American Gods Episode 8 'Come to Jesus' Recap: Happy Easter, Easter

Celebrate Easter The American Gods Way With Jelly Beans, Bunny Rabbits And Mass Starvation
American Gods episode 108: 'Come to Jesus.'
American Gods episode 108: 'Come to Jesus.' (c) Starz

American Gods season 1 episode 108 is our season finale, titled, appropriately enough, “Come to Jesus.” It’s the eve of war, and Mr. Wednesday is fixed on recruiting one more Old God: Ostara, né Easter, Goddess of the Dawn, played by the inimitable Kristen Chenoweth. I’ve been dying to see Chenoweth in this role all season - I can’t think of a single actress who could more perfectly embody all things Easter, spring and the dawn than Chenoweth.

We start off with some big ol’ spiders crawling around giving me the screaming heebie-jeebies. Surrounded by elegant tools of the tailoring trade, Mr. Nancy works at garbing Shadow and Mr. Wednesday in magnificence. But Mr. Nancy wants to tell them a story: this is our Coming to America intro.

It’s Bilquis’ story, starting from her prime in 864 BCE, the Temple of Bar’an. Cut to a prolonged orgy scene that puts Sense8 to shame as naked worshippers lift their gilded goddess up above them. Even a king is present, a crown forming out of his skull as he stalks across the crowd, and the drums beat to a wild crescendo as all the worshippers twine together in furious knots of copulation. Finally, Bilquis is finished; the king is first to go, transformed into a liquid, tarry substance. Her ecstatic worshippers fall apart and pool together, and the starry substance creeps upward between the queen’s waiting, open legs.

Cut to the sun behind a red moon, which becomes Bilquis’s round fro in a particular pleasing scene transition. We’re in Tehran in 1979 on the eve of the revolution, so we know this glittery disco club scene isn’t going to end well. More’s the pity, as Bilquis’ gaze lands on a gorgeous Iranian woman with huge, doe-like eyes who is utterly entranced. Then men come in and ruin everything. Typical.

“Men did what they do. They took from her that power. They grabbed the power they were too scared for a queen to have. They laundered it and gave it to men,” says Mr. Nancy. We see Bilquis in an airplane with other Iranians fleeing the chaos, adapting to the ever-unfolding loss of her status. “She told herself she was still playing the game by staying in it.” She seduces her male seatmate into the airplane bathroom, eats him up and returns to her seat, a card-carrying member of the Mile High Club.

But the indignities of time and the brutality of men hammer Bilquis down. We see Bilquis standing in the hospital door of the doe-eyed woman from the club, who is dying of AIDS. In 2013, we see that Bilquis has been reduced to a homeless bag lady pushing a cart on the street, her gilded magnificence gone, lesions on her face and tears in her eyes as she presses her face to the window of an Ethiopian restaurant whose menu features her own image. On the TV, she sees one of her own Hymaritic temples attacked in Yemen.

“There’s no end to the cruelty of men threatened by strong women,” says Mr. Nancy.

As Bilquis sleeps in an alley, Technical Boy rolls out of a car, puffing on a vape. He stares down at her in amused, quizzical repulsion. “I hear they blew up your altar,” he says. “I have a new one to offer you. Aren’t you the lucky duck.” He offers her a phone, toying with her cruelly for a few minutes before finally handing it over. On the phone, there’s an app called Sheba. As Technical Boy says that “worship is a volume business,” Bilquis sees her own profile image on the app. “Wanna play?”

At the end of the story, Mr. Nancy asks if Shadow understands the moral. But what Shadow doesn’t understand, Mr. Wednesday does: they need to get themselves a queen. Shadow is still confused over what happened with Vulcan and his bafflement emerges as a blustery, shouting rage. But he goes along with Mr. Wednesday anyway.

We cut to nightmare land: Shadow is ascending a wall of skulls. A huge boar-like creature with flaming eyes steps forward, its huge wet nose huffing the cold air, exhaling steam. Shadow starts awake; he’s in the car with Mr. Wednesday, and they’re in Kentucky, quirky music a-playin’ as they drive down a lush road filled with rabbits. Mr. Wednesday runs over a string of them blocking their way.

