and he did manage to make an exciting moment out of something we knew several episodes ago, but it could’ve been earth-shattering and it wasn’t. At least the finale brought together the most characters we’ve seen at once. Even though all they did once they got there was talk.
When repression leads to transgression
Bilquis was really hyped quite a lot prior to the season airing. She’s not been as large a part of the show as we originally thought she’d be, other than her shocking introduction and a few more orgies later on. With a Bilquis scene you know some sort of extended sex sequence isn’t far behind. This episode it was a B.C. orgy completely with Bilquis wearing the body jewelry she visited in episode 2, which was a nice touch. Sometimes the moralizing on American Gods feels a little too in-your-face as with episode 6. Here there’s certainly a message about what we as a society historically have done to a woman with sexual power. This entire review could be an analysis of what the show is saying about the repression of women’s sexuality, but we’ll spare you. This placement of this coming to America story is an apt tie-in to the diminishing of Ostara, the other powerful Goddess to appear here.
“I have no intention of spending of spending my days feeding your soul from the vagina nebula. But if you point that gun in the right direction…” -Technical Boy
If you’re wondering at this point who Bilquis is, the answer is she’s a variation of the Queen of Sheba. Her coming to America story is particularly compelling because we’re also given a glimpse into a middle east of the past. Watching Bilquis party it up in 1970’s Tehran before religious fundamentalism stripped her of her power is a fun and not a little sad. Bilquis going from a queen, knowing exactly who she is, to being reduced to a homeless beggar on the street watching her temples being destroyed is both heartbreaking and momentous. We’ve seen Bedaki looking dressed-down in the premiere. What Colin Penman is able to do to her here is nothing short of astounding, she looks like a shadow of the stunningly gorgeous Bedaki. Seeing this it isn’t a surprise when Bilquis meets Technical Boy and he gives her a tool with which to reclaim some of her power. When we meet Bilquis later in the episode she’s regretting her actions but she’s been repressed by forces beyond her control. Who could blame her for making a grab to take a small measure of power back?
Bilquis is involved in the war now and despite what she may want, she’s on the side of the new gods. Her attempt at seducing the sexless Technical Boy was a token attempt at breaking free of his control, but the Technical Boy is every single faceless jerk who sits behind his computer and catfishes. He’s certainly not interested in sex, only how he can manipulate Bilquis into doing what he wants. The question is, do any of the old gods know? Wednesday was on to Vulcan but whether he’s on to Bilquis remains to be seen. We’re predicting Shadow as the target of Bilquis’ vagina nebula and crossing our fingers for a zombie Laura/Bilquis showdown.
Easter shows us who she is as the gal who deals in sugar goes raw
Kristin Chenoweth as Easter is pure television gold. We said it. Chenoweth is magic on stage, but she’s got just enough quirk about her that her on-screen outings aren’t always as successful. That is until she’s reunited with Bryan Fuller. Sometimes there’s a pairing of artist and creator that just works. Fuller gets Chenoweth, and he knows exactly how to get the best out of her. He won her her first Emmy and if we’re honest we’d like to see her getting another nomination for her work here. That is how good she is in this episode. Fans of the book will know that Fuller went in a different direction for the role, and it pays off in dividends. Chenoweth is likeable, warm, funny and simultaneously dramatic. She represents the best of everything the series has to to offer in terms of matching actor to role. Watching her navigate her myriad Jesus guests with a fake saccharine smile and watching it slip when she speaks to Wednesday just scratches the surface because she even manages to show us another side to Easter when she speaks with Laura. She walks away with the entire episode.
“Candy creme eggs, cellophone grass, bunnies and duckies. We popularized the pagan, we practically invented brunch! We built this holiday. You, and me. We’re a couple of swells!” -Media
Tying Bilquis and Ostara together as goddesses who have lost their power and had to then compromise themselves is a smart move. Though we didn’t get Easter’s coming to America story you get the sense that she’s not been quite as low as Bilquis was. With Media’s help she’s been able to carve a place beside the myriad representations of Jesus and retain some of the power she once had. This power is just surface gloss. Easter’s entire look (the updo, the makeup, the fascinator) and everything that she surrounds herself with (the buffet, the rabbits that poop jelly beans, the waiters wearing faberge egg heads) it’s not who she is. The old gods used to have real power and Wednesday knows exactly what to say to make Easter remember. Media’s remarks then just serve to anger a goddess who knew what she was and just needed a push. McShane’s delivery of, “Ostara of the dawn, show them who you are,” and Easter’s subsequent destruction of all life in Kentucky was a telvision moment.
