American Gods season 3, episode 10, “Tears of the Wrath-Bearing Tree” approaches the climax of the novel from a skewed perspective.
The scripts set down by the writers gathered to spin the tale of American Gods’ third season may appear to be sticking to the general direction of Neil Gaiman’s novel. However, with an unconfirmed season 4, a bold swing in the final hour of the season puts a new mask on some of the key players tasked with the mission of conveying the final chapters on screen.
We’ve witnessed a Shadow Moon – one who is completely in the know about the Old Gods, the New Gods, his father’s identity – tackle the narrative of the novel with a resigned frustration as he plays out his contractual obligation. But with the contract fulfilled, the possibility to turn to a fresh start away from it all, Shadow realizes that he’ll never quite be free of his connection to the Old Gods and he is not exactly ready to let the potential of power slip through his fingers. A recent shift in his attitude following the death of Wednesday has left our writers a bit skeptical on how things will play out if season 4 does move forward.
Meanwhile, American Gods does not deliver a backstory for one of our favorite players, Technical Boy, but instead offers a deeper storyline through the reveal of his connection to Artifact 1.
Join us in the center of America where Gods have no power and we have no answers as we try to tease out what’s in store for the rest of the series as well as discuss why Bilquis, Technical Boy, Cordelia, and Laura Moon are the ones to watch.
Missed an episode? Want to read more spoiler chat for the book’s end game? Check out our full collection of American Gods discussions for seasons 1-3!
‘American Gods’ season 3, episode 10 in conversation review
Brittany: The season finale of American Gods has arrived with a deep dive into Norse burial rituals, but not before we visit Bilquis who has once again found her way back to Eugenia for some more cryptic information about Shadow Moon and her role in the next chapter of this story. Eugenia has made peace with her death after we saw her stubbornly refute Iku when he tried to take her in episode 7. Here she seems ready to make peace with her time on Earth saying she knows that Shadow is strong and special, but the trouble is that he knows it now. Something of the attitude we see from him a bit later on.
What do you think of the visions that Bilquis sees once she opens the “damn ice box” and falls back into her earthly body in her apartment? She sees a lot of different things including Tech, Laura and Shadow merging into one, before ultimately getting some more literal direction back home.
Natalie: Honestly, not one single clue. Eugenia using the word soulmate raised my eyebrows and not in a good way. Obviously this is wildly off-book territory, the other half, and Bilquis becoming something else… but what exactly we still aren’t sure. Unfortunately (spoiler alert) by the end of the season we still do not know any real answers about what Bilquis’s quest is, what her true role is, what she needs to do to help Shadow, and what was meant by finding the other half.
I can make some guesses and there are some visual clues throughout the episode, like Shadow seeing the slaves who originally joined with the Orishas – maybe it’s about redirecting Shadow’s power to be their kind of god, not Wednesday’s. But that is really speculation because I have no idea what is going on. Again, soulmate — do they mean Laura? (Probably) secret sister Cordelia? I truly do not know. I felt on much firmer ground when Ibis told me we were going to Lebanon, Kansas. That I knew what to do with.
Brittany: I hope it is not Laura. For all the good they did this season for these two characters to grow and be healthy apart, they botched that right up in the end. It had to happen, of course, but I don’t feel great about them being thrust into something as a partnership. Perhaps it will give Laura some purpose if she is in fact this other half Bilquis is entrusted to find and protect, which we’ll get to their connection later. But for now, I agree, I have no clue what is expected of us here in terms of connecting the dots.
Lebanon was, of course, close to where we get to in Ibis’ story as a god-neutral zone for the burial of Odin, talks between the new and old gods, as well as some unpleasant reunions and sexually charged introductions. But mostly everyone is sad and angry and disappointed. Welcome to a funeral.
Natalie: Lebanon and its mythology holds a special place in my heart (Supernatural pilfered this lore and set the Winchesters’ extremely heavily warded home there in the back half of the series) so I was glad to get the voice-over of Ibis matching the book, but as soon as we got to him and Shadow in the parking lot and Shadow said that the birds were with him now — I started vibing that Shadow was going to piss me off attitude-wise, and boy was I correct. I had been wondering about how Shadow would approach this entire situation with his show knowledge — of his power and parentage — and the answer was not one I liked.
