Martin Carr reviews the season one finale of American Gods…
Intricate metaphors weave like finest thread between the interlinking strands of this season finale. Visual spectacle is in no short supply and theatrical trickery stands side by side with televisual flare, making ‘Come To Jesus’ something unique. Because instead of supplying pay off for the time invested Gods goes the other way, heaping invention upon invention, using irony and biblical debate like confetti whilst admonishing us for our lack of faith.
Musical accompaniment shapes our experience here more than at any other time. Tenor sax trickles over intricate visuals as spiders weave their way between strands of cloth. An ornately decorated sewing machine taps away while a finely manicured hand guides the process, popping in and out of close up, before inviting us into their confidence. So begins this Tinto Brass, ‘Caligula’ inspired piece of writhing Egyptian homage. All timpani drums and apposing clarinets, an orchestral orgy concerto by fire light with Yetide Badaki’s Bilquis as the main event.
All sensual posturing, striking visage and manipulative mannerism, Bilquis rises like a phoenix from the ashes and her story is engrossing, relevant and one disco dipped psychedelic acid trip to behold. Peppered with audacious visual imagery, clever timestamp signatures and enough salacious sexual sass to make Foxy Brown step aside, ‘Gods’ covers the decades but manages to overlay a narrative without losing step. But in this season closer Bilquis is part of a much richer tapestry, alongside jelly bean producing bunnies, multiple ‘Christ’ figures and breast-feeding biblical virgins next to multi-coloured macaroons.
Tucked away between the affluent hills of upper class America, swathed in opulence, implying purity yet savagely decadent sits a mansion where Gods hang out. If you are a believer, non-believer, fair weather worshipper or convert to the dark side, this is where Fuller, Green, Gaiman and company throw down. And where the easily offended best prepare to get affronted because those claws are out. Amongst the niceties, civilities, freshly forged swords and garden party three-piece suits some religions are about to be debunked. Now Gods is not saying religion as a means of fulfilment is outmoded, just that people have forgotten they need to do it.
Newcomer Kristin Chenoweth is the personification of that reminder giving us Easter in all her bedecked magnificence. Remaining chocolate box perfect, crimped, coiffed and tanned while a multitude of duplicate Jesus stand around trying not to mark the furniture. McShane’s Wednesday has never been more in his element than he is right here, imbuing every phrase with a worldly-wise omnipotence while wooing Easter off her feet. In fact everyone else brings their A game too, sensing that the material is a rarefied commodity in having something important to say beyond its intention to entertain.
Occasionally a programme comes along with the ability to change the landscape, move the goalposts and redefine expectations. Executives are already trying replicate, repackage and profit from this one-off, but fortunately for us American Gods stands alone. A reminder of what can happen when creativity and freedom combine without corporate interference.