American Gods S1.E08 review: “Someone’s holding humanity to ransom”
You’d expect a season finale to have you itching for the next episode, to have you on the edge of your seat as if you’ve just finished a good meal. Satisfied, full, and wishing you could taste a little bit more although you know you’ve had your fill. In a word, you should be left feeling content. Although the beginning and the middle of the episode was slightly underwhelming, I was content with the ending of Come to Jesus, American Gods’ finale. That is until an extra 2 minutes of dialogue was tacked on the end. It killed its momentum and left me with a severe case of TV-show indigestion.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Starting with a story from Mr Nancy, woven as theatrically as the brightly-coloured suits he sports, you’re gently eased into thinking of the old gods as existing on a continuum. For them, adaptation is much, much more important than tradition. Bilquis exemplifies this: changing from a goddess that ruled Ethiopia to a subtle ruler dancing her way towards new worshippers in the discos of 70’s Tehran, she eventually becomes homeless in the USA after fleeing the Iranian Revolution. You can feel her disappointment, her regret for years past, making you realise how far these old gods have fallen. All this could contextualise Wednesday’s hunger to be back on top, but it actually ends up proving how the new gods can be a force for good. Technical Boy introduces Bilquis to Tinder, and bam: she’s is back in the game. So they plant this seed in your mind that the new gods might not be all Wednesday makes them out to be. Throughout the episode it will grow, and at the very end it’ll bloom into a moment of realisation.
Despite this grand revelation at the end of the episode, the main issue with Come to Jesus is that it didn’t feel like a finale. There was no sense of building up to a great crescendo, and even Wednesday revealing his real name wasn’t delivered with the kind of panache I’ve come to expect from McShane. His voice didn’t dip into a deep baritone, there was no different effects added to it to give it the weight I’ve come to expect from a god finally revealing their true form. Shadow suffered from similar fallbacks. He had no role to play, except for acquiescing to Wednesday at the very end. It’s even more frustrating because in the beginning of the episode Wednesday’s manipulation skills are put in the limelight. I’m getting frustrated that Shadow can’t see them. Partway through the episode he even becomes Easter’s (Kristen Chenoweth) arm candy. Kristen Chenoweth was dazzling as Easter, however, with a furious bitterness inside her from having given her holiday, Spring, away to Jesus Christ and accepting chocolate eggs and bunnies in return.
Despite it being literally the episode where we finally get some time with Jesus Christ, it didn’t feel right. As the god (well, god-ish) who turned Easter from a pagan ritual into a Christian holiday, he was remarkably absent from the episode. Instead we got to finally settle something: Mr Wednesday is the bad guy. The moment finally comes when he shows how he’s going to beat the new gods. His route to victory is paved with human corpses, as it looks like he’s going to ‘win’ by starving the new gods of their worshippers. Think of it like a hostage situation. Someone’s holding humanity to ransom, and for once it’s not the new Gods. Distracting mortals from their phones and TVs by kick-starting a sudden outbreak of famine, Wednesday’s convinced Easter to banish Spring until she’s prayed to once again. He’s not on our side. Despite the way he mentioned in a previous episode that gods used to “give something back”, it took this long for me to realise he’s not a nurturing god. Wednesday is going old-school. Not the good kind, either. The kind that used to teach children by using canes and beatings.