We do learn that he didn’t actually see the events of Wednesday’s death though, he just sensed that it happened, because Cordelia was the one to tell him Laura did it. I was quite surprised that Laura was on site for the talks too, but then again I wasn’t expecting things with her and World to pan out the way they did.
Brittany: World did technically hold up his end of the bargain and take her to the safest place possible — no one can touch her there on either side.
However, he does leave her with the one person who could kill her. Shadow’s attitude was expected and as Eugenia says, he knows he is powerful now, so he is going to need some guidance. I think the people who are with him really do a great job of making his attitude almost palatable for me? On one hand you have what he is bringing into this situation before he sees anyone, which is the knowledge that his dad is dead and that he only has to sit vigil and say goodbye to the prick who upended his life. So that Shadow, the one who walks in with Ibis, was one I recognized.
Then he is met instantly with grieving Cordelia, who I believe softens him a bit here and in another scene they share later on. However, she is also the person who fills in the blanks about the events of Wednesday’s death, including the crucial detail about Laura’s hand in the whole thing. Then the meeting with World sets him a bit over the edge he was walked to. Enter Czernbog who is just all fire and disappointment telling him what a failure and bad son he is, contrasted with the cold hard truths about Norse lore that Ibis is confirming as if he is calling Jeopardy! answers from his couch. It’s all enough to push him deeper into this “I am the Captain now” mode.
Which is all fine, doesn’t mean I have to like it. But I do understand it based on what we watched kind of swirl around him in this episode.
Natalie: I think because the vigil is obviously such a massive and crucial experience for the book, him going into it in a totally different headspace really offput me. Like a totally different motivation. Then again, the Shadow in the book was incredibly passive, and I don’t know how that would have played on TV. I can see it working, like more noble and honor filled, rather than the tangible arrogance here. He’s weirdly ambitious all episode and I don’t know, it felt really off to me — to the point that I was so relieved when he talked to Wednesday at the end and it was made clear he had been played and manipulated into it. Like, I really needed the show narrative not to be saying “this was valid and okay of Shadow” so the reveal at the end was basically that he made a massive mistake and was tricked… that kind of made it okay for me, but I wasn’t able to support Shadow’s attitude as being the story’s POV saying “our hero is correct.”
That’s jumping ahead a bit, though. Before they actually meet over the body, everyone gets a slice of montage in the hours leading to midnight, and part of Shadow’s feels related to what I mentioned before, like he seems to see a vision of what I am going to assume is the Orisha path, and the Wednesday path. He sees the people in need, and then Daddy on a Horse. He chooses the horse.
I feel like it was quite a heavy handed and obvious “path choice” moment, but still do not understand what the other path is, exactly. I assume it’s tied to what Bilquis is meant to help him with, maybe what Wisakedjak told him about too.
Brittany: I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the “other” option as well. We’ve been seeing Shadow in very few instances this season meeting new players in the game who absolutely cannot stand Wednesday, namely Wisakedjak, to start the season. And then we got an entire season of Wednesday being what I would consider soft — Shadow meets Demeter, he sees how he is with Cordelia, his interactions with Czernbog at Zoyra’s wake were also not completely fueled by hatred. So for Shadow to want to feel some sort of pull to Wednesday, kind of makes sense?
But at the same time, I’ve been on board with the show making Wednesday out to be the worst possible person and running these exercises, though great to watch McShane as we mentioned last week, is a fool’s errand for the long game.
Of course I want Shadow to do anything but go to Wednesday. But for where Shadow is at this moment and his attitude about the whole thing, I think he just wants to feel something. I think he is affected by how passionate the people are around him, so choosing to ride with Wednesday is his way of saying, “yeah, I guess I was affected by your presence and now your loss. How can I continue on this path?” And the other pieces are just question marks.
I feel like I’m trying to make a mountain out of an ant hill for Shadow to stand on, but I’m also becoming more and more frustrated by the entire idea of how they got from point A to point B emotionally speaking.
Honestly, I spent most of the episode completely over everyone except Cordelia, Tech, and shockingly, World and Wednesday on the plane. Because, as Laura says, you can put lipstick on a weasel but you still know what it is.
