American Gods: “Come to Jesus” Review

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

The first season of American Gods wrapped up this week with its eighth episode. (Don’t worry, STARZ has already ordered a second season.) Was the finale everything a closing episode should be or did it fall flat? Read on for a review of “Come to Jesus” right here!

“Come to Jesus” brought the first season of American Gods to a close, but the final episode wasn’t necessarily the saving grace of the season. In all honesty, it was anti-climactic. Season finales offer a chance to wrap up a story arc and an opportunity to bring things to a head in dramatic fashion. However, the finale of American Gods felt just like every other episode. Was a name reveal supposed to be the climax? Was a show of power the climax? Was an agreement of war the climax? The fact that a pivotal and monumental moment isn’t readily identifiable poses a problem. American Gods is undoubtedly playing the long game, but even a slow burning candle flares brightly sometimes, and the season lacked the flair expected for a wrap-up. It could be that my expectations are too high, and I’m bound to be disappointed by putting the show in a pedestal, but I felt like a confrontation of opposing sides had the potential to be an incredible moment full of fire and life, but instead left me wondering what was really motivating characters. Much like I didn’t understand Lex Luthor’s brand of crazy or his motivation in Batman v Superman, I was left in American Gods wondering why characters chose to react as they did in “Come to Jesus.” (And I’m still not sure where Shadow [Ricky Whittle] draws the line between normal and weird, acceptable and anger-inducing.)

American Gods often leaves a lot to the imagination (or doesn’t, when it comes to its sex scenes), but its characters’ motivations shouldn’t be one of those things, especially when those characters are taking sides in an episode. There’s a lot of mystery to be expected, but without understanding characters and their brand of crazy, an audience isn’t given the material to feel a connection with them. The final episode of the season presented some characters seen throughout the season along with some new ones, and all those characters are interesting! But their fate is something I find myself fairly apathetic about, ultimately, because I don’t know why they are doing the things they are doing. There’s a general concept presented about belief and power which is associated with gods, both old and new, but the gods are all lumped together in their desire for belief and power, without any individual motivations to drive them forward in the story. “Come to Jesus” felt like a time to individualize those gods and humanize them, but they feel out of reach, even in fiction.

The episode contained a fantastic soliloquy by Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), as he told the story of a “queen,” which was the vehicle for a commentary of men v.s women, destruction and violence vs. creation and love. But I’m still not entirely sure how Mr. Nancy, an intriguing and moving character, came to be paired with Wednesday (Ian McShane). A gap in time and story became all too obvious, and it missed out on sharing more about a cool character! This says something about the character work involved in the show, however. The character concepts are fantastic! From Mr. Nancy to Easter (Kristin Chenoweth), we are pulled into the world. The portrayals are without fault. In fact, it may contribute to the desire to know more about their motivations, ultimately leading to a fault. The characters have so much potential; therefore expectations are high. When those expectations aren’t met, audience members can walk away disappointed, if only because they know there is something great lurking just under the surface awaiting discovery.

Overall, the finale of American Gods’ first season was more of the same – a beautifully shot show with great lines and interesting commentary on religion and society. However, in pursuit of this overarching and high-concept ideal, the story and characters have been lost in chaos. There’s a lot of individual parts about American Gods and its finale, “Come to Jesus,” that are laudable, but one can only hope for more depth of character and more story cohesion moving forward.


    One Comment

  1. yajfeJune 19th, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    The finale was definitely very anti-climactic.

    The name reveal was, ultimately, not much of a surprise – I would argue even for those who haven’t read the novel – because it was referenced quite obviously already. Mr. Nancy was underused and not just in this episode, but all throughout the season. The final shot’s cliffhanger is unfortunate, because it is a story arc that very much requires at least a temporary conclusion or something to settle after all the screen time (and additional conflict of the last two episodes) it was given. And, as you wrote, the conflict at the core – the war between the Gods – remains a mystery beyond the superficial “true believer mindless follower” idea that Wednesday brings up.

    Another thing that bugs me is that we see Wednesday lie about the events of the episode from two weeks ago, and it isn’t mentioned again.

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