Money proves it cannot solve everyone’s problems in American Gods season 2, episode 4, “The Greatest Story ever Told.”
American Gods season 2, episode 4 talks a walk in no-man, or in this case no-god’s land. The divide between Mr. World and Mr. Wednesday appears to be creating a spectrum upon which many of the old and new gods find themselves scattered across.
For the old guard, Wednesday’s call to action is admirable, but they are failing to see the reward for themselves on the other side. For those under Mr. World’s thumb, their agency is a matter of utility, rather than commitment — advance his cause or you’re out the on the curb.
Our writers look into the unexplored area as Shadow and Wednesday head to St. Louis, Money decides emotions have no place in his life, and World throws the worst retirement party ever.
‘American Gods’ season 2, episode 4 in conversation
Brittany: Hello, friend. Aren’t we all better off ignoring people in our lives and playing Gameboy?
Natalie: This whole story about Tech’s (question-mark-first) acolyte made me SO sad, and it gave me an incredible sense of clarity about why this conflict sucks so badly.
The cold open of the follower’s life and his relationship with his father, the way his father wanted him to appreciate his passion for art and the way the son turned it into something new through technology… man. It is so sad to me, because what we are seeing there is the BEST of what Tech can do, the most beautiful, a different way of transforming and creating and instead of being happy about the son finding his own way into the world, the father was disappointed that it wasn’t the traditional way.
He didn’t see the value in his son creating technological work that could then produce art – even when he applied the same “break the rules” theory. Instead of that being a converging of why human creation matters, it was a parting of the ways in ideology – the how and why, old vs new.
This, to me, should have been a moment to embrace change and find a harmony between old and new, but people just don’t value things like that. It kind of represented the issues of the entire war to me. Maybe I’m making this too melodramatic!
Brittany: No, not at all. It was, to me as well, pointing out the problems of the war through the irreconcilable differences between the father and son. They both have moments where they attempt to bridge the gaps and see the other’s side – – when the father plays the record, when the son shows him the programming. Here are two moments where they try to bridge the gap, but the other is closed off, progress versus if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
I think the son is less closed off as he gets older and at least attempts to merge the two ideas, to translate the old using the new, which I think is such a great moment. But the father cannot see beyond the interference of a third party – the Tech. It is an insertion between the boy and the piano, the father and the son. The father sees it as a barrier.
To then go on with the rest of the episode revolving around talk of war and the transmission of information, how fast you can get it, how you can use against someone else, there isn’t time for Tech to adapt to be a better bridge to transport information. Who needs to use a bridge when you can fly?
Tech taking his current form at the funeral, as the follower’s only friend, I thought THAT was the most interesting bit. Did he come to be out of worship? Or friendship? What was the give and take here? It felt very mutual. Fuzzy line there for me.
Natalie: It’s kind of lovely to see this moment with Tech at the funeral because this must have been a time before the conflict. A time when Tech was just doing his best for his followers, or being born of the rising belief in the computer worlds, say the 1980s.
It is initially a kinder, less abrasive relationship, surely. No reason for him to have been anything other than benevolent. But to see him with someone who valued him in a pure way – and someone he in return valued – that’s interesting. We haven’t seen many new gods with their followers – the people they want to be good to and draw strength from.
You know, we have seen these relationships with gods and their believers on the older side, like we saw in Essie’s American Gods episode. But it’s weird to think about the new gods just genuinely acting the way that all the gods should be acting – in mutual support of their acolytes.
It seems to me that Gods are Gods – even if they develop for newer times, the process of belief and becoming is still the same rules – it’s just progress. You know, Bilquis says she was as old as the desert when Odin had his first sacrifice.
He was a new god once.
Brittany: Right, Tech is being born out of a desire to play. It’s very pure and innocent. But ultimately, Tech is a god and is getting a sacrifice. It’s much less bloody than say, a goat on an altar, but distraction and focus on Tech breeds isolation which ultimately lends itself to some kind of sacrifice of demanded attention.
And watching the replacement for how the son’s typing on the computer, how it is so instrumental, I loved how it overlaid the piano. It’s a new age of worship for the son in those scenes. He isn’t giving it to the piano, or the music, but who’s to say what is created from the new Tech isn’t just as beautiful and moving.
