I don’t care if I’ve said this before: this episode of AMERICAN GODS, “Come to Jesus” was one of my favorite episodes of television history. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken those words, but man. I’m stunned.
Mr. Wednesday and Shadow are in the glorious home of Anansi (played by Orlando Jones). Anansi, who we learned a few episodes ago is a master of storytelling, replaces our normal narrator and brings us his own Coming to America tale. Anytime anyone starts a story begins with, “once upon a time, there was a f—–g queen,” I’m already feeling it.
You’re probably going to read about how this episode started with an orgy, and while that’s true, I’m not sure why everyone is so shocked and confused – it’s American Gods, what do people expect? The orgy was in dedication of the Queen of Anasi’s story, Bilquis, who enjoyed being worshipped and who seems to be driven by lust. She would devour the members of her orgy and the men that would try and “knock her off her throne” right through her… well you know. This should start to ring a bell for you. We’ve seen her before.
We fast forward through to the 1970’s where Bilquis’ clothes may have changed, but certainly not her power. But, as Anasi so adequately puts it, men didn’t want a queen to have a power they couldn’t control. It’s assumed that her being “stripped” of her power, comes from her either being forced into prostitution or being raped after a club she’s prowling is raided by a group of men.
After the attack Bilquis “played the game” as Anansi put it, and collected her victims the best way she could. We see her traveling to Hollywood, fresh off of consuming a man in the bathroom of a plane.
Even in America, Anansi continues his wholly true rant and discusses how America too found issue with a woman in power, and found ways to cut her down. Without anyone to worship her, we watch as her health deteriorates and she falls homeless, stricken in pain by the destruction of her temple at the hands of men.
We watch as the God of Media approaches the homeless queen and makes her an offer she can’t refuse, “I heard they blew up your alter, I’ll offer you a new one.” He gives her a smart phone, with a Tindr like app already uploaded.
According to Anasi, the moral of the story is that Mr. Wednesday and Shadow need to find a queen. He warns Mr. Wednesday that he needs to find a queen in order to have any chance – especially since he’s just cut off Vulcan’s head.
Shadow explodes, upset over Mr. Wednesday’s actions and wonders again what his intentions truly are. “I’m very confused.” He tells Mr. Wednesday. In a very vague response, Mr. Wednesday warns Shadow to get angry.
Before anyone can answer any real questions, Anansi throws Shadow a suit he’d been sowing through the story. The suit sends Shadow into a dream-like sequence, complete with a tower of skulls.
Shadow awakens in frustration back in the car with Mr. Wednesday who tells him they’re headed to Kentucky. He tells Shadow that they’re visiting a lady, and that he should be careful in case the woman takes a liking to him.
The duo enters into a colorfully whimsical home, straight out of Alice in Wonderland. The white rabbits and terrible pastel colors remind Shadow that today is Easter. Mr. Wednesday bursts Shadow’s bubble, and tells Shadow that Easter is really a pagan ritual celebrating the beginning of spring, and that when people celebrate Easter it’s really a celebration of the Grecian goddess Ostara– who cringes when she sees Mr. Wednesday.
Ostara’s party is filled with different Jesus’, which, there are many. Wednesday tries to recruit Ostara for his war, but she seems not to believe she’s been forgotten. Out of delusion, she believes that she shares the holiday with Jesus, and that when people celebrate Easter, they’re really celebrating her. Mr. Wednesday reminds her that Jesus gets all of the credit on Easter, not her – which is hilarious. Mr. Wednesday lies and tells her that the New Gods killed Vulcan after he’d pledged his allegiance to Mr. Wednesday, and that they’d crafted a sword in his honor. The lies flowed from his mouth way too smoothly.
During intermission, we catch up with Bilquis. The pricky God of Tech finds her, chiding her for avoiding him. He tells her she’s done well by him, so now he will do well by her. The goddess attempts to seduce him, which I would’ve loved to see, but she does not. He tells her he’s calling in what she owes, and god knows what that could be (pun intended).
The sound of flies brings in the arrival of Laura and the leprechaun who have presumably landed at the resurrection man’s location – which is at Ostara’s party. Of course! Before Shadow can reunite with his gross ex-wife, he talks to a Jesus, telling him that he doesn’t know if he knows how to believe in anything.
Mr. Wednesday continues his attempt to get Ostara to join him – blaming technology like microwaves for taking away prayers from people, especially during the harvest. He tells her that she should starve the people into submission – “make them pray.”
They’re interrupted by some white bunnies that alert Ostara that something is amiss.
