Title: “American Gods Season 1 Episode 8: Come to Jesus ”
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Platform: TV – Starz
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer: Bekah Brunstetter and Michael Green & Bryan Fuller
Release: June 18 , 2017
Cast: Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning
Feature image: Source
“There’s no end to the cruelty of men threatened by strong women. Mr. Nancy —American Gods
Spiders are crawling near a sewing machine. We soon understand why, Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) is operating it. Mr. Nancy is a tailor and his two customers are Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle). They are lounging comfortably in bathrobes while Nancy tells them a story about the Queen of Sheba, in the Temple of Bar’an, 864 B.C. There is an army of naked worshippers gyrating under the spell of Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). A man in the crowd looks at Bilquis, the shape of his head turns into a crown, and he heads towards her. “Kings didn’t like that,” Mr. Nancy adds. “Kings came one after another to knock her off her throne. They didn’t last long.” After they make love, he along with the other worshippers become black liquid goo and go inside her ‘nebula’. The scene switches to a disco in Tehran in 1979, Bilquis has a glorious afro now, with glitter on her face. She spots an attractive Persian woman (Parveen Kaur) and they dance together. Before more can happen, armed Islamist militants raid the disco and smash up the place, running the partygoers into the street. Mr. Nancy: “There’s no end to the cruelty of men threatened by strong women.” Bilquis makes it out of Iran to Los Angeles. She is having mile high sex on the way there to keep the worship going. By the 80s, the young woman in the disco is in a hospital dying from AIDS. Bilquis looks sadly at her through a hospital window. By the 21st century, Bilquis is living in the streets, with sores on her face. She looks through the window of an Ethiopian restaurant named Sheba. On TV, ISIS is destroying one of her old temples. As she is sleeping on the streets of Hollywood one night, Technical Boy (Brice Langley) steps out of his limo. With a smirk, Technical Boy tells her, “I hear they blew up your altar, I have a new one to offer you.” He pulls out a phone and shows her an app named Sheba that hooks up people. Nancy asks Shadow what the moral of this story is. Giving a dumb answer as usual, Shadow says, “Don’t cut deals with treacherous motherfuckers.” (Even though that is true.) Nancy tells him no, you can’t get anywhere without compromise. Wednesday decides it means he needs to get his own queen for the upcoming war.
“Well, I deal in sugar, sugar. And you’re the sweetest damn thing I’ve ever seen.” Easter —American Gods
Shadow is dreaming that he is climbing up a mountain of skulls and he runs into the buffalo with the flaming eyes. The buffalo snorts smoke and Shadow wakes up in Kentucky. Not like the Kentucky, I’ve driven through because they have bunnies chasing their car. They are going to the beautiful estate of Ostara, better known to us as Easter (Kristin Chenoweth). Wednesday explains to Shadow, “When you see children dipping eggs in vinegar the colors of their favorite toys, or when you see the nation’s youth fleeing south for copulation, or when they spread their seed over the sinking mass that is the great state of Florida, they all, without realizing it, do it in her name: Ostara.” She is having an Easter party at her home. Shadow and Wednesday walk into the party in their fancy new duds, courtesy of Mr. Nancy. Easter isn’t happy to see Wednesday walk in, but she does take a fancy to his handsome companion. Easter tells Shadow, “Well, I deal in sugar, sugar. And you’re the sweetest damn thing I’ve ever seen.” Shadow realizes that there are many manifestations of Jesus at the party and realizes he is surrounded by gods. Wednesday explains to a confused Shadow, “Believing is seeing. Gods are real if you believe in them.” Easter is obviously doing well and she doesn’t want any of the trouble Wednesday brings with him. Wednesday is trying to convince Easter that she is only doing well because people are celebrating Christ, not her. Christianity took over her rituals and incorporated them in its practices. One of the Christs apologizes. Wednesday tells her the new gods killed Vulcan for taking his side, he shows her the sword he made for Wednesday. He needs her by his side.
Bilquis is at a museum looking at an exhibit about her when she gets a call from Technical Boy. She ignores it. He is behind her in a corner of the museum. He knows she isn’t answering his calls but since she owes him, they want her in Wisconsin for Mr. Wednesday’s big meeting with the old gods. She attempts to seduce Technical Boy, but he isn’t dumb enough to fall into her trap; he’d rather she used her powers on someone else.
Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) and Laura Moon (Emily Browning) drive up in their beaten up ice cream truck. She was able to find the party because she was able to follow Shadow’s light. The number of Jesus(s) at the party surprises her.
Shadow talks to one of Jesus(s) who is sitting on the water in a pool enjoying a beverage. Shadow tells this Jesus (Jeremy Davies) about his lack of faith and his not believing what he is seeing around him. Jesus gives him this advice, “Even if you don’t believe, you cannot travel in any other way than the road your senses show you, and you must walk that road to the end.”
Mr. Wednesday is trying to convince Easter to starve America so that we will have to pray to her for her harvest. A rabbit interrupts their conversation to tell her that Mad is there with a dead girl. Mad asks Easter to resurrect Laura. She balks at doing it, Mad asks as a favor to him because she owes him. Easter explains that she doesn’t resurrect people; she renews life. She has to know what caused Laura’s death. Easter looks into her eyes and tells Laura she can’t help her. She can’t renew life to someone who a god killed. Another bunny arrives with a new message for her. She apologizes because she has to greet a new guest. Laura angrily turns to Mad and asks, “I was killed by a god. Which fucking god?”
