Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 8. Not seen American Gods? Read our spoiler-free review of the first two episodes here.
Considering their show is so much about taking a leap of faith, it’s appropriate that Bryan Fuller and Michael Green took their own one in ending the first season of American Gods on a cliffhanger before they even knew for certain that a second season was to be greenlit (spoiler: it has been). It’s a pretty satisfying one, too, thanks to the quality of the rest of the episode. Some non-book readers may be wondering when the heck anyone is going to get to Wisconsin, but, for the most part, viewers will have their faith rewarded.
We get some much needed big character shifts (Shadow finally believing); relationship developments (Laura finding out Mad Sweeney killed her, Shadow finally discovering Wednesday is Odin); new dilemmas (Laura can’t be resurrected, because a god, Wednesday, ordered her murder); the long-awaited return of Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy; a compelling new-to-us god to base the episode around (Kristen Chenoweth’s Easter/Ostara); and, at last, the return of Bilquis, after a six-episode absence, despite opening credits billing for Yetide Badaki. Oh, and there are multiple incarnations of Jesus Christ, one of whom, credited as Jesus Prime, is played by Jeremy Davies, who gets to sit lotus-style on the water of an indoor swimming pool, and has a bit of petulance about him. One wonders what Middle America might think of this episode.
We didn’t have a stopwatch out, but it feels like Bilquis gets the most screentime of any one character, including the final scene tease for Season 2. Following the backstory of Mad Sweeney last episode, we get our second ‘Coming to America’ vignette for a god we’ve already met, although a change of formula comes via Mr. Nancy telling her story to Wednesday and Shadow, as they impatiently wait for a tailoring job’s completion, with the same aplomb Orlando Jones brought to his second episode-stealing storytelling aboard the slave ship. There’s a little less anger to his narration, but Nancy is all too eager to repeat his mantra that “anger gets shit done”.
With Bilquis and Ostara, the goddess of spring fertility, the episode has these twin narratives of women whose lives and power end up being co-opted by male forces, whether deliberately malicious or unwittingly intrusive. Ostara is in outwardly friendly subordination to the many Christs, who’ve ended up making Easter all about them thanks to Christianity’s flourishing in America – in the episode’s funniest little touch, Jesus Prime martyrs himself once again, saying “I feel terrible about this”, when Wednesday points out to Ostara that, while most of the imagery of Easter belongs to her (bunnies, eggs, etc.), virtually none of the holiday’s prayers are coming her way.
Bilquis, meanwhile, has power derived from her sexuality and sensuality, but men are all too keen to seize a woman’s power, especially if they see it as an affront to their own belief system. She’s the first god we see actually living rough on the street, in the 2013 section of her extended flashback, until Technical Boy offers her a new means of restoration thanks to the dating app Sheba. As Mr. Nancy posits in his story, so long as one knows they’re alive, they can adapt. They still know who they really are, regardless of the methods.
On a final note, this episode is directed by Floria Sigismondi, a photographer and filmmaker who’s steadily been working in music videos and television, but, to date, has only one feature film credit to her name: the 2010 music biopic The Runaways. Whether intentional or not on the part of the showrunners, that this episode so concerned with women navigating a man’s world was helmed by the director of a film about young women musicians doing the same is an interesting bit of trivia. Based on this episode’s quality, let’s have some faith she’ll be returning with the other devoted players next season.
American Gods is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. You can watch American Gods online every Monday, with new episodes arriving within 24 hours of their US broadcast.