Well, that was a proper blast. After seven weeks of circling each other, the Gods and the Old and the New have had their first proper skirmish, rounding off the first series of American Gods with an episode as bewilderingly strange as all the rest combined.
Being the finale, “Come to Jesus” rightly pulled out all the stops. Where Laura Moon found the image of Mad Sweeney burned onto her retina, ours recorded the likes of Shadow Moon scaling a mountain of skulls, a giant posse of cheery rabbits chasing Wednesday’s car down a sunlit road, Bilquis rocking the Foxy Brown look in a 1970s disco and, best of all, a bunch of Jesus’s (Jesi?) moping about at the home of this week’s new arrival Easter, played with relish by Kristin Chenoweth.
Chenoweth is an acquired taste, a force-ten diva with a delivery tuned to the Broadway musical stage where she made her name. Even on Glee, one of the campest and deliriously surreal television shows ever, she was in danger of wiping out the entire cast with her widescreen shimmer. But not here. As Easter, an Old Goddess all but forgotten until a bizarre pact with Media revived her party queen credentials, Chenoweth is right at home. Her Tim Burton-styled mansion, a carnival car-crash of every Easter cliché ever, is another astonishing design coup for a series that constantly pushes the boat out into the pond marked 'mental'.
Into this kitsch menagerie come Wednesday and Shadow, looking to recruit Easter to the cause. Cue our favourite McShane speech yet when he rips Jesus (one of them anyway) a new one for stealing Easter’s thunder at the yearly Beltane. The poor, immaculately conceived chap can do no more than look at the ground and whine sorrowfully, “I feel terrible about this...".
This finale could reasonably have taken the serious route but, instead, is a great big blowsy party of an episode that serves as both celebration and reiteration of the concept. In an operatic set-piece, Wednesday and Easter demonstrate to the New Gods assembled on the lawn just what the Old lot are capable off. He brings the thunder, she the Spring. It’s a wonderful sequence that hammers home the show’s core truism that genuine belief will always overcome facile gimmickry.
When Laura turns up with Sweeney in tow, looking to access Easter’s queenly resurrection service, surreal turns to batshit bonkers. Mrs. Moon is now a full-on zombie with a halo of flies buzzing around her head and the ability to casually hawk great loogies of maggots into the sink. We've had a few parties like that.
Talking of queens, Bilquis has been off the scene for a while but comes squirting back as this week's extended Coming to America subject. We see her zapping males into her vaginal nebula at various points in history (she's definitely got a thing for loo cubicles on planes and buses) before falling out of mind to become a homeless wreck for Technical Boy to 'rescue'. The scene where she stares hopefully into a diner window only to see her old temple being destroyed on TV by Isis savages is one of American Gods' most pitch-perfect emotional drop kicks. It's a dramatic win truly earned by the quality of the drama rather than by some cynically over-used soap opera sob-generator like the one Doctor Who's had on hire purchase since 2005. Seeing is believing. Roll on season 2!
AMERICAN GODS EPISODE 8: “COME TO JESUS” / DIRECTOR: FLORIA SIGISMONDI / WRITERS: BRYAN FULLER, MICHAEL GREEN, BEKAH BRUNSTETTER, MARIA MELNIK / STARRING: RICKY WHITTLE, IAN MCSHANE, KRISTIN CHENOWETH, EMILY BROWNING, YETIDE BADAKI / AIR DATE: 18TH JUNE (USA ON STARZ); OUT NOW (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)