The rest of the montage gives Ibis the chance to start the new story of Shadow Moon (AW — After Wednesday) and perhaps most importantly beyond Shadow gets Laura out of the room and into the Room Where it Happens so to speak.
Natalie: So, I don’t know if I am just very stupid or something, but I was not expecting World to hand Laura over to Shadow and invoke that whole Norse revenge law. After all his drama about passing off the killing as her personal vendetta… I mean I guess he doesn’t change his song there, he still says that to the Olds.
Brittany: If I were in his position it is the easiest way to have upheld the bargain and get rid of her. It seemed right in his wheelhouse. Plus, if it was her vendetta it’s a double gift he is offering. A body and the sacrificial lamb. Mr. two-for-one special, don’t say I never gave you anything, World.
Natalie: There’s a lot of drama here when all this plays out – obviously Czernobog is furious and Ibis is the classic “I’m just going to sit back and see what happens.” Amidst all this, Shadow has learnt the truth of his vigil and it does not involve just kneeling by a body overnight with some candles lit. And he’s learnt it is his responsibility to kill Laura. But I think one of the biggest changes in tone or in circumstance is that Shadow’s participation in any of this is all now his choice. In the book, he wasn’t free of the compact and he also was incredibly naive and innocent about everything going on here. His motive was so different.
He was bound by the contract and he knew it was a magical binding, like something might happen if he didn’t — even if he didn’t know the terms when he drank the mead and he also does it out of sort of a sense of hopelessness a bit, and just pushing himself to be a real person and feel something. He certainly doesn’t have a son’s love at play, but here, it’s so much messier. He is no longer BOUND – Wednesday ended the contract. Ibis tells him to walk away, he refuses. Laura tells him to walk away. But it becomes this prideful, arrogant, power hungry thing about greatness, and that attitude was just really confusing and off putting to me as I mentioned.
Brittany: Yeah, I agree. I don’t have much to add beyond what I wrote about earlier. It is off putting, I don’t necessarily agree with the decision here and cannot fathom the person we are going to see post vigil.
Natalie: I’m actually less concerned at the outcome due to the plane scene, because Shadow has learnt he has made a massive error and was fully played and I assume he will come back cowed and ready to use whatever power he has in a better way. But as we said — that level of sanctimonious ego wasn’t a good look and didn’t seem to jive with the point of why this is happening. What did you think of the fight with Laura about setting Shadow free?
His comments about getting a purpose for greatness, and being a leader… his head is full of some grand ideas. Laura kind of sums it up — he had the chance to unfuck his life but instead he drinks Wednesday’s kool aid. The issue here is he’s choosing this with awareness, it hits different to being more of an innocent. And what is interesting to me was some comments between Eugenia and Bilquis at the start about how it’s a PROBLEM that Shadow knows he’s special…
Do you think this is what they meant? His attitude is the problem? Maybe they’re trying to reset him to that innocence, story wise. Probably not a memory wipe, but just taking away his surety and conviction?
Brittany: That Shadow is bull-headed? 100%.
They are going to have to do some sort of retcon for his attitude. I think it will come down to what happens with Bilquis and whatever role Laura has to play in this. Their fight was the root of the problem. Shadow needs to fight for something, he is never fighting for himself. He needs to stay strong and not get into trouble in prison to get back to Laura; he needs to fight for Wednesday because he is tied to a compact; he will go rescue Bilquis because someone is speaking directly to him sending him that message.
Shadow now has to choose to go off into the sunset free from Wednesday and possibly find Margie, settle down, enjoy that life that Laura mapped out for him in their confrontation. But that isn’t a battle. And I think, while Wednesday isn’t exactly on the same terms with Shadow as he is with the other gods, namely Sweeney, I feel like Shadow thinks he is still owed a war. Now is the only time he can fight it. Once he walks away whatever made him special is gone. So yeah, his awareness is a problem because he likes feeling needed. Margie doesn’t need him. Perhaps Wednesday does.