“We might not be welcome at first,” says Mr. Wednesday, cracking a grin.

It’s Easter Sunday at this big ol’ mansion, and there on the balcony is Ostara, radiant as she chit-chats with her guests. The mansion is full of suspiciously Jesus- and Mary-like individuals. One rolls past holding a chalice and gives Shadow a gentle nod. Another lets jelly beans fall on the floor through the holes in his outstretched hands. Reality seems to warp around Shadow as he spots a nursing mother with a familiar halo around her. It turns out that every Christian denomination sees a different face, and that’s why there’s such a profusion of Jesuses.

Mr. Wednesday introduces Shadow and Ostara, who appear mutually smitten. But Wednesday is quick to get to the business of his war. Ostara tries to argue that she is not one of the forgotten Old Gods, but Mr. Wednesday points out that while her rites might still be observed, none of the prayer is in her name. Ostara’s expression congeals. In the background, a distraught Jesus says, “I feel terrible about this.”

Furious, Ostara drags Mr. Wednesday into a private room upstairs. It’s hideously wallpapered in a pink-on-green pattern straight out of Grandma’s house. Shadow can’t help but smile at her adorable outrage as she chastises Wednesday for disrespecting all these nice Jesuses.

But Mr. Wednesday says that this is her day and goes on to spin her a tale Anansi would be proud of: the New Gods killed Vulcan after he forged a blade in his honor. Shadow can only watch this reassembly of the facts in bewilderment as an uncertain Ostara looks at the blade. Mr. Wednesday promises that people will worship her if she makes them pray.

Next we see a wistful Bilquis at a museum exhibit, staring at the echoes of her own glory. Her phone rings; it’s Technical Boy, and she does what anyone would and mutes her phone rather than deal with him. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from disturbing her reflections. The camera swings around slowly to reveal Technical Boy behind her. He’s calling in a favor.

All our players are beginning to converge: now Laura and Mad Sweeney arrive at Ostara’s mansion. Shadow is hanging out in an indoor pool with a Jesus, struggling with whether or not he believes any of the shit that’s happening around him. “Even if you don’t believe, you cannot travel in any other way than the road your senses show you,” says Jesus with great empathy. “And you must walk that road to the end.” A halo glows behind him.

Cut to Mr. Wednesday, who’s discussing strategy with the Goddess of Spring. His plan: starve the non-believers out. When Ostara takes away the spring, they’ll learn how to pray sure enough. While Wednesday’s talking, a bunny hops up on the endtable and chatters to Ostara. She instructs Wednesday to hold that thought and dashes away.

Laura is puking maggots into the sink. Gross! Ostara marches over, scolding Sweeney for bringing a dead girl over at a time like this. While Ostara’s initially uninterested in performing this resurrection (or re-lifing, as she calls it), Sweeney calls in a favor and Ostara takes Laura aside to examine her. It turns out Ostara can read the last thing Laura saw in her eyes, like developing an image off her retinas. And the last things Laura saw were a crow and Sweeney’s face. Ostara cups her face gently with a look of horror and stares at Sweeney, who looks ashamed.

Ostara tells Laura as delicately as possible that she can’t give Laura life again, because she was killed by a god. Sweeney curses to himself as another bunny comes to whisper in Ostara’s ear. With a chirp of “Good luck!” Ostara swings out of the room. Enraged, Laura demands to know which god had her killed.

Outside, Media’s arrived, decked out in pink and white like an archetypal Southern belle. She’s accompanied by one of Technical Boy’s faceless men, all trussed up in Sunday best, and says she’s here for her standing date with Easter. “We popularized the pagan. We practically invented brunch. We built this holiday, you and me. We’re a couple of swells,” Media says breathily.

Cut to Laura, who has lifted Sweeney bodily by the crotch and is squeezing his groin so tight she swears she’ll squeeze his balls out the sac like shucking peas. Ew, ew, ew. Both of them know which god commissioned Laura’s murder: it was Mr. Wednesday, and it wasn’t a murder, it was a sacrifice.