Natalie: It’s also kind of an interesting path to why New Media became more powerful than Tech and was here, shown to be even further along in usurping him. The era that the follower was living in, where Tech in his iteration was born… would have been pre internet, certainly pre day to day internet.
Tech WAS isolating. It wasn’t a way to connect – unless you could embrace sharing it in reality like the boy tried to do with his father.
But the internet changed things and now technology is more a means to actually connect – it’s not about isolation, going viral is the very opposite of that.
Brittany: It’s dismissed by the father, but still gratifying to the son and that almost propels the son deeper into his connection with Tech. Whereas, you’re right, New Media is operating under the number of impressions something has.
I don’t ever say, I worship my laptop! So much good stuff is on my laptop! No, it’s on the internet. Not the device. I can easily switch to my phone is something goes buggy. The hardware is almost irrelevant. Not quite, but almost.
Natalie: Tech is very much connected to the internet, but through this follower we see where the focus changes of WHY the digital world is engaging to him.
Juxtaposed with what we will talk about later regarding Jesus and community – I suppose New Media, if we are meant to take her as SOCIAL media – is also all about community or the impression of it. Tech was all about the science of art or the art of science and what we could do with it. And the internet may have grown from that but because that wasn’t where he came from initially it has outpaced his level of understanding.
You know, it reminds me of my own generation – I remember “getting the internet” – I remember a time before. I remember attitudes changing, validation or dismissal coming from very different places. No one born in the 21st century in this society will have that same experience straddling the before and the after.
Tell me how it made you feel when he met up with the acolyte.
Brittany: First of all, the location of the acolyte’s space is very telling of how this meeting is going to go. It’s literally laid out in the shape of infinity. Things are never going to stop moving. You either adapt or get off the train.
Seeing the two of them connect in that space, especially with the greeting, “Hello, friend” was particularly sharp. Tech is the calmest we’ve seen him this far in perhaps the series. And yet there is this sense of nervousness, probably because of World, partially though because of seeing this one true believer, an early adopter, after so many years of seeing his worship arrive from so many other outlets. It’s been a whirlwind of progress and change. But this is one who matters.
Additionally, this is a new god is petitioning his follower for something, testing that early belief. It was a very moving role reversal that of course did not go exactly as planned. The Tech god especially has been offering something, consistently, whether we think we need it or not for YEARS. New phone, new tablet, bigger, better, faster.
I feel like we were able to infer a lot about Tech in the scene, namely that his problem boils down to the same trouble of the old gods, existing on the edge of total oblivion.
Natalie: Do you think that this awareness would be enough for him to switch sides – or refuse not to play – if he gets out of the Janet Marble?
Because it feels like someone needs to twig here, that everyone is actually going on the same path of progress and godhood. Where’s the old and new dividing line? It’s a fallacy.
Of course, Wednesday and World want to perpetuate the conflict at the expense of others – they don’t really want what’s best for all godkind, they are playing another game. But someone has to see clearly soon.
Brittany: It’s all a story as many, many things are. Sure, a war, and all the sacrifice that come with it, can sound good when you’re not actively involved. Even the end results, what they are fighting for, relevance, is hazy cause at best.
As a viewer, anything sounds convincing when you have Ian McShane providing a proclamation of war. Same goes for the fear that upsets your stomach when you listen to Crispin Glover demand a fight. It’s a tricky middle ground to tread between these two influential forces.
Natalie: I found Tech’s relationship with the follower very genuine and think he was quite hurt. It is an awakening, and I hope he gets to come out of the marble to follow up on that change for him. It made me very sad to see that the follower kept the metronome in his office to this day. He clearly wanted to share the way he related to the music with his dad.
But what did you think of New Media’s part in all this with World? Obviously this path has an episodic end goal which puts Wednesday and World in the same room, but prior to that, building on the ideas from last week about what New Media is playing at, what did you make of World terrorizing Tech in front of her and what her part in Tech losing the follower was?
Brittany: I was very put off by her this episode. Possibly because I like Tech so much, but also the way she goes about tormenting him. World tore him apart in front of New Media in part to show that anyone can be replaced.
