American Gods is closing out its phenomenal first season as only American Gods can — by starting with a massive, ancient orgy and ending with a pastel Jesus party-turned-declaration of war.
There is a lot to unpack in this season finale, so let’s start with the orgy (which is not a sentence I expected to write when I first sat down to watch this episode). Shadow is still reeling from the recent decapitation of Vulcan, but Mr. Wednesday has already moved on to the next part of his plan. Apparently, that involves getting some super dope bespoke suits, custom made from spider silk by one Mr. Nancy. That’s right — we get our first modern-day look at everyone’s favorite spider trickster god, and you can’t have a Nancy scene without him trying to tell a story.
Nancy proceeds to tell the tale of the Queen of Sheba in the Temple of Bar’an, circa 864 B.C. We, of course, recognize her as Bilquis, and the goddess of love and devotion is in rare form, all golden and glowing and surrounded by an entire army of worshipers. She’s never been more powerful, and that, Nancy tells us, makes her a target. But Bilquis treats her lovers and haters equally, consuming them until they dissolve into a strange, glittery black liquid and disappear into her. “Kings didn’t like that,” Nancy recounts. “Kings came one after another to knock her off her throne. They didn’t last long.” From what we’ve seen of Bilquis so far, she’s clearly a powerful deity, but this is her at the height of her strength. She’s regal and terrifying, all at once.
Over the years, Bilquis proves to be fairly adaptable, moving from ancient temples to ‘70s discos, but eventually, she begins to face too much persecution. So, she decides to turn her attention elsewhere — to America. “But America, too, can take issue with a woman of power,” Nancy tells us, and before long, she’s losing friends and lovers to AIDS and spending her nights on the streets. By the time 2013 rolls around, she’s a barely recognizable shell of her former self, pushing a shopping cart and watching helplessly as ISIS militants on the other side of the globe destroy her ancient temples.
She finds an unexpected savior, however, in the form of Technical Boy, who approaches her on the street one night. “I hear they blew up your altar,” he tells her, smirking. “I have a new one to offer you.” And so he hands her a cell phone, introducing her to the world of online dating and sex on demand. He’s created a dating app in her name — Sheba, instead of Tinder — and now, every time someone swipes right, they’re directly worshiping her. If Wednesday is a holdout who refuses to partner with the New Gods, Bilquis is an example of what can happen when you do agree to what Media calls “a merger.” It’s clear that Bilquis isn’t eager to trust Technical Boy, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. She’s still a long way from moonlit orgies and scores of worshipers, but at least with the internet at her fingertips, she can survive.
When we see her next, she’s refreshed and rejuvenated, but she still finds herself wandering through old museums, revisiting her old relics and the fragments of her temples. Eventually, Technical Boy tracks her down, informing her that he’s here to cash in that favor she owes him. There’s a great, brief moment where she turns her charm in his direction, and as she leans in close to him, he recoils. It’s a few seconds in an action-packed episode, but it reveals a lot about who Technical Boy is: He may talk a big game, but he still can’t relate to — and is possibly even scared of — intimacy.
We don’t overhear the exact details of what Technical Boy’s favor is, but we can sort of piece it together. The last shot of Bilquis comes at the very, very end of the episode, as she’s shown taking a bus to Wisconsin. We know that Wisconsin — specifically the House on the Rock — is where Wednesday and a whole pantheon of gods are planning to gather, soon. If Bilquis is allied with Technical Boy and the New Gods (however reluctantly), that’s pretty bad news for Wednesday.
We’ll talk a little bit more about the House on the Rock later, but for now, let’s head to Kentucky…
(Recap continues on page 2)