Natalie: Yes. I mean I think he learns that in the end, he certainly learns why Wednesday needed him. In the book the reveal about the son’s blood sacrifice is kind of a sadder moment, but here it is more of a gotcha — his understanding that he knows he’s been played, that he walked into a trap with his eyes open. I think that will change his path, if we get another season. But before he actually gets onto the tree, this is a bit of a weird pivot.
I feel very certain now that Cordelia is Shadow’s sister, and that she’s going to try to avenge Dad and get Laura. There was something in the way she and Ibis looked at each other when Shadow let Laura walk away. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like something is brewing there.
Brittany: I would be happy to see her stick around. I don’t think she is going to give up this part of her life that easily. Especially now that both Shadow and Wednesday are gone. They were kind of anchors to her. I just hope Ibis is a bit kinder to her than he was to Salim when she inevitably has questions.
Natalie: One thing that is similar to the book is that everyone who comes to the farm is telling Shadow not to do the thing right up until he does the thing. Ibis, Czernobog and Cordelia all just keep telling him don’t get on the tree. Cordelia is passionately devastated, already grieving, but his open ambition — if I survive this I become something more – wins out, and so up he goes. Obviously he has a whole lot of visions over the course of the nine days, as one does.
In the book, a lot of his tree visions involve the elephant god and the swirling information about the Klunker mystery – that’s why he returns to Lakeside after the full events of the book, he had his eyes opened on the tree and came into that awareness. Obviously we are now clear of that, but he has other mysteries to unfold.
Brittany: Even as someone who knew exactly what was going on here, I caught myself tuning out this segment several times. I was thinking the entire time, how does this play for someone who is watching the show week-to-week and is now going to wait a year (or 2 or forever) to get an answer?
On the one hand we’re three seasons in and as a viewer you know that American Gods is going to throw you for a wild ride with probably no answers at least on the surface. But to be doing this at the end of a season? Bold move.
Natalie: Do you just mean leaving him on the tree by the final beat? Or do you mean the questions posed?
Brittany: I was not a fan of the pacing here especially if this is where they chose to start flipping the script at least from a position they placed the character to enter this space in. I guess more so leaving him on the tree.
Questions are fine, I like questions, I like the way that the storyline that we are going to talk about later was left. I don’t know exactly how to phrase what I didn’t particularly latch onto in this episode. But the vigil vision quest until the plane just did not capture any of my interest.
Natalie: Yes – I mean it was kind of bare bones in terms of, I guess, the people who had his back separate to Wednesday?
Zorya P, Wisakedjak, Laura — it felt a bit like an I told you so lesson. A time for Shadow to realise he’s made mistakes, rather than a heroic moment. Again, for Shadow in the book, this experience is about becoming aware of who he is. That he is the son, that he has power, all that. When you take that away, what he’s meant to be learning and transforming here is a bit lost on me I guess.
Brittany: He does learn his weakness — he craves power. But he also finally hears the song I’ve been singing all season, “Wednesday is the absolute worst, do not waste your feelings on him!” Also, he is the living embodiment of the pigeon meme by the end here. If we showed him that he would have a complete mental breakdown.
Natalie: The plane was interesting. The snippet of footage from that old dame from 3.01, who has that strange interaction with Shadow before Wednesday arrives. Laura over the PA. And then Wednesday just flat out coldly and craftily telling him the truth about using and abusing Shadow, gleefully mocking the earning of Shadow’s love, and how this was all a con to get enough power – a son’s blood sacrifice.
Wednesday flat out tells him that he tapped into Shadow’s godly ambition too — turned him down that slightly ugly arrogant path. Between Laura saying Shadow was one step away from his old man at the motel, and speaking as the flight attendant saying “attention Shadow Moon, reminder, what did Wednesday ever do for you?” It’s looking more and more like Laura has an important role to play to bring Shadow back to his best self….but soulmates? Surely not….
Brittany: Her soulmate is floating in a river.
Natalie: Ultimately Shadow realises he’s made a huge fucking mistake, become a martyr and enabled Wednesday’s power, only for Wednesday to yeet himself off the plane cackling, leaving Shadow stranded between life and death. There isn’t a universe in which I can see Shadow and Laura working things out romantically, but he definitely should let her boss him around some more after this, because boy was he wrong and she was right.