New Media’s conversational tone, as Tech is awaiting World’s arrival, conveyed to me a genuine interest to speak to him. Not for any form of companionship, but retcon, to find out what makes him tick. Then to see her literally become the writing on the walls (and in his phone), I think she is responding to World’s anger and unsatisfied nature.
Showing off what she can do, how easily she can take what’s in front of her and make it work for her without so much as a wink and a smile. New Media is getting to work early and staying late to show the boss not only can she do the job, she can sell it better than anyone else.
Natalie: Very nasty. Do you think this is the end of Tech then?
Brittany: I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him, no. But definitely for the next episode or two as World brings about the next phase of his plan… whatever that may be.
Natalie: This whole arc for the episode is a fairly heavy-handed metaphor about how things like social media have taken over our ability to care about things for the beauty of them, for what they are in and of themselves. This war is certainly corrupting the beauty of godhood and belief.
But in terms of that cold open and spending time with that character as a buildup to Tech’s birth – how do you feel about the show slowing down again to spend time on that, say almost 10 mins, with a stranger, someone we’ve never met?
Season 1 introduced a lot of people or gods this way – so would you call this Tech’s Coming to America?
Brittany: The way it shows that Tech could organically arrive somewhere, yes, I think it’s fair to say it is Tech’s Coming to America. I am not starved for action on this show. I am pro-narrative, pro-winding paths. But I also recognize that it is episode 4 and we are halfway done with the season.
So, where are we? Have we made enough progress in the arc of the season? That is a question I am beginning to wrestle with a bit.
Natalie: I can’t predict a season climax at this point. Not at all.
Obviously after World marbleizes Tech, he gains admission to the realm of Money, and meets Shadow and Wednesday once again. Two journeys end up in the same themed restaurant.
But going backwards to the start of the other, we left Shadow in Cairo with a promise of feeling like a million bucks. And what happened to achieve that is, let’s not sugar coat it, is that he banged a cat.
Brittany: My only note for this section is “lots of licking(?)” and “BUTT.” He bangs a cat is a nicer turn of phrase.
Natalie: Shadow certainly thinks he dreamed it, but there you are. This is actually Bast, another Egyptian God (and one that Neil has dedicated time to in Sandman as well) and I wonder if we’ll get into the reason she chooses to live as a cat, not in a person’s form?
But nevertheless, what did you find most interesting about the dream cat tryst?
Brittany: The most interesting bit was not the actual dream sequence but what happens when he wakes up first thing — he asks where Laura is. He’s just had a very healing and sensual experience, and I bet he does feel like a million bucks, but Shadow Moon is going to Shadow Moon and ask about his dead wife.
Natalie: I found it interesting that during the experience he says “My wife will kill you” – not necessarily out of loyalty as a husband, but because he knows Laura is very much on a mission and he’s seen what she can do. That part was in the book.
But upon waking, sensing her as she senses him? That’s new. And Wednesday is purposely keeping them apart. She wanted to come back to Cairo and he banned her. Told her she was no good for Shadow. And now, Shadow wants to know about her and Wednesday fobs him off.
Brittany: Watching Wednesday play contortionist here between Shadow and Laura is interesting. When his stories and twisting of words cannot stretch any further, he becomes very blunt.
I do think that there is going to be much more unpacked about the connection between Shadow and Laura in the series, especially as they are now on two very separate paths. Exploring, perhaps, what it means for both sides a bit more if there is a deeper connection than originally written.
We’ll touch on another scene in a bit that really set me off, but rewatching Wednesday try to shuffle Shadow along into the car should have been the warning sign here for me — his little act is getting under my skin.
Where do you think Shadow’s head is at when he gets in the car to St. Louis? Is he just accepting that he and Wednesday made a deal?
Natalie: I don’t know how much control he has right now. Later it feels like he’s pushing back a bit, but it does all very much seem like “this might as well happen.” Especially if he believes that Laura – who wasn’t in the episode at all – isn’t within his grasp.
But I do wonder how much of that bond to Wednesday is something deeper than free will or how much power the compact they made has? Is it Shadow’s choice to honor it, and that’s all? Or is there something cosmic at work?
