‘American Gods’ Season Finale Review: The Old Gods Close Out the Season With a Bang
(Each week, we’ll kick off our discussion of American Gods by answering one simple question: which character do we worship this week?)
“What do you believe?”
After an episode that took a break from the main storyline, “Come to Jesus” returned to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday…and Anansi and Bilquis and the New Gods. American Gods concluded it’s first season with a bang, with a show of strength from the Old Gods and an official declaration of war from the New Gods. Mr. Nancy told us in episode two, and again at the beginning of episode eight that “Angry gets shit done.” With that as the battle cry for the season, American Gods showed us how dangerous these colorful characters can be and left us with the questions of not only what this war will do to the gods, but what will it mean for the rest of America.
Who Do We Worship? The Old Gods
“What have you done?”
To know who to worship in this dynamic finale, one need only to look at the faces of Media and Technical Boy. Odin brought the storm and Easter the famine, taking the Old Gods’ demand for worship from a plea to a necessity. They exploited the Achilles Heel of the New Gods, a collection of deities that thrive of the modern obsessions of a population of people that live comfortably and aren’t fighting to survive. While screens may keep our attention, when it comes to survival, who do we pray to? We may tweet out what we are praying for, but the prayers themselves are to those in the cosmos that we believe can save us.
Technology holds our attention hostage in a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Under normal circumstances, it seems only to flourish. But in one brutal display of power, the old gods challenged the new. Instagram and Television mean very little when you can’t feed your family. What Easter and Odin did was primal, more terrifying than Big Brother. Though we may worry about our online bank accounts getting hacked or our computers crashing, we worry from the comfort of full stomachs. Media and Tech Boy can’t compete when the people who love them are starving.
Although it wasn’t much of a secret, Mr. Wednesday revealed himself as Odin in a method that put Mr. World’s psychedelic power point to shame. Where Media told Easter to bury her feelings of misrepresentation and tried to bully her into accepting the new order of things, Odin gave her a pile of human sacrifices with one lightning bolt. Angry. Gets. Shit. Done.
If Ostara and Odin can do that, what tricks do the other old gods have up their sleeves?
Rebirth and Creation
“Get yourself a queen.”
This week may have had us sacrificing at the altar of the old gods, but this episode is one for the ladies. Bilquis, Easter, and Laura Moon are all women brought down a peg at the hands of men. With Bilquis’ origin story, we see her power, the power of all women, collapse at the hands of men that were threatened by it. Easter, Ostara, an ancient goddess that had her worship usurped by the son of another god. Laura Moon, had her life stolen from her, at the hands of a lackey, for the games and needs of Odin, because of her power over Shadow. “There is no end to the cruelty of men, threatened by strong women.” Anansi preached it for us, but it is something that we have always known and are now beginning to resurrect: love, sexuality, and birth may be feminine traits, but you should never mistake feminine for weak.
Easter’s flirtatious nature and the way she charmed Shadow was an absolute delight to watch, leaving me giggling almost as much as Shadow was blushing. Her flawless makeup and perfect hair, her determination to be the perfect party host, her shock at Wednesday’s language, is all reminiscent of mid-century society ladies. But push her and she will push you back. Easter packs a punch, with as much of an ability to take spring away as she can give it. To think that kind of power has been subdued for millennia so that she could share the limelight with a bunch of Jesus’s in hopes of getting a piece of their worship on her day. Kristin Chenoweth might be one of my favorite casting of the series. There is something so blissfully satisfying about taking a character that appears to be the embodiment of the good dutiful American woman and watch her just destroy everything…and look flawless doing it.
Laura Moon, our favorite apathetic dead girl, learns that she met her end not only at the hands of Mad Sweeney, but on the orders of her husband’s new boss, Mr. Wednesday. To add insult to injury, Laura also learns that Wednesday ruined her perfect casino heist by sending Shadow in prison. Although coming back from the dead has brought the previously atheistic Laura into the realm of faith and belief, it hasn’t, for better or worse, changed her attitude. Wednesday wanted Laura out of the way so that Shadow had nothing to live for, but the moment he gets Shadow to believe, Laura shows up ready to rain on Wednesday’s parade and have a talk with her widowed husband. We have to wait for the second season to discover how that plays out after everything that has happened, but I think it is safe to say that for a woman like Laura, the old saying rings true: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
The Bilquis we met in episode one was a woman to be revered, but she was nothing compared to the queen that she used to be. Between the orgy at her feet and the kings that fell between her legs, Bilquis was one powerful woman. In one of the better origin stories of the season, her tale reflects the stories of many women throughout the ages, from the worship of fertility to the loss of rights of women in the Middle East to the destruction of her temple and the treatment of women of color in America, Bilquis is a feminist champion that was rightfully expanded upon for the show.
In her search to remember the queen within, she manages to resurrect her power at the hands of Technical Boy and a hook-up app. However, we see her begin to regret her association with the New Gods, realizing that although she is no longer on the streets, she is still at the service of a man. Bilquis gets the final scene of the season and her actions on the bus hopefully foreshadow what she will do at the House on the Rock. She once again seduces a man her way. She doesn’t use Technical Boy’s app – she proves to herself that she doesn’t need him anymore. I have a feeling that we might see her change sides next year. The question will be whether or not she will be willing to take orders from Odin.
Where Do We Stand Now?
Season one is officially over. This very short but very in-depth journey into Neil Gaiman’s American Gods gave us a perfect set up into what I am sure will continue to be a wild ride. Much like the book itself, the beginning of season feels like the initial spark to a comically long fuse that leads to a big pile of TNT. With this season finale, not only have we met most of the major players, but the major players have met each other and we know that word is traveling quickly through this underground network of gods. Odin has gathered Czernobog and his hammer, Anansi, Mad Sweeney, and now Ostara, and it is yet unknown what other old gods might already have his loyalty. Salim and the Jinn, as well as Bilquis, are on their way to House on the Rock, but who else will be there? Among all the Jesus’s at Easter’s Easter party, we spent the most time with Jesus Prime, but in true Jesus fashion, he seems to be the gentlest soul and probably a pacifist. Although hearing him say “God Dammit” was one of the more entertaining quips of the season. Will any of the Jesus’s join the fight? When it comes to religion and prayer in America, they certainly hold most of the cards.
If the New Gods’ show of power in “Lemon Scented You” was them before officially declaring war, what will they be like now that they have actually declared war? Mr. World insists that this will be the war Odin dies in, but it is hard to imagine what he has that is more powerful than being able to bring lightning down on a whim and take away an entire harvest. Also, if the New Gods had already seduced Bilquis and the late Vulcan to their side, what other old gods do they have at their disposal? Media’s confrontation with Easter had more of a menacing kick than her previous iterations as Lucy and Marilyn, changing quickly from declaring herself as Easter’s friend to trying to put her in her place. Media came as Judy Garland for the finale, but her ever-changing appearance and tender voice are, as Wednesday says, nothing more than innovative distractions.
American Gods is setting up a mob war. Both sides are gearing up to play very dirty, and although you may like one more than the other, you wouldn’t want to cross any of them.
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