Over the course of eight episodes, American Gods has seen Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan) masterfully adapt and reinterpret Neil Gaiman’s seminal fantasy novel. Widely considered the author’s best work to date, the 2001 story mixed the road trip novel with a story of the birth of America, all set against a backdrop of old and new gods warring for mortal worship. At least as early as 2011, talk of turning the book into a TV series began, with another three years passing before Fuller, Green, and Starz came on board. Thanks to the consultation and blessing of Gaiman, the limited series has gained critical praise along with a second season order, all while enhancing and enriching Gaiman’s source material.
Given the sprawling cast of characters and locations in the book, there’s no shortage of episodes that could be spun out from the page. The first season, however, has had the unenviable task of both introducing us to this world and several of its denizens while also setting up a massive war that could be years in the making. With ‘Come to Jesus,’ we’re now on the verge of that war breaking out, but we’ve just barely arrived at one of the most pivotal locations from the book.
Once Upon a Time
All season, Mr. Ibis (better known as the Egyptian god Thoth), has been telling stories about the gods coming to America. Last week, an entire episode was even dedicated to one of his tales. But he’s not the only Old God with the gift of the gab. We once again open with Mr. Nancy in this episode, who was previously revealed to be the African trickster spirit/spider known as Anansi.
Like several of the characters on the series, Mr. Nancy has undergone a few changes. Not only do we not meet him until Wednesday and Shadow arrive at the House on the Rock in the book, but he’s presented as much older and far more wily there. Still, he’s a charmingly cantankerous man with a flair for fashion on the show. And though he may not spend his days in the sweltering heat of southern Florida, he retains his book character’s love of spinning yarns. Rather than a story of his own, however, the Nancy of the show offers Wednesday advice in the tale of another Old God.
Bilquis, like many of the gods presented on the show, is given far more story time than in the books. And though the Goddess of Love has been frustratingly mute all season, her tale is a powerful one that’s far from over. We’ve seen previously how the worship of her ends in self-sacrifice, but ‘Come to Jesus’ finally showcases Bilquis in her prime.
Traveling back to an ancient empire in the Middle East, we see Bilquis in her godly raiment presiding over a ritual orgy in her honor. Far from plucking individual worshipers from a dating app, this Bilquis is surrounded by those eager to win her favor. Even her would-be conquerors soon fall to her power and are consumed alongside everyone else.
Hopping to Tehran in 1979, we see that Bilquis is still going strong, transforming the sexuailty of dance and worship of pop into her favor. Sadly, she no longer holds sway over all who resent her life-giving powers. The years that follow see her forgotten and alone, losing even the power to charm individuals. It’s then that we learn the Bilquis we’ve been seeing all season may be a shadow of her former self, but she’s seen harder times. More than that, she owes her meager following to the New Gods. Like Vulcan, she’s taken a deal to leverage the powers of the modern world to gain sustenance. In a clever play on social media and online dating, her digital clout now translates into prayer in her name. The app Technical Boy gifts her with even bears her name: Sheba, the Biblical Queen.