Brittany: Right. I’ve been hoping for a more proactive Shadow, but it seems that these things just keep happening to him leading me to believe that there is something in the mix greater than his free will. I, personally, would have stayed with Sam and forgotten all about this nonsense of war. Then again, I would have been brought right back.
Natalie: I’m glad Laura and Sweeney are nowhere to be found, because this portion of the book, right after the Bast dream, is where Sweeney finds Shadow, and he’s totally utterly messed up and warning Shadow about Wednesday, and then he dies. He’s obviously broken with Wednesday, but I really don’t want him to die! He has so much to live for now!
Brittany: Sweeney is catching beads down in New Orleans, waiting for Dead Wife to show up and give him a hard time. He’s okay for now. Think good thoughts.
Natalie: Perhaps Shadow has an inkling that he can’t exercise his free will to disengage with the god path, so going along with it at least gives him the illusion of it being on his terms. Like “if I have to be here, I’m going to take as much autonomy as I can.”
We get that a bit later when he confronts Wednesday, but I wish the boss would drop the act. He’s very flippant about the truth, as he was last week when Shadow asked why he was targeted. He’s not exactly Mr. Real Talk.
Brittany: Unless he’s trying to get rid of you. *cough Laura*
But I digress, Shadow is living in an illusion, but I hope he gets a bit of reality soon. In other news, the MAPS ARE BACK!
Natalie: Maps are indeed back Still enjoying them?
Brittany: Absolutely. This one especially. It was plain, nothing too fancy, but it played well as the scene transitioned to this Motel America restaurant’s motif with the trains, clouds, etc.
It felt like we never really left the stylized map.
Natalie: There is a great episode of Supernatural, where Cas, on the run from some evil angels, hides himself in a Biggerson’s – a fictional diner chain. But he hides in every Biggerson’s in the country, flicking from one to the next – the angle being that even though they can “see” him, the surroundings all look the same.
It’s a really clever commentary on that sort of nature of American culture, and a lot of those “myth of America” elements from American Gods actually inspired Supernatural.
It draws heavily, especially at the start, on the ideas American Gods wanted to prove about America. And for some reason these Motel Americas are making that stand out to me at the moment. Not every Motel America is exactly the same, but there is this sort of “we move on but are still in the same place” element to their many visits.
It turns out that they’re run by Mama-Ji and her clan – she being truly Kali, the Hindu war goddess. And I am really loving her.
Brittany: Mama-Ji plays so well against Wednesday. She doesn’t take any of his BS and calls it like it is. “He will be the death of you.”
I especially liked the nod to her story in America, while not a true Coming to America tale like we’ve gotten before, it was a good way to offer a taste of how she has survived across the country.
Natalie: I like her carefree manner when Wednesday reminds her of her past glory. “Well, we had a good time.” She seems comfortable with change in a way some of the others don’t, but maybe that’s just her way of coping.
Brittany: I definitely got that feeling off that line. Times change, but Wednesday has his feet so far dug in the sand that has the blood of his first sacrifice on it. It will be his downfall.
Natalie: Why do you think more of these gods aren’t telling him to buzz off and move on? It could be that political element of fearmongering. He plants the idea of a threat that may not actually be there and creates panic? Or something else?
Brittany: I like that phrase fearmongering. Wednesday is definitely doing that on some level, trying to stir up something because he feels threatened. And these old gods will likely always feel connected to their origins in a way that the new gods cannot relate to. There is that common thread he can pull on. But it is frayed.
However, I don’t think Wednesday sees it as instilling fear which feeds into the contrast between him and World later. World operates on fear, Wednesday I still feel arises his war cry from a place of truly believing he is going to gain pure support from his friends and bring about a new era.
Natalie: Or at least that’s what he wants them to think. He doesn’t want to actively instill fear.
Brittany: Fair point. He doesn’t exactly give too much away. Wanting to be “likeable” could just be a mask.
Natalie: The old gods feeling connected to their origins in a way the new can’t relate to does also throw me back to that point about Tech becoming an “old god” – it’s all the same, the news just aren’t old yet. But time makes fools of us all. One day they’ll be in the position Czernobog and Mama-Ji and all of them are in now.
Or to quote Neil elsewhere, “Time is a beast that eats and eats.”
