On American Gods, Kristin Chenoweth Goes Insane (In The Best Way)
If you mess with Easter, you're not coming back three days later.
The season finale of American Gods encapsulates the entire experience of watching the show: there are some maddening, clunky, and pointless parts, but the good stuff is so good that I'm forgiving all debts.
The clunkiness springs from how much time it takes to move the characters into place for the epic battle that's brewing between the old and new gods: that is, the new gods have to keep explaining their philosophy, so that newly arriving deities (and audience members) don't get lost. Meanwhile, characters like Bilquis and Mr. Nancy turn up for a few short scenes, just so we don't forget they're part of all this, yet they feel underwritten and ignored.
In this episode, for example, we learn that Bilquis basically sold herself to the new gods, since they use technology and media to keep the old gods relevant. Remember when they promised Odin/Mr. Wednesday a series of branded warheads? They made Bilquis a similar deal by building a hook-up app that recalls her ancient past as a goddess of love. Now she uses said app to entrap poor mortals and screw them to death. Except for when she's riding a bus to the final battle. Then she just uses her wiles to overpower some stranger in the next seat and bang him into oblivion in a tiny bus bathroom. (Now that's some flexibility.) It's an interesting story, but Bilquis barely says a word about it. Instead, we see her during flashbacks that Mr. Nancy narrates. He may be talking about how men were frightened of her power, but wouldn't that have meant more if, say, she herself had been able to say it? Why is she relegated to titty scene after wordless titty scene, sucking up sacrifices into her cosmic vagina?
But there are better things ahead, so let's move on: the big confrontation of this episode occurs on Easter Sunday, when the new and old gods gather at Easter's house -- the actual Easter (Kristin Chenoweth), goddess of the spring, whose ancient pagan powers have been shoved into Christian forms. The show has a good time with that idea by filling her house with a parade of Jesuses humans pray to. Whatever kind of Jesus people imagine -- black, white -- is a Jesus that appears, because prayer is what makes a god exist. This explains the appearance of a Mexican Jesus in a sidebar story a few weeks back, and it explains how this doofus is hovering on top of Easter's pool:
And yes, that's Jeremy Davies.
Wednesday has this plan to get Easter on his side against Mr. World, Media, and the rest. Mr. World, however, also wants Easter on his team, and Media especially considers Easter a good friend. Think of all the work they've done together, what with the TV specials and annual parades! Sure, it's lessened Easter's stature, but at least she still has her day. And that's all she has a right to hope for! She's lucky the new gods are even making room for her, right?
WRONG! After listening to this defeatist talk, Wednesday finally shows his hand and reveals himself as Odin in all his godly power. This means Shadow is forced to confront who his boss is, but more importantly, Easter is reminded of HER power. She's the goddess of the goddess-damned spring! Filled with renewed fire, she proceeds to go full kabuki on everyone. She lets down her hair...
...summons up all the powers of the heavens, and wipes out all the greenery for thousands of miles around. What was verdant at the beginning of the episode now looks like this...
...because Easter controls the leaves and blades. And as Wednesday points out, the people can have them back when they pray. Pray to HER.
AND OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING. It turns out Kristin Chenoweth can really project cosmic force. Watching her hit that peak after an episode of awkward holiday cheer is exhilarating, like watching a cheetah realize it doesn't have to walk. The filmmaking in this scene is also remarkable, suffusing the screen with light and color and adding happy springtime music. Because even though she's taking back the spring, of COURSE Easter makes the process look beautiful. She is a goddess of life, even in moments like this. It's all so impressive that I was whooping by the end.
So even though the show has transplanted the big battle from Rock City (in my hometown) to the House on the Rock, I can forgive its betrayal of the novel's coolest locale. Season 2 needs to spring forth soon: I want to see what kind of ass Kristin Chenoweth kicks next.