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American Gods: “Come to Jesus”

When Laura (Emily Browning) asked Salim (Omid Abtahi) whether he ‘loved God’ or was ‘in love with God,’ I wasn’t sure if I understood the question. This episode, when Wednesday (Ian McShane) asked Shadow (Ricky Whittle) if he had faith, Laura’s question made a lot more sense. Shadow answers “yes,” but – while he has every reason to have faith that what’s happening to, and around, him, is real – does he have faith in Wednesday? Or faith in Odin (as Wednesday finally announces his true name)? Not so fast.

By casting Ian McShane, Wednesday’s introduction as a charming, roguish villain was easily associated with his portrayal of another villain, Al Swearengen from Deadwood. On Deadwood, Al was the good guy in a bad guy position. Wednesday isn’t Al. Behind his fuddled exterior is a selfish, manipulative creep. His actions, unless seriously remodelled, prioritize one God, and that’s himself.

Which is probably why this finale, “Come to Jesus”, felt like a letdown. To the episode’s credit, it covered a lot of ground, managing more than I thought they’d have time for and then some. Ostara’s (Kristin Chenoweth) introduction. The New Gods’ showdown (if at Ostara’s, instead of the House on the Rock). Even Sweeney and Laura appeared, despite hogging the majority of screentime in “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney.”

Where Wednesday’s likability has taken a landslide, Sweeney’s has risen to a highpoint, literally, when Laura finds out he arranged her murder on Wednesday’s instruction and enacts some revenge. Looking to confront Wednesday, she gets the chance to make her entrance when “Come to Jesus” ends, but right before that we see Shadow’s reaction: a smile. Newfound faith, or their separation, has made him happy to see Laura.

Odin gives his big speech in this episode, but is spouting leprechaun logic. “You want to know how to make good things happen, be good to your gods,” he says, which is no different from Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) helping Essie when she left out food, or sending her astray when she forgot. Sweeney is a God, but he identifies first as a leprechaun. You expect backtalk from a leprechaun, and Sweeney’s actually got a big heart. Gods are held to higher standard. Wednesday’s behavior is unacceptable coming from him.

To have Shadow, then, stand by Wednesday, or Ostara hold the world’s crops hostage, after initially disapproving of him, feels like Wednesday’s getting away with being a jerk. The New Gods are tools and this is how Wednesday prospers, by being the better alternative. A big part of this episode is the strength of women, so Ostara going along with a man’s orders feels wrong.

Historically there’s, “Only one piece of documentary evidence that Eostre exists: a passing mention in Bede’s The Reckoning of Time,” (Bott) leading some to believe Bede made Ostara up. In the context of this episode, where history’s track record of pushing women out of power is long, there’s an added implication of Ostara’s existence being targeted because she’s a woman, and when American Gods brings Anansi (Orlando Jones) back to tell a story about Bilquis, her provocative representation of the theme goes over the same.

Bilquis is a character American Gods needs to let do something new or speak, instead of having a man narrate. There’s a callback to the body jewelry she admired in the museum, and plenty of sex, but the nudity’s losing its purpose and a woman who might have meant something to Bilquis in the past is left with an unfulfilled backstory.

“Come to Jesus” was the experience of watching Wednesday run over jelly bean pooping rabbits, multiplied – cruelty for cruelty’s sake. The Old God’s have started the war but they’re no longer a side we can believe in, and with the New Gods out as well, this could be a very long war.

Works Cited

Bott, Adrian. “The Modern Myth of the Easter Bunny.” The Guardian, 23 Apr. 2011, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/23/easter-pagan-roots. Accessed 18 June 2017.

About Rachel Bellwoar

Rachel Bellwoar is the Comics Editor at That's Not Current and a contributing writer for Flickering Myth. Her first Alfred Hitchcock movie was Rear Window and she questions the value of the binge model for watching television — much better to avoid endings. Having found out who killed Laura Palmer, she compensates by watching as many David Lynch films as possible.

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