Brittany: I absolutely believe that. But they can’t see it, too bad we killed the god with all the eyes who could probably tell them a thing or two.
Natalie: Yes. Perspective of all that has come before and how new becomes old would be welcome now. But like we said, Wednesday may not actually want that truth out there. He wants to exacerbate the divide.
But apparently Money is the universal equalizer. Which… typical.
Brittany: And terrifying, as most truths of this show are.
Natalie: These conversations about the nature and power of money are something I think about all the time. Money is nothing. Especially as we advance into stuff like bitcoin, Money is a fallacy, it’s something we invented to assign value.
But who knows how society would function without that agreed upon system of trade? The idea that money can’t buy happiness is also a fallacy.
Money can achieve anything, from as superficial as material pleasures to as deep as the resources needed to make yourself healthy.
When I was a kid, I used to question money, much as Shadow does here. I would just ask… why? Why do we have money? Why can’t people just all do the jobs for what’s needed, like say I need my house roofed over, why can’t he roofer perform that trade and then know he can go into a store and acquire the things he wants and needs without payment? I imagined society functioning as is, without money being a barrier to it.
I wonder what age people start realizing that people would exploit a society based on good will, that some people wouldn’t do their part, that motivation to contribute is varied for people.
Brittany: That would vary based on circumstances I would imagine. And some people never have that realization.
Natalie: I know the big fear in some countries about the idea of introducing a Universal Basic Income (which is basically a sophisticated version of this, without eliminating money) is that people will not do their part for needed services, but that has proved false in places where it has been rolled out.
The safety of money actually makes people feel more empowered to do more worthwhile work, especially stuff that maybe didn’t pay enough to survive, like the arts or like nursing or teaching.
Brittany: I too, like Shadow and you, get lost in this spiraling thought process often. Especially when the context of it is put so bluntly like Wednesday does, it’s a story. I tell you this paper is worth that salt shaker and you take it.
Natalie: The god of Money has a lot to answer for.
Brittany: One of the story elements here is Shadow not having any credit. He doesn’t exist because he literally didn’t buy into the 1s and 0s of the world. He is written off and frozen out from not just society, but life it seems. It hasn’t been a problem in reality, he gets around it. But it is terrifying layer to see identity so intertwined with money.
Natalie: It’s interesting as well to see Kali describe her new lifestyle as a war against Money, a victory to succeed, that the profit is the win. Those are the wars America is already fighting, this is the battlefield of everyday America.
Brittany: I also want to talk about the Girl Scouts and if you’ve had any experience dealing with them or something similar in Australia. Because, phew, it feels like cookie season is never ending in America.
Natalie: As soon as the girl scouts entered, I was very creeped out. And no, I have never met one. I was a Cub Scout but there were no cookies involved.
Brittany: Wow. They are a force to be reckoned with. And they are probably my favorite lackey here. For context: a few months of the year tables are set up outside anywhere they are allowed to (stores, train stations, and in one clever run in I had this year, a liquor store on a Friday night—supervised, of course).
Using them as a gatekeeper for Money is so genius. They are an innocent, given a task by an organization at a young age— raise money, then manage that money. It’s a good lesson, but it’s also a competition. Get a badge for selling X amount, hit a goal for the troop, etc. There is this inherent lesson that gets twisted a bit. And they really do all speak in unison when you exit a store. It is chilling. I think I still have three boxes unopened.
Natalie: THEY SPEAK IN UNISON IN REAL LIFE?
Brittany: Yes. It’s probably because they are asking the same thing over and over again it becomes robotic.
Natalie: That is so culturally different. Here, we really don’t have anything comparable. You can do fundraising a number of ways, but this is terrifying. Do they guilt you into it?
Brittany: As horrible as it sounds, the first few weeks they do. But by the 100th shop request, you start to become immune to feeling too torn up about telling a group of 8-year olds, “No, sorry!” I cannot have that many cookies!
I did appreciate them here though. Especially the record books and the accounts listed.
Natalie: I knew they were trouble when they walked in.
Shadow’s lack of credit really did interest me as well, because I have no idea if this is something Wednesday was gunning for, or if it was a real spanner in the works for him.