“What do you think gods do? They do what they’ve always done. They fuck with us.” Mad Sweeney —American Gods
Laura pins Mad to the wall and grabs him by his balls. He confesses he killed her, but Laura knows he is not a god and asks him who was behind it. She has guessed who was behind it but she wants Mad to say it aloud. He finally admits it was Wednesday. “You weren’t murdered,” Mad Sweeney tells Laura. “You were sacrificed.” Laura realizes that everything that had happened to them, from Shadow going to prison to her death was caused by Wednesday. She asks why. “What do you think gods do? They do what they’ve always done. They fuck with us.” Mad Sweeney further elaborates, “He needed your man, he needed him to be in a place where he had nothing left in the world, nothing to lose because he’d already lost everything.” Laura wonders what Wednesday could lose.
Easter’s new guest is Media (Gillian Anderson) posing as Judy Garland from the movie Easter Parade. Technical Boy’s faceless goons are dressed as Fred Astaire (without his face). Media greets Easter and reminds her how much the new gods have helped her. Media: “We popularized the pagan. We practically invented brunch!” Media asks if Wednesday is at the party, Easter lies and says he has already left the party after talking nonsense. Media continues the pressure on Easter. She tells her how much she needs the new gods, and how it isn’t in her best interest to withdraw from them. “Saint Nick took the same deal you did,” Media tells Easter. “The only reason you’re still relevant today is because Easter is a Christian holiday. It’s religious Darwinism… Adapt and survive.” Wednesday walks down the stairs, he is now ready to face the new gods head on.
“People create gods when they wonder why things happen. Do you know why things happen? Because gods make them happen. You wanna know how to make good things happen? Be good to your god.” Mr. Wednesday —American Gods
He tells Media that the new gods are existential crisis aversion while the old gods inspire people. Mr. Wednesday continues, “People create gods when they wonder why things happen. Do you know why things happen? Because gods make them happen. You wanna know how to make good things happen? Be good to your god. You give a little. You get a little. The simplicity of that bargain has always been appealing. That’s why we’re here, and that’s precisely why I matter.” Technical Boy and Mr. World (Crispin Glover) arrive. Mr. World takes possession of one of Technical Boy’s goons and tells Mr. Wednesday he only matters in times of war, and there won’t be a war, because if there is one, the new gods will win. While they are talking, a storm starts to brew over them; Mr. Wednesday dedicates these deaths to Ostara and strikes down the faceless goons who have been multiplying in force. Wednesday asks Shadow if he believes and he asks Wednesday what he is. Wednesday: “I have as many names as there are winds, as many titles as there are ways to die.” He gives his many names and finally roars he is Odin, and the storm above reacts in frenzy. Mr. Wednesday: “Do you believe?” Shadow: I believe.” Mr. Wednesday: “What do you believe, Shadow?” Shadow: “Everything.” Odin now asks Ostara to reveal her full powers. Ostara lets her hair down, and clears the sky and drains the life out of the plants miles (or maybe more) around them. Wednesday: “Tell the believers and the non-believers. Tell them we’ve taken the spring. They can have it back when they pray for it.” The new gods witness this display of power and prepare to leave. Mr. World turns to Mr. Wednesday and says, “You wanted a war, Glad-of-War. You have one. Be glad. It will be the war you die in.” Before Wednesday can celebrate, they hear a throat clear. Laura: “I’d like to have a word with my husband.”
Meanwhile Bilquis is on a bus heading to Wisconsin. She invites an unsuspecting man to the bus lavatory. Goodbye unsuspecting man.
It is finally on, the old gods versus the new gods. As powerful as the new gods are, it is obvious why Mr. World wanted to avoid a war. With war on the horizon, the god of war, Odin, becomes one powerful adversary. The old gods have a history of fighting, and in an all-out war, do you want to tangle with experienced agents of mayhem. The new gods can fight a stealth war brilliantly, but in an all-out brawl, how will they fare. The obvious losers in this war is humanity. They need our worship, but they won’t mind us suffering a bit while they tussle.
This has been a great first season for American Gods. We met a lot of gods and had a lot of surprises. The biggest surprise for me is the breakout character of the show, the dead girl. With all of the gods involved, who would have thought that Laura Moon would turn out the most interesting? There aren’t too many positive attributes you would attach to Laura, but one thing you can’t say about her, that she is boring. Emily Browning has done a great job of taking all of these negative character traits of Laura, and made them into a compelling, complicated person, who even though dead, is the most alive character on the show. Her struggles are the struggles of most people. She is the reflection in the mirror we don’t want to see. Laura doesn’t try to control her darker sides, or hide them; she is who she is; warts and rotting skin, all. While the show’s story has meandered at times, her story, along with Mad Sweeney has steadily pushed on.
The weakest character in the show would probably be Shadow Moon himself. I think that is because he is such a reactive character. Things just happen to him, he doesn’t make things happen. We as the audience are ten steps ahead of him and we get a little upset that he hasn’t caught up to us yet. He explains to Jesus why he hasn’t believed what he is seeing, which is understandable. Now that he has caught up to the rest of us, I believe his character won’t just be a passenger in his own life. He will drive some of the story forward himself.
This show has all of the elements of a great show. The writing has been imaginative. They have taken many bold chances that have paid off. The show is weird, but it isn’t weird for weirdness sake. They have done a good job of blending in political and social commentary. (Even though it was not subtle in “A Murder of Gods”, episode 6.) The acting has been superb. From Ian McShane down, no one has felt miscast, and all have done a fine job with the material they have been given. The performances from Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber have been exceptionally strong. The guess appearances have been uniformly brilliant, and I hope we see more of them as the show continues next season. The show is shot beautifully, and the direction and cinematography of the show is near perfect. The music has played a large role in the show and they have done a great job of picking songs and creating new music. This week, they created a new song with Debbie Harry called, “Tehran 1979” for the disco scene in Tehran.
Episode Grade: A
Season Grade: A