♦Tripwire Contributing Writer OLLY MACNAMEE casts his eye over this week’s episode of American Gods, its season finale, on Starz tonight in the US and on Amazon Prime in the UK from Monday…
American Gods Episode 08
Director: Floria Sigismondi
Writer: Neil Gaiman, Maria Melnik
Stars: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover
And so to the final act of this stellar freshman series and the drawing up of lines, the forging of alliances and a threat of things to come in the future. Oh, and there’s even the time to introduce a further old, almost forgotten god, Easter (Kristin Chenoweth).
Once again we have a prologue, of sorts, as told by Mr Nancy (Orlando Jones) – the other trickster god of this series – focussing on the enigmatic Bilquist (Yetide Badaki), The Queen of Sheba and her own personal journey to the shores of America and her ultimate, lowly fate as a sex worker, panhandling for even the slightest slither of worship. We have only seen glimpses of this goddess in past episodes and possibly viewers have been wondering why she was even included in this series, other than a reminder of an ancient world now lost. Well, you won’t be wondering any more, not after this final instalment. We’ve had people coming to America via force, choice and out of necessity, and now we have these fleeing persecution. This has been a series that reminds viewers in this New World Order we live in today; that immigration is not a one size fits all description that can be applied to everyone coming to America and maybe we should remember that before casting the first stone. If memory serves me correctly, t’was the bankers of the world that sunk us into this long lasting depression, who have now once more risen to monopolise on the world’s woes. It’s easier to blame ‘immigrants’ though, isn’t it and build physical, spiritual, figurative walls instead? Maybe Marx was right when he asked for the redistribution of wealth. After all, it’s not too far from want Mr Wednesday wants, as revealed in this cliffhanger of an episode. Why can’t all gods be loved? Why must Easter fall from grace, in our collective minds, when Jesus has risen to become No.1? Who’d have pegged Wednesday as a Socialist? Maybe he voted for Bernie?
All roads, as we have been reminded of throughout this series, lead to Wisconsin, but not quite yet. Before that, some of these roads converge and old friends meet up once more, integrating in preparation for the second series. But, with one Hades’ of a revelation that could be a game changer, should it be revealed. I suppose we’ll have to wait for the second series to find out.
Once again, this is a dramatic, tense, ultimately satisfying episode with another outstanding performance by Gillian Anderson as Media turning up unannounced and gatecrashing the party, all breezy on the surface, but menacing underneath, while Mr Wednesday finally reveals himself for who we know him to be. We do all know, right?
Lovejoy’s Ian McShane makes for a great casting choice for Mr Wednesday; all twinkling eyes and half smiles, but with a smouldering Machiavellian menace lingering just out of eyesight. We’ve witnessed his more sadistic streak in previous episodes and the sense of a predetermined fate that has soaked the series from day one. One he has had a hand in. A laid-back con man with all the answers who finally shows his worth. Keep the best for last, and all that.
Like his rivals, the New Gods (No, not those New Gods), a game is in the offing and, like chess, both sides need to find their queen. Has Wednesday found his in Easter, the seemingly narcissistic, ‘look-at-me’ lady of the manor? Either way, I just love the idea, as a motif plucked from many a myth, of the gods one again using us for their own nefarious means; as pawns in one big cosmic game of chess. But with real world consequences. Once again, I am reminded, and not for the first time, of King Lear and the old guards’ pagan belief, as voiced by Gloucester that, “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,/They kill us for their sport”. There is certainly more than a little something true in this opinion.
Laura Moon (Emily Browning) and y’man Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) also come back into focus after last week’s interlude, with the latter smelling even river than she did before as decomposition sets in more and more. Not the best date to bring to a party, but that won’t stop her. Laura’s pragmatic pigheadedness is a refreshing change to her estranged husband’s confusion. While he does seem to be carried along by it all, Laura seems to suggest that free will and free choice are still alive and well in our post-pagan world. I suppose they do say opposites attract.
And, again, the overall tone of the show is one of murky magic realism and in some of the more slower paced scene (and I’m thinking of the opening orgy scene in deference to Bilquist) this choice adds an aesthetic creepiness to proceedings; hardly erotic. Scenes like these remind us of these old gods and what they were capable of. Is Wednesday really as magnanimous enough to want to share? Will be turn into a Socialist, or more a National Socialist? We’ll just have to wait.
The series has been a critical hit and, like Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) I too have become a believer. I look forward to worshipping at the altar of America Gods again soon. Come, join me, my brothers and sisters.