Final Verdict: American Gods 1×08 brings us to a satisfying if not earth-shattering season conclusion and we’re left wishing we had a bit more exhilaration heading into the long wait for season 2
This wasn’t the kind of finale where you were gasping the entire time or tossing things at the television screaming (just us?). Overall we liked it, though the action could’ve been ramped up a little more the new character introductions were a good time. Kristin Chenoweth as Easter in particular really walked away with every scene that she appeared in. This idea that outer forces have made these female goddesses forget who they are and forget their power is a very potent one. Repressing the women has led them to betray themselves and the other gods and go to the new gods to beg scraps. Bilquis is continuing to do so and we’d love to see her as a double agent moving foward. Easter’s repression leads her to compromise herself until she rebels against that, and we’re looking forward to seeing the consequences next season.
RELATED | Pablo Schreiber Talks Mad Sweeney
American Gods has been a both a compelling and must-watch show and a maddening exercise in futility. The characters are really wonderful and at times have been extremely impactful but the way the plot is doled out can be extremely frustrating. This is on full display in this episode, which we wanted some major hits from both literally and metaphorically. What power do the new gods have that makes the old gods fear them? Yes, they’re taking the attention from the old gods, but as Mr. World points out why should the new gods even engage? And beyond the fact that they’re clearly the ones in control of the world’s consumption of information what power do they have? Other than talking our ears off, only Media appears mildly threatening. Technical Boy tried to lynch Shadow in episode 1 but hasn’t done much of anything since then. We could’ve used a show of strength from the new gods here, something that really proved they can be a malevolent force. Mr. Wednesday destroyed an entire field of henchmen with one lightning strike! He orchestrated Laura Moon’s murder in order to get Shadow. What can the new gods do? Show us, don’t tell us!
The noir jazz is back and worse than ever. We groaned aloud when we listened to it accompanying Mr. Nancy’s opening scene. Sometimes the score is unobtrusive and works fine, if not exceptionally, as in the music accompanying Ostara’s release of her true power. And perhaps the jazz works for Mr. Nancy. But they use it so much for other things it loses its impact beneath Mr. Nancy. Now it’s become so irritating it’s actually having a negative impact on our enjoyment of the show.
Media’s outing this episode, as Judy Garland of Easter Parade completely with dancing henchmen in tuxedos was another fun journey. Anderson has Garland’s speech patterns down pat and as usual her costuming and makeup is a delight. She even quotes from Easter Parade. What’s wonderful about Anderson and Media in general is that even when she’s speaking and it appears she’s being kind she projects a kind of darkness that is chilling. Media might not be the head of the new gods but at this point she is presenting as the most malevolent presence of the new gods.
Well godsquad, we’ve come to the end of American Gods for this season. The finale felt satisfying. We got some confirmations of suspicions of Wednesday as Odin, we saw Laura Moon finally realize that Wednesday has orchestrated her demise to get Shadow from the beginning, and we have a declaration of war from new gods. We liked this stuff, and there were some good teases for season 2. We wanted a little more explosive action, though. It was disappointing that the only thing we got to see from the House on the Rock was Bilquis pulling up. We just wanted a little more action for a season finale, because what are we going to obsess over until we get to season 2?
Comments and Questions: This is what we’ll be praying to the gods for answers to over the long wait for season two!
- How will Wednesday react to Sweeney’s bringing Laura to Kentucky, since Sweeney is still necessary?
- How will Shadow and Laura’s first conversation back go? We’ve got popcorn ready.
- Why does Easter owe Mad Sweeney a favor?
- Why does Easter pin a butterfly to Laura Moon’s scar?
- So many things for Shadow are happening in threes. …Interesting, right?
- How many more old gods have compromised themselves and gone to the new?
- We can’t wait for Laura vs. Wednesday.
- When will Tetanka Ska’s message be revealed?
- There’s another tree dream for Shadow. When will we find out about the trees? Tell us about the trees!
- Please Bilquis as a double agent. Please Bilquis as a double agent!!
- So what’s going on with Laura’s resurrection? Is it over for her hoping for that?
American Gods returns next season on Sundays at 9/8C on Starz.
American Gods Review 1×08: “Come to Jesus”