Brittany: There is a reckoning coming and Shadow needs to jump down from his illusionary high horse. He didn’t even get cool Norse armor, he should have known right then and there.
But the Old Gods seem to be freaked out a bit, at least for now, that Wednesday’s body is gone and the storm clouds start to roll in. Hopefully, Bilquis, who does appear to Laura in a dream and then in reality back at the hotel, will make things right.
Natalie: They also think Shadow is a goner, given that the vines have taken him whole. I don’t want to be too critical or whatever but the whole vine tentacle thing didn’t do it for me imagery wise, I would have been happier with some realistic rope.
Brittany: Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of it really. But Ricky met his butt quota for the season with his Norn bath, so that’s something.
Natalie: In general, I would have liked to see more book accuracy from the vigil, like the squirrel, Horus and Bast, and some of the visions, but at the end of the day the discoveries he makes are quite different. And I guess we don’t know exactly what will happen when he comes down. But yeah — it seems like Tech, Laura and Bilquis are the key players.
Brittany: And possibly Cordelia. But for the main drivers of the story we can count on, that’s the trio.
Natalie: Maybe we still have more to see of his journey in the afterlife next season. Dying on the tree and going through the judgement of the dead and all. Maybe 4.01 will spend MORE time in the tree visions. But somehow I can’t quite imagine it, even though there is a lot that could be replicated well regardless of what Shadow knows and doesn’t — simply to do with the process of dying and coming back like a mirror of Laura’s Purgatory experience.
Brittany: It would make their mirrored stories seem more closely entwined in that sense if they are meant to be soulmates.
While we already teased Wednesday’s end game in other recaps and this episode at least gets us to restoring his power as the all father portion of that plan, we also get a bit closer to another part of that which involves Mr. World.
But to get there we get to follow Tech as he literally consumes raw data.
Natalie: Now this part, which was short, was incredibly impactful to me. Tech is finally able to locate Artifact 1, and it is… not what I expected. And we get a clue (or, for me, a total smack in the face) about the meaning of Shard. Why is it called that? SHARD. Ohhhhh. I was having a melt down.
The truth about Tech is pretty close to what I think we suspected, that he is the god of. human innovation. Not just technology, but human invention, human change, starting with…. fire. Flint and stone to make fire. And Artifact 1 seems to be a piece or symbol of that first development.
Technology literally means the science of craft, the knowledge of technique, the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. And honestly, as World says, that has the potential to make Tech Boy the most powerful being in all history, if only he could remember the sum of his parts. So proud of our little boy.
Brittany: This concept of him evolving so quickly that without an anchor he wouldn’t be able to even fathom the complexity of his history was probably my favorite part of the episode. It ties into this narrative we’ve seen of Tech this whole season which has been very small bits and pieces and it answers our question as to why we are not getting that backstory. It’s too far reaching there is an inciting incident and it is in World’s hands.
Natalie: Yes, the idea of him updating and rewriting and having the past innovations become obsolete is a really perfect metaphor for what he is, isn’t it? It just makes sense. And of course for many people the belief in human innovation is stronger than any sort of religion or god, so the idea of him bridging old and new — that he’s always been with humanity, and was probably the first IDEA they believed in rather than something mystical
It made me think about the differences between Old and New gods not so much as being about age, but about being like… conscious vs unconscious human attention. Odin is a named god that people formed stories about and believed in, a traditional god — or Demeter, or Jesus, or whatever. It isn’t about age, it’s about belief structure.Those who were worshiped as gods on purpose, and those who came into being because of humanity’s focus on an idea. Godhood is real, but they didn’t form a god of technology on purpose. It’s about belief in an idea and manifestation.
People believed in an idea (or MANY ideas) of Jesus, and we saw they all manifested as real in season 1 for example. People believed in the idea of innovation, so Tech pops up. The difference between old and new is more about storytelling than anything else – a god made up as an explanation for XYZ becomes real, but really they are no differently formed than the belief in a self-made idea. Almost makes the old gods seem more…. fictional, if that makes sense.