What’s amiss? Laura puking up maggots in the bathroom. The leprechaun, who’s “colleagues” with Ostara, tries to convince her to bring Laura back. He tells her that he owes her a favor. Laura describes how she’s feeling and asks if Jesus felt the same way when Ostara brought him back to life. Ostara tells her that she didn’t resurrect him, but that he was reimagined on her day. Laura begs to be brought back to life, saying that she understands that she has something to live for. Ostara tells her that she must figure out how she came to be dead first. Uh oh…
After Ostara looks into Laura’s eyes (and clearly sees the leprechaun’s hand in her death) Ostara tells Laura that she can’t resurrect her because a god has killed her. She tells Laura that she can’t interfere with that, and that she’s deader than dead. Before Laura can digest this, Ostara hurries off after a white rabbit motions for her to run away. Laura’s left with the thought – which God killed her?
At the door, Ostara is greeted by the God of Media. She reminds Ostara how she built this holiday for her, marketing eggs, and candy and cards.
Back in the back of the house, Laura tortures the leprechaun enough to find out that he killed her and was sent by Mr. Wednesday as a sacrifice. She also finds out that Mr. Wednesday was the reason for Shadow going to jail and messing up Laura’s perfect plan. The leprechaun tells Laura in a far less eloquent way that all the gods do is mess with us.
Back in another part of the house, Shadow finds Mr. Wednesday sulking because he’s aware that the New Gods have arrived. On the ground, Ostara tries to get the New Gods off of her track, telling them that Wednesday had already left. Ostara complains that she’s feeling misrepresented in the media (as does St. Nick), and the God of Media essentially tells her to get over it.
Mr. Wednesday confronts the New Gods, telling them that Gods can be restored when worship is redistributed. The New Gods tell Wednesday that they’re there to bring in Ostara. Mr. World warns Mr. Wednesday that he doesn’t want a war, because the new gods will win. He warns Mr. Wednesday, not to fight.
Mr. Wednesday tells them that he doesn’t have to fight, and dedicates “these deaths” to Ostara. He then promptly kills the New Gods’ henchman. He then turns to Shadow, finally revealing himself and his many names: Glad or War, Grim Raider, Grimner, and a bunch of other names I couldn’t catch. He reveals himself to be Odin, surrounded by lightening and storm. He then points to Ostara, who shows her truly beautiful and magnificent power – that just so happens to destroy all of the crops on earth. A stunned Mr. World concedes to the war, and warns Mr. Wednesday that this will be the war that they die in.
Mr. Wednesday calls out a manifesto, for the New Gods to tell the believers and non-believers that they can have everything back once they pray for it. He turns to Shadow, who finally admits that he believes.
Before anything else can go down, Laura returns, asking for a word with Shadow.
Instead of our normal cut to black, we return to Bilquis one final time, who’s on her way to Little House on the Rock, Wisconsin, escorting a man into the bathroom and doing what she does best.
Okay okay, I know I had a favorite episode before, but I’ve got to change my mind. This was the episode we’ve all been waiting for. I feel bad for those out there who haven’t watched it yet, because they truly don’t understand what they’re missing out on.
So I have to give props to the feminist discourse at the beginning of the episode. We weren’t just talking about a goddess being stripped of her powers, but a sex positive (to the nth degree) goddess who was stripped of her power by men. And there was no mistake that this narrative was a direct attack on the patriarchy and the fragility that is masculinity, which I appreciated even more. I’d also like to say that I love that this is a black woman. There’s something to say about a powerful, sexually free black goddess, and demonstrating that she endures a different kind of hardship than other goddesses. We’ve seen a handful of other goddesses, and we know that all of the Old Gods are suffering, but we haven’t seen them stripped down to homelessness, prostitution and disease. I don’t believe it’s a stretch here that Anansi (one of the only black gods we’ve seen) was a strategic storytelling approach for Bilquis’ story. We know that American Gods is not a stranger to political discourse, and this episode definitely adhered to their standards.
Also – Mr. Wednesday as Odin – loved the cinematic reveal. Even if you’re not big into Norse mythology, if you’ve seen Thor, you know a little something something about Odin. I’m not going to give you the full run down, but he’s basically a war-god, one of the most famous out there. Mr. Wednesday’s all about creating good from war, which is a staple of Odin’s. When you look at it that way, do you think that the choices he’s made (killing Vulcan, getting Shadow arrested, etc.) was completely out of line?
Finally, let’s talk about the ending of this week’s shindig. Man…. I didn’t see the whole “let’s destroy all of the crops to get them to worship us” coming, and I love the idea of gods “messing” with us to get what they want. I don’t ascribe to the belief that all bad things are caused by gods, but seeing the narrative play out like a spiritual soap opera kind of has me at least entertaining the thought. It’s also interesting that this episode that shows the gods manipulating our lives to get what they want just so happens to fall during some of the most troubling times in recent history. What with Trump, and Brexit, police brutality and a plethora of other horrors we’re living through, who’s to say the gods aren’t getting back at us for being addicted to our phones? Shoot… might have me going to someone’s church this Sunday….
Season 1, Episode 8 (S01E08)
American Gods airs Sundays at 8PM on Starz
Writer based in LA. Just trying to write good stuff while deep conditioning my hair.
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Vanessa Jay | Contributor