It’s hard to talk too much about things like the name on his birth certificate, but do you think Wednesday was really thrown off by this development? He did get his audience in the end, but not before Shadow sat him down and was like “fun fact, you need ME, SPECIFICALLY, don’t you?”
Brittany: Wednesday definitely seemed taken aback. A minor detail that proved to be quite consequential. And that moment where Shadow goes into the “why” of the thing was really unsettling to watch. I don’t know why.
We know what Wednesday is going to do with these questions, on some level Shadow does too. But I think it was watching the words Wednesday was throwing just wash over him without really sticking gave me a sense of numbness to all that. And I don’t think it’s because he “knows better” or has some deeper faith in himself.
I think it’s just because he needs to shut off hearing that to push further into Wednesday. And I think he begins to crack the old god here. How did you see this conversation play out?
Natalie: I think no matter what throwaway things Wednesday says, he has to know that he cannot expect to get away with this kind of flippancy. He has to know that Shadow isn’t going to accept it and although he’s stuck around, Wednesday has to know that Shadow is doing it for some deeper reasons, his own reasons.
He maybe knows he has to be a bit more careful or authentic.
Brittany: And I think that plays into the silence at the end of the episode so well.
Just stop talking, don’t fill the space. And a Shadow coming to sit next to him was reflective of that. It was my favorite minute of the episode.
Natalie: Wednesday’s answer about why he chose Shadow is harsh, and you know, seems true. But Shadow has the one-up. He knows he must have a specific value to Wednesday.
My question here about how this goes ahead is do you think that public declaration, that evidence, added to his “credit” and that’s why they were allowed through? Shadow now has some collateral, proof of value.
Brittany: Yes, I do. And I think, that more than the no value, shook Wednesday more. Shadow got some proof here to hold over him. Whether he will, how he will, or not is another question.
Natalie: When Wednesday and World petition Money together, what did you think about World approving of Money’s choice to not help EITHER of them?
Brittany: I am 100% on team Money here. Neither argument holds enough weight to be the right choice. While nothing is ever a sure thing, there are clear losers in this situation. The odds are just bad.
Natalie: It’s interesting to me because they do say war is profitable. But the factor here is that he won’t invest on EMOTIONAL choices. They aren’t rational, they are risky. And that I can understand.
Natalie: World is fine with that, but he also says he’s not the enemy here. Who do you think he is the enemy? The believers at large, starving them? What’s his ideal scenario? Collaboration?
Brittany: I think World’s ideal solution is collaboration. I don’t want to say submission, but in the end it would World in control. So long as information is being spread, he will be content. Gods are another vehicle for the spread of information, if he can help them adapt and build their believer base, it opens the gate for other information to be disseminated.
Natalie: What is it about that attempt at deal making that causes Shadow to offer Wednesday that silent support?
Brittany: I think it boils down to Shadow seeing that there isn’t a clear path in front of either of them, World or Wednesday, but that there is some evil permeating off World. It’s a vision based on fear and I don’t think Shadow can get behind that. Wednesday is going to move against him, the question of how is uncertain. And that silence I took as a kind of truce. Maybe leveling the playing field, a bit between Shadow and Wednesday.
Brittany: But others are still playing the field between the gods. Back in Cairo business keeps moving for Mr. Ibis. And we meet a lovely young woman named Ruby who just lost her grandmother through her introduction to Bilquis who arrives a few hours too late to meet Shadow.
Natalie: Ibis’s story to Shadow about the way the African diaspora was treated as “colored” in America is a tough one. And it sets the tone for the gods who come together in Cairo to debate philosophy.
Brittany: That conversation sets the floor open for the arrival of Bilquis and Mr. Nancy’s arrival.
I personally had to rewatch this scene two or three times to absorb it all. It’s the language, the rhythm of the writing and delivery that I lost myself to the first time. I had to go back and really break down what was being discussed because it’s easy to get swept up with these characters in the poetry of it all.
Natalie: That’s very true. I have that with the written word sometimes, rarely with television. This is really challenging stuff, honestly.
Brittany: A lot of it stems from Nancy being frustrated that Bilquis is not choosing a side. But it begins with a fundamental discussion of how all things are a matter of ideas, using Ruby and her belief in her one god as the catalyst.
