“There’s no end to the cruelty of men threatened by strong women.”
Whether you’re watching the show or reading the novel, the core premise of American Gods is belief. They’re both the slow burn type of stories that some folks love, and others hate. Honestly? That comes into play in the series as well. The New Gods are all about instant gratification. They’re a pacifier to a humanity that wants it now, now, now, and never wants to have to handle the nitty gritty life. Regardless of how far we have to go as a society, the majority of humans hold a lot more privilege than we did in the centuries past. We want what we want when we want it, and feel entitled to demand as such with as little work involved as possible.
But this narrative isn’t driven by the New Gods.
The Old Gods represent a time when you had to work for what you got. Everything that happened to you was because of them, and if you wanted something nice, you prayed. You showed your devotion to the god that watched over you, whoever that god may be. That may not be how faith and religion work anymore, but there’s something to be said for the gods that gave back. Of course, new or old, all gods are fickle things.
By now, most have deduced what’s going on with Mr. Wednesday’s war, and the fact that he’s Odin, so both of the episode’s “reveals” were by and large useless, but there’s still much to see in “Come to Jesus”. It can be frustrating to have so many questions and answers for so few of them, but that doesn’t mean what we’re watching isn’t some of television’s finest.
More Mr. Nancy is never not a good thing. It would have been lovely to see him ragging on Shadow as he does in the books, but perhaps we’re just not there with the two’s characters yet. Nancy spent the majority of his time telling us the tale of Bilquis. We’ve seen her before, but this time we learned of her past, her trials, and her rocky allegiance with the New Gods. The tone for the episode is set in Mr. Nancy’s story- If you want to win a war, you’ve got to get yourself a queen.
So, get a queen Mr. Wednesday does. He and Shadow head to Easter’s estate during a celebration of her day. Easter (Ostara) is a perfect representation of the gentrification of the Old Gods. Vulcan and Bilquis aren’t the only ones the New Gods had won over to their side, and in siding with them Ostara allowed herself to be tamed. The Goddess of Spring became a prim and proper Christian girl, adapting as her worshippers changed, and taking whatever spillover she could get from the prayers in Christ’s name. But this episode isn’t about glorified pawns of the New Gods. It’s about queens, and what’s been taken from them.
Three queens dominate the narrative of “Come to Jesus”. Bilquis, Ostara, and Laura. Where Bilquis and Ostara were stripped of their worshipers, Laura was stripped of her life. And where they were forgotten by man, Laura was killed by a god. Or, at least on his order. As much as the episode is about the queens who will fight in this war, it’s also about the men who would strip them of what is rightfully theirs. Mr. Wednesday may not be a human, but a man he is, and take he did. Laura’s life was forfeit due to Wednesday’s goals, and he may find that comes with more consequences than anticipated in the future. But that’s the future, and this is now. And now there’s a war to start.
The talk with Mr. Wednesday and the thinly veiled threats of Media and Technical Boy are enough to push Ostara over the edge, and a quickie sacrifice from Mr. Wednesday gives her an extra spurt of energy to take the life from everything miles around. He is Odin, and she is Ostara of the dawn, and she showed everyone at that party just who she is. Wars cannot be fought without money, and in a war between the gods, prayer is your currency. People may have forgotten the old gods, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be forced to pray to them. With all of the crops dead, the people will starve, and then the people will pray.
And so the war begins. Mr. World made an appearance in the form of one of the goons, his cool demeanor gone. He moves on to trying to insult and threaten Mr. Wednesday, but one needs more ammunition on their side to threaten Odin and get a reaction. Before Mr. World disappears, he warns Mr. Wednesday that he has his war, and that it will be the one he dies in. Thing is, gods are tricky to kill so long as there is blood being spilled in their name, and so far everything has gone exactly as Mr. Wednesday planned. Except for, perhaps, Bilquis.
American Gods has expanded the lore on several characters. Specifically Mad Sweeney, Laura Moon, and Bilquis. Because of that, I can’t offer much help on where the Queen of Shiba’s story is going. Right now we know that she’s desperate, and not all about being on Technical Boy and the New Gods’ side. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean she can’t cause plenty of problems for Mr. Wednesday and his soldiers.
As many of you had guessed, we end the season at the House on the Rock. Though I won’t directly answer your questions that will be future spoilers, I can tell you a couple things about the episode that may have been overlooked. For starters, the distinction that Jesus Christ is the son of a god, and not a god himself is important. It also means that he (in all of his iterations) has no dog in this fight. Keep paying attention to those trippy as hell bone orchard scenes. They will keep coming up and they will keep being relevant. The deeper into the story we go, the more we see Mr. Wednesday’s selfishness come into play. We close out the episode without Shadow knowing that he’s the cause of Laura’s death and his imprisonment, but Laura would like to have a word with her husband, and it appears Mr. Wednesday is out of places to run.
The first season of American Gods closes on an episode just as stunning as the other seven. Though understandably frustrating to some, the story has been impeccably told, and the additional twists and turns to characters welcome. In the end, Mr. Wednesday makes a believer out of Shadow Moon. The question is, did he make a believer out of you?