In American Gods 1X08 “Come to Jesus,” two godly gestures make believers out of us
We open with Mr. Nancy performing a decidedly ungodlike activity – tailoring suits for Wednesday and Shadow. Before we can miss Mr. Ibis’s velvety voice, the spider god decides to try his hand at a little storytelling of his own. He recounts the story of an ancient goddess, one who thrived on the love and sexuality of her worshippers. As time went on, she lived through the feminine mystique, but the backlash against sexual freedom in the 1970’s caused her fall. Before long, she was living on the street, until one night, a certain outrageously coiffed god offered her new life. She learned to adapt to the modern world, taking in worshippers a few at a time, gaining strength with each prayer uttered at the height of ecstasy. Her world is finally coming together once more, but then her savior returns with a demand…
In another town, Shadow and Wednesday visit a goddess of their own – Easter, formerly known as Ostara. At her lavish home, with beautifully manicured lawns and abundant sugary feasts, she is celebrating her holiday. Shadow is momentarily besotted by Ostara, but Wednesday is all business. He tells her that Vulcan was killed by the New Gods, and forces her to admit that it is Jesus people worship while saying her name. They are interrupted when Mad Sweeney and Laura arrive in the home to ask for resurrection. However, Ostara reveals that she cannot undo divine intervention, leading to Mad Sweeney’s pained admission of Wednesday’s involvement. When Media shows up to court Ostara, things quickly devolve into the first major confrontation between New and Old Gods. Wednesday finally reveals his true identity to Shadow before securing Ostara for the oncoming war.
The gauntlet has been thrown down, and war has been declared. Before we choose a side to take, let’s check in with our roundtable and hear their arguments:
Sky (@MzSkyZy) – Book fan, Bureaucrat and Admin on the American Gods Wiki
Nicola (@NicolaChoi) – Book fan and Editor at TVAfterDark
Ether (@babarts) – TV Addict who watches too many TV series, people person, tweeter passionate
Stevi (@smd) – book fan, Fuller fan, blogger at DamnYourDarkEyes.tumblr.com
Mo (@BookDreamer01) – Host of TV Movie Mistress, a podcast for TV watchers
1. Our storyteller this week looked a little different than usual. Did Mr. Nancy as narrator work for you?
Sky (@MzSkyZy): Demore Barnes is fantastic but it’s okay to change it up every now and again and Mr. Nancy is a fine substitution. Anansi loves to tell stories so he deserves to tell us some stories. It was also a nice touch to have him be a tailor, from spinning webs to spinning threads.
Nicola (@NicolaChoi): I much prefer Mr. Ibis’ style because Demore Barnes’ dulcet tones as the story goes along is almost like literally hearing someone recite it to you whilst it plays out on-screen. As for Mr. Nancy telling the story this week–this episode was one of my favourites, so it must’ve worked. I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. I love Orlando Jones, but what’s so delicious about his performance are his little tics and gestures and posture.
Stevi (@smd): It absolutely did, in a lot of ways. I enjoy how the spirit of Anansi’s stories are being pitched as more fire and brimstone to Ibis’ more scholarly tales. A huge part of the battle is around who gets to tell the stories that codify belief and inspire the believers, and this works as much for the gods themselves as for the humans.
Ether (@babarts): First, I must say well done, Mr. Nancy. Everything was on-point, from the tone of his voice to the clothes he was wearing. I have no bad reviews for him being the narrator. He executed his role as narrator to high standards. His opening was superb. It was a one-of-a-kind narrating.
Mo (@BookDreamer01): Absolutely. Although Mr. Nancy brings a different flair as narrator he did work for me, especially his flair for the dramatic. So while I love the dulcet tones of Ibis the fact that Mr. Nancy is the opposite as a narrator was a complementary addition to telling the story this week.
2. Speaking of which, Bilquis is back and we’re in love again. What moment in her story resonated with you the most and why?
Sky: I loved that temple scene in the beginning, seeing her at full power. But I would probably go with the scene where she’s becoming forgotten and accepts Technical Boy’s offer in desperation. Both Vulcan and Easter also accepted the New Gods’ form of worship in order to survive but we never saw them at their lowest. With Bilquis, we’re given insight into her decision and their fear of death gives these Old Gods a humanness that would otherwise be lacking. They’ve all lost a part of themselves by accepting mediocre worship by the multitudes instead of demanding devotion and sacrifice.
Nicola: I think the moment when she hits rock-bottom and she’s sleeping on the streets. It’s so universal because nearly everyone–I wouldn’t assume everyone–has hit rock-bottom, and they all have their variations. We so regularly see the Old Gods (especially Mr. Wednesday) fear being forgotten, but we haven’t seen it. Until Bilquis. I think that desperation and her latching onto anything possible in order to regain some sense of normality–hence her reluctant unity with Tech Boy–speaks volumes about just how Bilquis needs normality. And worship. That power. Not just to be powerful, but to just be.