And it goes way back: Shadow didn’t fuck up Laura’s perfect plan back at the casino. Sweeney tells Laura that that’s what gods do, they fuck with people; it was nothing personal. But Laura looks like she’s taking it real fucking personal and asks what Wednesday’s got to lose.

The skies are clouding as Ostara and Media talk. Ostara admits that Wednesday visited her home, but lies and says she dismissed him before hearing him out. The faceless men multiply behind Media, posing tensely, fingers tapping and canes brandished like knives. A storm brews overhead as Ostara snipes that she feels misrepresented. Media tells her to get over it, because she’s an Old God made new again thanks to the efforts of the New God.

Mr. Wednesday interrupts the scene, and Media drops the breathy Southern accent as she snaps that worship is not up to Wednesday to redistribute. Technical Boy steps out from between two of his faceless men to add in his chrome-grilled few cents (“Here’s the thing: you’re old as fuck”). Even Mr. World chimes in, appearing in a pixelated blur on one of the faceless men’s faces, to say that they will win, whether through a bloodbath or through attrition.

That’s when Wednesday strikes down all of the faceless men, dedicating their deaths to Ostara, who takes a deep breath as though this sacrifice has renewed her. Shadow is watching in shock and fear, and finally, Mr. Wednesday tells him his name. It’s as epic as you could possibly wish. He tells Shadow all of his names, the names of his ravens and his wolves, and finally shouts, “I am Odin!” as his massive form appears in the clouds, arms outstretched.

Then Mr. Wednesday points at Ostara. “You are Ostara of the Dawn. Show them who you are,” he commands. She’s ready: stirring music plays as a bright wind clears away the clouds. Her long golden hair comes free and her eyes shimmer with light. In the throes of such divinity, even Media loses her hat. A brown rot stretches across the land as buds return to the earth, trees shrivel up and plants wither away. Shadow has tears in his eyes as Ostara’s face is briefly occluded by petals. She smiles.

“You wanted a war, God of War,” says Mr. World from the limp body of one of the faceless men. “You have one. Be glad. It will be the war you die in.”

Now Shadow believes. But from the balcony above them, they hear someone clearing their throat. It’s Laura, who’d like a word with them. Her smile is positively corpselike; Shadow’s smile flickers in response. We close with a shot of Bilquis on a bus to Wisconsin, ready to swallow up another helpless seatmate in the bathroom. She’s on her way to Godcon 2017, folks.

Favorite quotes from the episode:

  • Mr. Nancy: “No! Fuck no! Did you get this one off the discount rack? Where are you getting in life without some fucking compromise?”

  • Shadow: “You’re just gonna go and get a suit made like you’re the goddamn Godfather?”
    Mr. Wednesday, baffled: “You’re getting one too, we have to be presentable where we’re going.”

  • Technical Boy: “I have no intention of spending the rest of my days feeding your soul from the Vagina Nebula.”

  • Ostara: “Don’t stoop. Someone tried to raise you with refined manners, dead girl, and failed.”

  • Media: “You’re an Old God new again. That’s what we offer. That’s what we represent. You feel you’ve been treated unfairly?”
    Ostara: “I feel misrepresented in the Media.”
    Media: “Put a pillow over that feeling and bear down until it stops kicking.”

The finale does a perfect job of keeping my appetite whetted for next season. I can’t believe season one of American Gods is only eight episodes long; while each episode is an hour, I can’t help but be greedy and want more, more, more . And that’s just what we’re going to get, since we know that American Gods is renewed for season 2. Will Ostara give back the spring? How will Shadow react to the news that his boss murdered his wife? How will Sweeney cope with the guilt of what he’s done? What will Bilquis do at Godcon? What other gods are out there? Are we going to meet Saint Nick? Will Technical Boy ever realize that he looks ridiculous with that grill on?

Guess we’re finding out next season! Feel free to leave all your hottest questions in the comments below.

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