For every idea, there is a rebuttal. Bilquis starts off with the story of Beneatha from A Raisin in the Sun, who is an atheist and says that line to her mother. Nancy hits right back with a quote from Maya Angelou.
I thought their choice of opening arguments here, from rather contemporary authors seeing as old as these gods are, speak to the influential power of black women holding their own discourse about the meaning and purpose of through the platform of literature. These are texts and authors people are familiar with. Even they are somewhat contradictory, yet the same because it’s all told in story, including what Ruby’s reverend has to say about Jesus.
Natalie: A lot of it felt like the idea of “is this our responsibility, is this our problem, do we have to go along with these ideas from these gods who don’t understand our history?”
For Bilquis, at least at first, it seems like she wants people to believe in themselves more as well.
Brittany: Nancy, Ibis, and Bilquis all have a shared history apart from the other gods, a different shared history.
Natalie: When Nancy confronts Bilquis in the church, the impression I get is that he’s calling her out for playing both sides, of course, but to me it may be more a matter of playing NO side, in actually supporting humanity finding their own truth in their own development.
Maybe Bilquis, like Beneatha, is a humanist. Even though she’s a God.
Brittany: I think that’s absolutely what he is saying.
Natalie: Again, there’s that potential for this third party in the war – this party who chooses not to play, that puts the world and humanity first. But there is also a matter of all of these gods understanding what each of them values, how their worshipers support them, what their worldview is.
Bilquis is ultimately a goddess or queen or being of something extremely human and grounded – she’s also a figure who, like Mad Sweeney, may have once BEEN human. Someone who developed into the divine, not someone who popped into existence as a god.
That could be the dividing line in the ethics and empathy at play. Who constitutes “us” and who constitutes “them” for each and every godly being in the war. Shout out to Ruby for just sitting there hearing this weird debate and rolling with it.
Brittany: “Do you two now each other” was a great line.
Natalie: Poor darling. We know now that Bilquis was almost pro-World, because she saw how the old could become new and saw it as a form of positive adaptation and progress. Then he acted in violence and Zorya – as close to an innocent you can get in a war between gods, I suppose – was killed. That was a deal breaker for Bilquis. She genuinely does seem to be a true pure heart, who really wants what’s best for all.
Brittany: I like this idea about Bilquis being a humanist, though. I think she has a deeper connection to people than most others, but I do feel it’s more than a one-sided relationship where she gets worship.
And to your point about World, there is a way for her to connect to more people and see the good and love that comes from the connection World’s side can offer people. I mean we’re making this discussion happen on the internet, on a device. But it’s a human connection.
And yes, Bilquis is now taken out of that influence because an innocent was killed. It’s not the war she wants to fight. But where does that leave her and everyone for that matter who cannot see the two sides.
Natalie: She seems to feel like she must participate one way or the other, now. Nancy is a powerful speechmaker as we already knew, but he’s also a trickster.
We had these questions during “angry gets shit done” – was he genuinely wanting to inspire his people, or was he performing that inspiration to cause chaos? What comes first, being a trickster, being Wednesday’s man, being an African god in the American world?
It’s constantly fascinating to consider how much of what any of the major players actually mean or why they’re acting, how honest it is, or how much is a tactic.
Brittany: Especially with someone like Nancy, who is, as you point out a trickster. I think the fried chicken scene is the only time we had Nancy alone without a show because Wednesday was asleep.
Natalie: And that scene showed he chose to perform. He didn’t point out that he thought Wednesday was being offensive and goading him. But we know.
Brittany: Nancy is an instigator and here he uses all three of the above you mentioned, and I did like watching him flip back and forth in this scene. Going from asking “bird beak” why he didn’t ride to carry out being Wednesday’s hype man then flipping the script and attempting to bring both Ibis and Bilquis under a common banner – being an African god in America.
His impassioned speech and the message do not fall on deaf ears, but they do fall on two gods who have different connections to the humans he speaks of. Bilquis attempts to get to them in pain or passion and bring about light, while Ibis sees them, most of them, too soon as they encounter death.
Natalie: It’s a very clear showcase of how each one has a different perspective about what matters, for sure.
Brittany: I felt as though it was a stalemate. And Ibis adds the line, “Troubles are timeless. Moral law is final. Sooner or later they all lay before me.”
