American Gods: “Come to Jesus” Season 1 Finale Review

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It’s official. The more outwardly open American Gods is with its premise, the better the show is. The details of the series have been abundant from the start. From the visually arresting to the subtle to the not-so-subtle, Bryan Fuller’s adaptation has been an illustrious exercise in mood and obvious ambiguity (in that most viewers knew all along certain plot details that the show wasn’t so quick to let loose). But these details never quite manifested any genuine emotion—save for last week’s dive into Mad Sweeney’s purpose—acting more as a fascinating exploration of faith and where it’s gone. But a show so detached is only going to reap partial rewards. Except for in “Lemon Scented You,” the season’s best episode that finally started playing with the concept of a war between the old and the new gods that finally let the concept be less understated. “Come to Jesus” continues what that episode started, tapping into a more frothy, light tone while still driving the old gods’ plight home.

It’s Easter, and Ostra (Kristen Chenoweth, clearly having a ball), the goddess of spring is hosting a festive, pastel-coated party for all the different cultural iterations of Jesus Christ. But unlike the show’s on-the-road-style engagements where the lives of the gods are intruded and then left alone, there’s a larger collection that happens in “Come to Jesus,” one that finally leads to the war Wednesday has been talking about since the beginning. What happens at Ostra’s party feels significant, unlike most of what’s been happening throughout the season.

The events develop in a really entertaining manner. Wednesday coercing Ostra may have been repetitive of what we’ve seen from the rest of the season, but Chenoweth really makes the most of her scenes. Then there’s Shadow seeking help from the only god in his story that makes any sense to him, Jesus, sitting atop a pool with a glow around his head. Here, American Gods gets to be itself while also being linear and upfront.

Then Media shows up. And then Mad Sweeney and Laura. The finale gets to be cohesive in its coming-together of characters, a rhythm the rest of the season sorely lacks. And the conflict that brews out of it is exciting, as a stand-off of power forms between Wednesday, Media, Ostra, and Technical Boy that has Shadow’s employer finally reveal himself as the Norse god Odin and Ostra take away the concept of spring and force the world’s greenery back into the soil. With that, Mr. World manifests and calls it an act of war. This is exciting. Season two has potential to really blow us out of the water now that the series’ plot is actually starting to go somewhere.

And yet, the finale can’t help itself but to show another emotionless, unrelated vignette, this time focusing on Bilquis, that extends into the episode and even included in the finale’s stinger. With so much time taken out of the episode to show a character with fleeting importance thus far, it’s impossible to regard this finale as truly great. American Gods might be better off devoting entire episodes to certain characters than fifteen minute chunks that feel so removed from Shadow and Wednesday’s quest. Season two needs to renew the focus of the show and put emphasis on plot and character. Even this rousing, fun finale is still pretty devoid of emotion. Is it the show’s essence to be emotionally detached? Right now, yes, but there’s got to be a middle ground in there somewhere. Fuller previously achieved it with Hannibal, so he should be able to do it again here. For now, we’ll just have to wait until next season to find out. Finale Grade: B+ / Season Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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