Brittany: Yeah, it does. No one is walking around blaming Demeter because the price of avocados went up due to a bad harvest. In fact, they are probably thanking technology that they can have avocados in a region where they don’t naturally grow in the middle of winter. And it’s just this one boy — as we see him at least — who doesn’t have time to age because innovation does not slow down.
Natalie: Basically, World has been keeping a being probably a lot more powerful than him in the dark, and now it seems like his aim was to basically use Tech Boy as a conduit to run Shard through. Use all of his essence locked in this cage, to basically harness him as the power source.
Brittany: I hope Bilquis can help him out when she is done sorting out the rest of the mess she has to deal with. Finally finds herself and has to do all of this leg work. She did see Tech in her vision trip back to her body though, so I feel that their paths will cross.
Natalie: Touching the rock once was not enough to give Tech back the full force of his history – World calls it a totem. Tech clearly needs it, and I wonder when it was taken from him or who found it.
Brittany: It seems like it would have been pretty early on, he definitely does not remember who he was at the fair in Chicago. Perhaps that was the first time we are seeing him without memory, reduced to this scared innovator without a past who hides himself away?
But could have definitely been sooner. If it was that late I imagine he would have been pretty much all-powerful.
Natalie: I think it might have been even earlier if we are going back to the birth of like, fire. But what we DO know is that World has trapped him and vanished the rock into… the ether. And World has shown his cards a little more, just as Wednesday on the plane revealed how callous and self serving he actually was.
World admits that he is more invested in trickery and manipulation than what he’s posed as — a bigwig for new change and all that. And he whistles the Baldur tune while leaving Tech locked in his energy field cage, presumably to be a massive battery for his project.
I think this really sets Tech up as one of the good guys, if the “good guys team” is like, people who aren’t World or Wednesday and side with stopping their nonsense and actually being good gods in touch with their subjects, such as Bilquis, or the people who just want them to stop, like Laura. I hope Bilquis is able to take him under her wing despite his ridiculous attitude. Seeing him turn the page will be interesting.
Brittany: Since he has some semblance of an answer from World, I feel as though he will be a little bit less abrasive to Bilquis, however, he may still want her to “fix” him. He’s always going to be interested in answers, and unfortunately this is not the show for a person like Tech to be on if he wants them.
What did you think of the season as a whole? I was thinking about what we got here and how we ended up at the vigil and overall I feel satisfied with how the stories tracked week to week, even if I wasn’t particularly thrilled with most of the finale. It didn’t diminish what I took away from the other nine episodes. But I also think that is because I refuse to let Wednesday into my cold little heart. I know you had many feelings for him and were swayed by McShane’s acting. So how did the events of the series shake out for you as a whole in light of where we end and might pick up in season 4?
Natalie: Well, I don’t know. Like we talked about before – what was the point of all that Wednesday softening? Does him doing this to Shadow mean everything we spent time with him on was fake? I truly do not know.
What I do think is that story wise, they’ve left the season on somewhat of a dare. They didn’t write an ending that could serve as a series finale at all, they left it on a full mid-drama cliffhanger. I don’t know how I feel about that choice? But I think that the harsh reveal of Wednesday on the plane deserves more deconstructing from Shadow and Cordelia and those who knew him.
Brittany: I don’t think Laura is going to be the right person to deconstruct this with, so I think you’re right, Cordelia would be a good person for Shadow to turn to first after this. While Shadow needs a good “I told you so,” it shouldn’t be the first thing he hears.
I also agree that it was a BOLD choice to end here. I know I mentioned last week that I kept checking to make sure I wasn’t watching the season finale because that episode worked so well as one.
It did a lot to shakeup what we’ve been talking about as well — how can they flip the endgame? While I don’t necessarily believe it is or even will be flipped, how we get there is proving to be a much more complicated and interesting journey.
Natalie: For me, what I’ve struggled with a bit, or need to understand, is showing the same events (like the Klunker and the Tree) with a totally different emotional angle, or motivation, or knowledge. A lot of these moments haven’t felt how I expected them to feel because there was not the same mentality behind the experience. This does not mean it was bad television on its own. But it’s where I have gotten tripped up. And I think whether this finale works for me will hinge on what we see in 4.01, if it occurs.
American Gods season 4 has not yet been announced. Check back for more news!