And while we do see this divide between them and the grayness these three are trying to sort into who falls on which side of the war, there is a connection that arises from what keeps them apart. Bilquis does add that Nancy’s words moved her and she felt seen. Which I thought was a minor advancement in their understanding.
Natalie: I was sold when he said the line about “I am not a god in the sense that I can tolerate exploitation, oppression and repression.” I mean, it raises this age-old question of like “if a god exists why does he let bad things happen?”
Nancy is all for proactivity. And the others are in a position of being passive in the name of pacifism.
I don’t think anyone is asking the questions about how this war affects the actual followers though, which is something that I am interested in. What’s the outcome for people, whether that’s for selfish reasons (what worship increase will happen and how) or for benefactor reasons (that they actually care about their worshipers).
Brittany: I’m too am interested to see how these chips fall and by what means things are set into motion to elicit a response ala Easter wiping out agriculture for a few miles in the season 1 finale.
Natalie: Nancy is really speechifying about their “children.” All the non-white immigrants. He’s winning hearts and minds talking about this systematic oppression of those in their care. I suppose there’s the angle, when he talks about the rage about the white woman goddess’s death, that could be like – Wednesday’s gang is complicit in this systematic oppression even at god level, so we need to be on board to make sure ours are taken care of.
Or at least that’s the angle he sells, and I could believe it given his disdain about Wednesday and the chicken. That was very much a moment of “you’re either being actively aggressive racially on purpose, or you’re so naive that you don’t realize why you’re offensive.”
Either way it doesn’t make for a great future for the African followers in America if Wednesday wins.
Brittany: No, it does not. Right now, the future does not look too good for anyone. I’m interested to see where the lines are eventually drawn. Especially for Tech (should he come out of retirement), Bilquis, and maybe even Sweeney. I think as Wednesday’s man he’s all squared away, but who knows.
Natalie: I can see Sweeney diverging, but today, the African gods have a lot to think about. In what they’ve been complicit in, whether watching and letting things unfold is acceptable, or whether they need to stand up for their people. It’s pretty amazing to see this debate unfold and I found Nancy’s codeswitching from his Southern accent into his African one very powerful.
Brittany: Yes! It was a very impactful shift. Removing yet another mask of America. As he was more empowered it just fell away.
Natalie: But you know, trickster. And he leaves the conversation on “a king needs a queen.” He advised Wednesday to recruit one, and they lost Easter due to production reasons. This may all be a recruitment drive and a performance. You never know with him. If he has sold Bilquis to Wednesday’s cause, who knows what she could enact the way Easter did?
We don’t know how she could be weaponized. But either way, seeing the scene play out is important for now, even if Ibis is being a very patient third wheel.
Brittany: Hopefully they can all enjoy a nice drink on the patio.
Natalie: But I think I was most interested in Bilquis’ market research. What did you think of her going back to ask Ruby exactly what she’s looking for in a god these days?
Brittany: I thought that was very interesting because at first I thought she was going out to seduce her, bring her away from her grief and provide what only Bilquis could provide. But instead it circles back to what we were discussing earlier, how Bilquis is interested in humans and the connection with them.
It’s an evolving relationship even for someone who has seen all phases of humanity. There is more work to be done and the more she understands and listens and processes the more powerful she’ll become. I do believe that.
Natalie: There’s also the inspiration she seemed to draw from Jesus’ story, about how he challenged authority and became a powerfully worshipped figure. Jesus was an angry, impatient man to all accounts, not vengeful but constantly frustrated and combative, despite the kindness and patience we are now preaching.
Bilquis sees his success and most importantly, how his acts of rebellion fostered a long reign of worship for people who took away peace and love from it. Maybe she now feels like she has to turn to combat to save people and grant them peace in the long run.
Brittany: That’s an interesting point and I hope that happens on some level, finding a way on her own terms. Empowering herself first and then, who knows, providing that wisdom and influence back to the gods who need a bit more guidance.
Natalie: It does feel a bit like she is the heroine of this story, the one we are meant to root for.
Out of all the gods involved.
Brittany: I would be in for that.
American Gods season 2 airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET on Starz.