Stevi: At her lowest, seeing the cafe19 with a motif that echoed her glory days, only to approach it to see the last vestiges of her temple being destroyed. The pathos in her eyes just wrecked me.
Ether: The scene where they worship Bilquis in the temple, and the scene where she was homeless person on the roadside. It shows you can be at the top and then suddenly you fall to the wayside.
Mo: The beginning resonated with me as we see the power she gained through her worshippers. But how ultimately, men tried and for the most part succeeded in taking her power and ultimately her ownership of self. It broke my heart when Technical dared to approach her with rebranding.
3. We don’t know about you, but we would love a man to look at us like Shadow looks at Easter! What do you think is the difference between loving Easter and believing in her?
Sky: I must admit I was disappointed that Easter wasn’t plump and voluptuous like she is described in the book but I’ve also loved Kristin Chenoweth since Pushing Daisies so I was still happy with the casting. She shines in this role, sweetly comforting and cussing in the same breath. Shadow is like a schoolboy in love with her and it’s so adorable. I’m really enjoying how they’ve amplified some of Shadow’s best qualities and, instead of him being reactionary to everything going on, he’s much more interactionary.
Nicola: I swear I thought Ricky Whittle just threw off his acting armour and decided to gaze lovingly at Kristin Chenoweth the entire time (which is completely understandable, especially when you’re dangling off her arm). Believing in her would mean first of all knowing she’s Ostara, not the name Easter. It’d mean performing all these traditions because of your true worship in Ostara, like when the Anglo-Saxons would hold feasts in her honour. And look at what that holiday is now: commercialised. It’s barely even Jesus-worthy! To love her–ask Ricky Whittle, man! But in Old English, Ēostre means “to shine”. Chenoweth is just radiant. And they’re a perfect match–it’s hard to not love Easter, and be utterly transfixed by her.
Stevi: Easter is charming and charismatic, easy to love like a glorious spring day. As someone who lives in a city known for its dreary winters, Shadow’s face reminded me of the giddy happiness we all feel the first nice sunny spring day. Belief is continuing to have that positive feeling course through your veins the next day when it’s overcast again – or when the sugar high has faded and the crops have disappeared.
Ether: I must say that Easter looks good on the outside, and maybe that is reason why Shadow falls head over heels for her from that first eye contact. To believe in Easter, it will take time and he has to see a miracle before taking that leap of faith.
Mo: I’m not sure, because when Shadow met her he didn’t believe in her yet. So perhaps seeing only the good in her, the candy, the eggs, but believing in her, seems to equal seeing her destructive nature as well.
4. Considering that Shadow’s eyes were opened to the presence of the gods at Ostara’s house, why does he still question his faith?
Sky: Shadow’s conversation with White Jesus reveals that he wants to think it’s a vivid dream. His entire life, things have been one way and now everything has gone upside-down and he’s having a hard time reconciling that as his new reality. He has to give up that last shred of skepticism (and maybe even that last shred of hope) that he’s trapped in a dream or being gaslit. He’s not fully through the curtain yet, not until the end of the episode.
Nicola: It’s a lot to take in. And there are a lot of Gods from very different cultures; there’s massive diversity. I think Shadow does believe, but what exactly does he believe in? I think maybe that’s the question he’s asking himself. Was his belief manufactured by Wednesday ushering him to it? Or does he truly, truly believe? It’s a tightrope to walk on, and I think Shadow’s exploring this incredible new world with cautious steps.
Stevi: Faith isn’t rational, by definition. Even talking to (a) Jesus Christ, Shadow’s objective mind can say, “OK gods are real, I’m at Easter’s house…” But he still needed that moment where belief became manifest for him. Similar to how he didn’t believe in love – until he did.
Ether: Shadow needs more tangible proof – what he can see with his eyes so he can have faith. Maybe what he needs is more time to process all this evidence of Gods in the world he lives in.
Mo: Possibly because at this point in his life he’s lost his faith in everything; his wife and friend betrayed him then died and he’s spent 3 yrs in jail, when he comes out he has nothing. I think it would be hard to have faith in anything or anyone at that point. Hence why Odin always said even if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. He had to go through all of this to recover that faith.
5. Okay, seriously though, who wouldn’t want to be an eternal guest at Ostara’s house?! What was your favorite thing about it?
Sky: All that wonderful food! And the decor! A Kentucky mansion fit for the Queen of the Dawn.
Nicola: Kristin Chenoweth! C’mon!
Stevi: There seemed to be an honest Southern hospitality going on. Easter seemed truly put out that Wednesday was disrespectful to the Jesuses, because they were her guests. For all her needling about it really being her day, Easter seemed to also be a sincere hostess to her guests. I loved the idea of all the manifestations of Jesus getting along, and being respected by Easter and the other pagan gods. Until Wednesday and the new gods showed up to stir up trouble.
