This post contains spoilers for the American Gods season one finale.
American Gods completed its first season in spectacular fashion on Sunday. The Starz drama ended on a high note as the clash between the old gods and the newer deities finally began in earnest. After eight episodes where the journey of Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday was enjoyable, but lacked clarity, American Gods finally had some big moments. The principle participant revealed himself and the pending clash in Wisconsin began to take a more definite shape.
From the outset of season one, the strength of American Gods has been the actors who have been cast as the gods. Starting with Ian McShane and extending to some superbly egocentric divinities, the cast has been the glue of the show as McShane’s Odin traverses America and collects old gods from a large variety of religions and cultures to wage war with newer gods created by the advancements of modern technology.
Gillian Anderson has had a string of delightful performances as Media, a modern goddess who materializes in different forms. Whether it be as Lucille Ball, David Bowie, Judy Garland, or Marilyn Monroe, Anderson appears to be having a blast depicting some of the 20th Century’s biggest cultural icons. Pablo Schrieber’s Mad Sweeney is the punching bag and punchline of American Gods. As a leprechaun who ran out of luck and is stuck on a journey with a resurrected Laura Moon, Mad Sweeney, is the toy of Moon as she tortures with her taller travel companion without remorse. Their dynamic has added an entertaining comedic element to the show. Orlando Jones has also made a huge splash in his limited time on screen. His two scenes as Anansi, an African trickster god who has appeared on a slave ship and as a high-end tailor, have been some of the most electrifying on the show.
Even with the terrific acting, the overall plot of American Gods was not abundantly clear until the finale. While holding certain aspects of the plot to the finale is to be expected (the Odin reveal, Shadow’s newfound belief), the story may have been a struggle for members of the audience who had not already read the 2001 Neil Gaiman novel that the show was based on. By waiting until the end of the season, creators Brian Fuller and Michael Green scored a big finale, but allowed for a plot that seemed a bit hazy at times. A casual watcher of the series without knowledge of what the show is about may not have had trouble following the story. Smaller nuggets through the series may have gone a long way into developing a first season with better structure.
Despite the occasionally ambiguous aspects of American Gods throughout the previous seven episodes, any doubts about the show were cast aside in its finale. The series may have presented its most perfect casting choice in Sunday’s finale when Kristin Chenoweth made an appearance as the Southern belle goddess Easter. Chenoweth’s effusive charm was an instant hit as she hosted a gathering at a Kentucky estate that featured a score of Jesuses (representing different aspects of Christianity) and received messages from white rabbits that deposited fecal Easter candy throughout her mansion. Seeing Chenoweth, McShane, and Anderson finally share the same screen was a powerful jolt for a show with the potential swagger of American Gods.
The big moment of the finale came as Chenoweth, also known as the pagan figure Ostara, come to terms with the impending clash. Easter, who had been content with her rebranding as the Christian holiday, realized that she yearned for her former status as a beloved goddess. By coupling the powerful moment of Easter transforming the countryside around her into a barren wasteland with Odin’s a lightning strike upon Media’s dancing henchmen, Americans Gods finally saw a true throw down between deities.
The scene was a powerful display of divine might and flexed the potential muscle of future clashes between the gods. Prior to the finale, most of the old gods had been depicted in smaller moments without a true appreciation of their power. They had been scant characters that popped up along the journey without clear explanation. Like Odin and Easter, American Gods found itself in the season finale and teased great potential for season two. Without the need for a nebulous cover of the plot, it seems that the best of American Gods is on the horizon.