American Gods Ends its First Season With a War on Easter

American Gods Ends its First Season With a War on Easter

The first season of American Gods is over, and we’re not even a quarter of the way through the book. That’s OK. When I realized how well-done the additions to and deviations from the original story were, I became a lot less impatient. We’ll get to The House on the Rock, Lakeside and the Center of America eventually. Like any good road trip the journey has been so much fun; I don’t mind waiting for the destinations. Especially when the extra stops look like this.

As the episode began, we finally saw Anansi again. Now going by Mr. Nancy, he tells Shadow and Wednesday a story while he sews them some clothes. Wednesday complains that they don’t have time, which is funny coming from someone driving from Chicago to Wisconsin by way of Kentucky. Sadly, the story Nancy tells isn’t the one about him stealing Tiger’s balls. We’ll just have to wait for season two to hear that one, I guess. Instead, his story tells us why an old god would join up with the new ones. He gives us the full story of Bilquis, also known as the Queen of Sheba. In the old days, people would worship her in massive orgies, after which they all turned into a black liquid and were drawn up into her body. Game of Thrones has nothing on this show.

We see her change with the times, ending up in disco-era Iran before the Islamic Revolution takes her to America. There, starved for worship, she ends up homeless, sick and forgotten. Even she doesn’t remember that she’s a goddess. That is, until Technology Boy shows up. He offers her a modern way to get her worship: a dating app. Having no other choice, she accepts. Later, Technical Boy calls in a favor and sends her to Wisconsin, where Wednesday and Shadow will head next season. I like that Bilquis is given a much larger, more important role here than she was in the book. It’s looking like she’ll have a lot more agency in the plot next season. I just wish we got more of her in this one. For a show that expanded the characters of Laura Moon and Mad Sweeney to the point where their journey is half the season, it would have been nice to see Bilquis get a little bit of the same treatment.

Orlando Jones (Photo via Starz)

In any case, once the story is over, Shadow and Wednesday are off to Kentucky to meet Easter/Eostre/Ostara, the goddess of spring. All this season, Wednesday has been asking Shadow if he believes. Finally, after everything he’s seen, he’s starting to. All it takes is a room full of Jesuses for it to dawn on him that he’s working with gods. Easter now shares her holiday with Jesus, reasoning that people following old traditions (painting eggs, eating rabbits) and saying “Happy Easter” is worship enough. While Wednesday tries to convince her to join his side, Shadow tries to get a grip on reality by talking to Jesus Prime. It helps a little. Jeremy Davies is a fantastic Jesus Prime. Every line sounds like everything you’ve ever been told about Jesus. He’s wise, peaceful, kind, compassionate and just a little bit spoiled. There’s a great scene where Wednesday argues that Jesus stole Easter, and Jesus Prime it all too eager to play the martyr. “I feel terrible.”

With everything he’s seen, Shadow has no choice but to believe in gods. His belief turns absolute once the new gods show up and Wednesday reveals himself to be Odin. At this point, that’s probably only a surprise to Shadow. They offer Easter a chance to update and evolve as they did for Bilquis. But converting Shadow, formerly a confirmed nonbeliever, gives Odin power. He summons lightning to kill the faceless Men in Black, one of whom Mr. World was speaking through. As he flickers out, he assures Wednesday that he has his war. Ostara starts the war by following Wednesday’s advice and taking away the spring. Deprived of food, humans will have to worship her again to get it back.

Jeremy Davies, Ricky Whittle (Photo via Starz)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an adaptation quite like this. Scenes from the book are remixed, added to and moved around to tell a story that appears to be following the same path, but feels completely new. In the novel, Shadow and Wednesday don’t meet Easter until much later, and this showdown certainly doesn’t happen. I get that a TV show needs some kind of climactic battle for the season finale, but there’s more going on here.Wednesday needs to get Shadow to believe in him, or the rest of the story doesn’t work. In the book, it’s slow and gradual. Shadow stays with Wednesday because the alternative is worse. He slowly grows to believe in him, before finding out that… well, spoilers. You can’t do that in a TV show, especially when you only have eight episodes per season. In the show, Shadow needed a jolt to the system to get him to believe. And what better way to do that than rain lightning down on the new gods at an Easter party full of Jesuses?

It was a gutsy move to make the first season like this. It wasn’t even guaranteed we’d get another, and still, they made a slow series with lots of detours that didn’t even get to the real meat of the novel. Once-minor characters have been put into the forefront of the story, and it worked. Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon are two characters we shouldn’t like nearly as much as we do. Their part of the finale contained the biggest reveal of the season. Following Shadow’s light to Ostara’s house, they learn that Laura can’t be resurrected. She’s been killed by a God. It turns out Wednesday caused her and Shadow’s casino heist to fail, and then had Mad Sweeney cause the car accident that killed Laura. The worst part is it’s not because Shadow is anyone special (as far as we know). He’s just the guy Wednesday picked. He took everything away from Shadow, so he’d have no choice but to join him. Now, it looks like Laura and Shadow should have a lot to talk about next season.

Gillian Anderson, Bruce Langley (Photo via Starz)

This show has been a joy to recap for its first season. The novel is one of my favorites, and I’m so thrilled the showrunners had the courage to take their time with it. It’s rare for an adaptation’s changes to make the world bigger than the source material, but that’s what’s happening here. Most of the show’s best moments were made up entirely. It’s exciting to see a show that’s able to surprise even those who know where the story is going. Now that season two is confirmed, this meandering prologue that was season one looks a little less risky. Still, it’s remarkable that they believed in the show enough that they made the first season like this. Just like in last night’s episode, the belief paid off.  We had a beautiful, meandering, contemplative first season that built up to a spectacular climax. Now I only wish we didn’t have to wait a year for more.

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June 19, 2017 at 01:10PM


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