Ether: So true, i would love to be a eternal guest at Ostara’s house. It gives such a hippy vibes with all those Jesus, candies and wines in that house…
Mo: My favorite thing about Ostara’s house were the colors and furniture. I would love to move in lol, it was so vivid and bright, I found it comforting. From the interior designs to the exterior of her home overflowing with flowers and bunnies, it just brought a smile to my face.
6. Wednesday and Shadow’s contract is supposedly null and void if he gets angry. Could Laura’s revelation about who killed her be enough to break their bond?
Sky: Shadow’s life has been directly manipulated by a god because, as Mad Sweeney tells it, gods like to “fuck with us.” Wednesday has taken everything away from Shadow because he was bored and in need of a pawn. It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Wednesday talking his way out of that one, but I’m sure he’ll figure something out to keep Shadow on the hook. Either way, Laura doesn’t deserve a second chance with Shadow and he should be free to live his life without her dead weight. Go away, selfish Laura. You stink.
Nicola: I mean, the first question is: would Shadow really be surprised if he found out it was Wednesday? He’s seen what this God can do–not the charming, slick con-man he met, but a very, very shady and suspect individual. But I don’t think so. By now, I think Wednesday’s just about suckered Shadow in so even if that revelation came out, I don’t think it would break the bond. That night at the inn, where Wednesday zooms away after spotting Laura and Shadow doesn’t? Maybe Wednesday knew then that the strength of his bond with Shadow wasn’t enough. Yet. But now, I think it is.
Stevi: I think so. I’m very curious how they’re going to resolve this next season – will Wednesday be able to whisk Shadow away before Laura can make her revelation? Shadow’s only just begun to believe in Wednesday – how solid is that faith? I don’t think it could withstand an immediate revelation of how Wednesday has manipulated his life. Will he become a Job like character, who maintains his faith despite being a plaything of the gods?
Ether: From the angle that i am looking at Mr. Wednesday got Shadow around his fingers like a pro. I think their is friendship brewing from all this awkward relationship. I am seeing bros for life from this episode.
Mo: I absolutely think so. Shadow was already angry on behalf of Vulcan, who we know Shadow found distasteful. I am sure Laura’s revelation would break it, but perhaps if Mr. Wednesday gives Laura back her life Shadow would be open to negotiating his contract with Mr. Wednesday for a second time.
7. Three words: SHOW OF POWER. How awesome was it to see the opposing powers of Odin and Ostara?
Sky: That whole scene from Media’s arrival to Easter sucking the life out of the earth to Mr. World’s parting shot to Shadow’s declaration of faith might be my favorite in the entire season and I’ve rewatched it way too many times already. Wednesday going full Odin was everything I wished for. And to follow it up with Easter going full glory mode…just WOW! The time and attention the New Gods receive will never amount to the power the Old Gods receive through sacrifice. Wednesday has been looking for a war and the New Gods have finally accepted. Bring on Season Two!
Nicola: Frickin’ awesome. Just to see these masters of the screen Chenoweth and McShane commandeering was an honour to watch. But I gotta say, and I don’t think any outlet hasn’t mentioned it, so I apologise, but Chenoweth’s so miniature and cute and sweet. And so is Easter. My point is, I think that almost added to the brilliance of it. Here’s this big swaggering god Odin, and the adorable-but-sharp Easter. The oddity of that match-up made it really fun to watch for me.
Stevi: Very awesome. The power is obviously still in there. The question is – how much did it take out of them? They’re both taking gambles on using this stored energy to generate new belief to sustain them. Hope this is addressed in season two!
Ether: It was a out of body experience I went, I saw their awesome powers been displayed. It was magnificent to see Ostara in all her glory and Odin power was truly remarkable. Odin and Ostara SHOW OF POWER was the most spectacular scene of the entire season.
Mo: I loved it! Although their powers are literally night and day, the destruction their powers can cause was a sight to behold. For Odin you expect the darkness but for someone surrounded throughout the episode with light as Ostara, I wasn’t expecting the show of force her power was. To be able to bring the a drought was impressive as all get out. She can bring her bounty to the world and she can also take it back.
Final Verdict: “Come to Jesus” had us renewing our faith and looking for gods among us
While our faith has been tested occasionally during this first season of American Gods, “Come to Jesus” definitely turned us back into believers! We bowed at the feet of the sensual and emotional performance from Yetide Bataki. We stared dreamily at the determinedly sunny portrayal of Easter by Kristin Chenoweth. We covered the laughter spilling over while watching Laura and Mad Sweeney’s exchange. Our mouths dropped open at the astounding revelation of Wednesday as Odin. Most of all, however, we were right there with Shadow when he finally admitted that he is a believer. We have seen the light (and lightning), and we are ready to worship. Bring on season two!