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‘American Gods’ Recap: Jesus Is the Reason for the Season

Warning: This recap of the “Come to Jesus” episode of American Gods contains spoilers.

The season finale ends not with a bang, but with a winter — as an Old God sends a blight through the land. The tenor of the show changes completely with this move. Wednesday has been skulking in the shadows, but this is the opening salvo of a full-blown war and, since none of what happens in this episode happens in the book, there’s no telling what Season 2 has in store.

Photo: Starz

The Plot
Shadow and Wednesday visit Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) to strategize. Nancy makes them suits to visit Easter (Kristin Chenoweth). Wednesday tries to persuade her to join them, but Media (Gillian Anderson) is there too and reminds her of what she owes to the New Gods. Sweeney and Laura arrive; Sweeney believes she can bring Laura back to life, but Easter refuses. Shadow has a brief conversation with a Jesus (Jeremy Davies). When Technical Kid and Mr. World show up, it’s enough to sway Easter, who creates an enormous drought — promising to bring it back if people pray in her name. Laura finally catches up with Shadow and demands to speak with him.

Photo: Starz

Tales of the Gods
The story of Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), the Queen of Sheba, weaves in ancient biblical tales with the fall of the shah in 1979. It’s told not in the dry style of Mr. Ibis, but in the salty and colorful tongue of Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). She does well in her homeland until forced to flee by the Iranian Revolution. Foundering in America, Technical Kid offers her dating apps to reclaim some of her power, then sends her to Wednesday’s meeting of the Old Gods to kill him.

Photo: Starz

The Scully Problem
The X-Files is a marvelous series with an enormous plot problem in the middle of it — namely, how do you maintain the believer/skeptic tension after years of conclusive evidence that the skeptic is wrong? It’s a problem American Gods faces as well. Shadow can be forgiven up to a point for being unable to accept that he’s been wandering the country with the Norse god Odin. But now that that point has been reached and he’s completely onboard, what do you do with him?

Photo: Starz

If he stays with Wednesday, he’s just a lackey, and nobody watches shows about lackeys. His belief may be short-lived, coming as it did as the result of the generic platitudes of one of the Jesuses (Jeremy Davies) — but what comes next for him if it is? He may become a fiery apostle, which is a very different dynamic from what we’ve grown used to. Another possibility: In the book, Shadow is sent to Lakeside to lie low while Wednesday continues to recruit gods. It’s a drastic tonal shift, but at this point, really anything will be a major change.

The History Channel
This show has evolved into a curious beast. It feels like half its screen time is devoted to the history of its characters. On another show, that would be an unacceptable amount of exposition, but here it’s almost as though Gods switches genres and becomes a documentary on the fate of immigrant religions. In terms of structure, the first third of this episode is devoted to telling the backstory of a secondary character, just like the majority of the last two episodes. Will this pace continue into the second season? Or will the focus shift to moving the story along? It’s interesting because much of author Neil Gaiman’s work is, in some way, about the nature of stories — and that was one of the reasons why both American Gods and his magnum opus The Sandman have been thought to be unfilmable for so long.

Famous Roles
It’s almost impossible to underestimate how important casting is to the success of this show. In some ways, these gods are like celebrities: We normal humans have an image of them in our heads and, to a certain extent, their lives are governed by those images. Kristin Chenoweth is the perfect choice to play Easter because our image of her is bursting with energy and life. Pablo Schreiber is someone who can never fully be trusted, and Ian McShane is a foul-mouthed charmer who is always one step ahead. Our images of them — their public personas, mind you, not the human beings — feed their performances in a way that’s present in every role they play, but especially here, where they play the embodiment of ideals.

American Gods Season 2 will premiere in the middle of 2018.

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