Review by RCRs Henry Abrams, entertainment reporter, follow him on Twitter @Seven16
What a mess. And I mean that in the best way.
Consistently, American Gods has set up a number of subplots that have exponentially paid off (for the most part), and here, it’s no different, but to an even greater and larger extent than previous.
In featuring Anansi once more, this time tailoring clothes for Wednesday and Shadow, we receive the origin of Bilquis, who hasn’t shown up since the second episode. An African god of sex and fertility, she had to adapt to the changing tides of time by going underground, and eventually was forced to do what she could to survive. When she’s given a second chance by the New Gods, she takes it without hesitation. It took a long time for them to finally give her a third dimension, but the fact that her tale is a tragic one shows us that she isn’t as inherently evil as she appeared to be when we first met her. In showing us her circumstances, it’s clear even those that have fallen from grace yet have a role to play.
After having another dream featuring the White Buffalo, Shadow awakens to the sight of Kentucky, where it seems there’s an Easter party being thrown at a mansion that looks like it was ripped from a fairy tale. Dressed to the nines, the two meet Ostara, the Goddess of Spring (played by Pushing Daisies favorite Kristin Chenoweth), who is not very pleased to see Wednesday to say the least. In the middle of this, Shadow finally begins to understand the idea that gods exist in the world, and they exist because of belief, which in this instance, equates to at least twenty different Jesuses of different ethnicities, and a Virgin Mary or two thrown in for good measure. It’s at this point that Ostara and Wednesday get into a row over who is truly prayed and worshipped to on Easter, so she decides to chat with him in private to let loose her anger and find out what the true motives of his visit are. Wednesday tells her that the New Gods killed Vulcan for pledging his allegiance to him after forging the sword, which we all know isn’t true, and he needs her help to fight the coming war. It would seem that Wednesday is finally starting to show his true colors, and now, equipped with this new perspective, Shadow slips away, back to the party.
At the same moment, Bilquis, making her true reappearance in the present time, meets with Technical Boy in a museum. She tries to take control of the scenario, but TB intimidates her into sleeping with someone so the New Gods can take a chess piece off the board. The only question is who?
Back at the party, Laura and Sweeney arrive seeking someone to revive her while Shadow has a conversation with one of the Jesuses about belief. His existential crisis of whether to believe in what he’s seen is now hitting the point where he can’t deny what has happened, but he also isn’t certain that it’s happened at all. As the audience surrogate, this is the question that many of us have faced with issues in our own lives, with the idea being that something we witness, or something we do, changes us fundamentally, and we can either deny it outright, or we can just choose to go with our instincts, which allow us to believe. Watching up to this point, belief has been the constant nagging thematic element the series has presented us with, and that question is answered with the idea that we’re walking the path we’re set on until it ends whether or not we do. Acceptance of where you are in the moment, and that that moment will pass is belief in and of itself, which makes this one of the headiest moments of the season, despite the short length of the scene.
Ostara meets with Laura and Sweeney in private. Laura has started to deteriorate to almost the point of no return, her eyes glazed over with a thin white coating, as she coughs up maggots that are eating away at her insides. Sweeney asks Ostara to return Laura to life as a favor to him, but after finding out that she was killed by a god, she admits that she can’t do it because ‘rules’. Sweeney, after some torture to his nether regions, reveals the full extent of Laura’s death; She was a sacrifice to Wednesday to make sure that he could get his leash around Shadow, so that he felt he had nothing left to live for, and would serve him. Furthermore, he was the one who caused their Casino robbery to fail, sending Shadow to prison. She then asks Sweeney, “What does Wednesday have to lose?” One thinks it doesn’t need to be spelled out any clearer than that as to where her intentions are moving forward.
Ostara is called away to greet Media, who has shown up looking like Scarlet O’Hara, to celebrate the occasion, which leads into the last ten minutes of the episode. Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World attempt to catch Wednesday, Shadow, and Ostara off-guard, but Wednesday is more than prepared. As the camera swings around him, and lightning begins to crackle in the skies above, he reveals to Shadow his true identity: Odin, the All-Father of Norse Myth and Legend, one of the most powerful entities in the pantheon of gods. The over-the-top attitude of the scene perfectly fits in with the moment, and for me, is the second major highlight of the season. It’s a literal perfect storm that presents itself, the true nature of who these people are, and what they can do. That said, it was clearly telegraphed all season long, and I saw it coming a mile and a half away, but it didn’t take away from the awesomeness of the moment. Ostara then calls upon her power and sucks the life out of the entire land, leaving dead crops in her wake. After seeing all this take place, Shadow finally admits that he believes. “In what?”, Odin asks. “Everything.”
Almost all of the questions I had about what had been going on were given some relatively solid answers, and some plotlines wrapped up with a neat little bow. For the most part, despite some rushing towards the end, the episode was definitely the kick that it needs to get a larger audience watching it. Since the beginning, the high barrier to entry has been the most prominent issue that the show faced. For my money though, now that some of the cats are out of their proverbial bags, it can finally grab ahold of a lot more people, and really go to crazy town. I’m ready for season two whenever you are, Starz.
Come to Jesus: 9.1/10
About Episode 8 of American Gods on Starz
Shadow drops by to visit Jesus. Bilquis has been avoiding Technical Boy; Technical Boy reminds her she’s in debt to the New Gods. Shadow sees Easter for the first time.
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When Shadow Moon is released from prison, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday and a storm begins to brew. Little does Shadow know, this storm will change the course of his entire life. Left adrift by the recent, tragic death of his wife, and suddenly hired as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard, Shadow finds himself in the center of a world that he struggles to understand. It’s a world where magic is real, where the Old Gods fear both irrelevance and the growing power of the New Gods, like Technology and Media. Mr. Wednesday seeks to build a coalition of Old Gods to defend their existence in this new America, and reclaim some of the influence that they’ve lost. As Shadow travels across the country with Mr. Wednesday, he struggles to accept this new reality, and his place in it.