As Media said, “time and attention” are “better than lamb’s blood,” and we’ve given up plenty of our time in dedication to Mr. Wednesday. In the final hour of the first phase of Shadow Moon’s odyssean road trip across America with a one-eyed god of legend, a cultural shift has taken place. The New Gods reshaped the landscape of worship in their image, while once familiar names of classical mythologies were given an ultimatum: get with the program or be forgotten. Now, after Wednesday brought voices to the voiceless and these immigrant deities claimed a platform to tell their stories, the Old Gods are rising again.
The season finale of American Gods begins with Bilquis, her “Coming to America” told by Anansi. The African trickster god is repeatedly interrupted by Wednesday, for whom he’s weaving a bespoke suit, until he’s had enough and slices the calm to demand, “Let me tell a goddamn story!” These gods were once ambivalent, frightened even to share their own experiences with a world that does not properly reflect or represent them. Since suffering what they’ve suffered, enough has just become enough.
So, he begins the tale of Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba, who was ruler of all she surveyed. Draped in gold and luster, she lost herself in ecstasy with her flock, men and woman and kings enthralled by the rhythm of carnal orgies before they were ultimately laid waste — because “once the queen was done with you, you were gone.” Anansi tracks her reign through the years of Tehran in the 1970s, when she is smitten by a woman in a dance club. They worship each others’ bodies on the dance floor to the beat of disco queens Debbie Harry and Shirley Manson (who recorded an original song for the show), when terrorists storm the space. Anansi says the female power of “rebirth and creation” makes “other men angry — and angry gets shit done.”
They are forced to flee the country to America, and though Bilquis is shunned to “the back seat,” she tells herself she’s still in the game. But she soon loses her glow. Bilquis sees her lover on her hospital death bed, and as more years go by, she finds herself homeless. Covered in blisters, Bilquis presses her body against the glass of a Middle Eastern restaurant. Her image is used on its menus to sell a cheapened and massed-produced cuisine, but she weeps upon seeing an attack in Yemen on a nearby television screen, watching as men desecrate her ancient statues and temples.
It’s at this low point that Technical Boy, bedecked as the P-I-M-P he thinks he is, finds her and offers her an out. He hands her a phone equipped with an app called Sheba, the equivalent of a Tindr or Grindr where “whoever has the most followers wins the game.” And now we know how the Bilquis we saw in the first episode, a concubine devouring lovers through her “vagina nebula,” comes to be. This tragic tale is all too common among the gods of old.
Kristin Chenoweth makes her debut in this episode as Ostara, an old Germanic goddess of spring who Wednesday needs to fight the New Gods. People used to pray to her for bountiful harvests by eating eggs and roasting rabbits on a fire pit, until Jesus was “dreamed back to life on my day,” as she says. Then her day became their day, Easter, a day for all the iterations of Jesus — for the Judeo-Christian Jesus, for the Asian Jesus, for the Mexican Jesus… except oh wait, that Jesus was slaughtered by gun-obsessed Americans protecting their country from another immigrant. They all look the same at the end of a gun barrel.
It’s cultural erasure at its finest. Ostara’s traditions were taken, warped, and renamed Christian without any courtesy for the bedrock on which they were built. This also marks Bilquis’s current state. Her clientele scroll through her photos on the Sheba app and defile her body, happy to use her name to pleasure themselves and remain ignorant to its true meaning.
The words of Anansi echo as Media makes her unexpected arrival at the Easter party: “Angry gets shit done.” Wednesday needs Ostara to be angry at the New Gods, the ones who claimed to be giving her new purpose in masterminding the holiday of Easter, but in doing so lost “the truth of the day.” So he slips a lie and blames the death of Vulcan, whom Wednesday beheaded two episodes ago, on the New Gods.
When she stands before Media, she’s not alone. Wednesday walks into the picture as Technical Boy and Mr. World pop up to make threats, but what they don’t know is that Wednesday has been amassing power. Since the beginning of this journey, he’s been fueled by sacrifice, by belief, by the power that comes from sharing his own story. Now the storm that’s been billowing across the sky for miles is finally ready to respond to Wednesday’s call and the god can reclaim his own name, Odin.
In dedicating the deaths of the New Gods’ minions to Ostara, the power that comes from proclaiming her name and her heritage is restored, giving her enough power to draw out the very life from the land. “We’ve taken the spring,” Wednesday says. “They can have it back when they pray for it.”
Also disenfranchised, but disenfranchised due to her gender, Laura is reclaiming her power. She was the first casualty of war. Having tracked Shadow’s glow to Ostara’s home with Mad Sweeney, she learns Wednesday had the leprechaun kill her, and because she was killed by a god, her resurrection isn’t something that Ostara can so easily bring about. Laura never got this far in the book, she never rose above the image of a cheating wife. The time for the forgotten to fight back has come.
Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Season Rating: ★★★★ Very good