“This is all too big. Too much going on at once.” That’s how Mr. Nancy starts “Come To Jesus,” the season finale of American Gods. He looks up from his sewing machine and announces, “We should start with a story.”
A viewer who’s been waiting for the war of the gods—or for the show to reach the House On The Rock, or for Laura Moon to be resurrected, or for any of the other tantalizing goals of the season—can be forgiven for feeling, like Wednesday, that we haven’t got time for a story.
But Mr. Nancy says we do.
The lighting and framing of this scene fooled my eye at first. I thought Nancy was sitting behind Wednesday and Shadow as they idly watched his reflection in a mirror. But what I took to be the frame is a doorway; what I thought was a bright square of reflected light is instead the bright light over his tailor’s table. It’s a clever illusion that makes it look as if Wednesday and Shadow are seated before a screen—as if they’re watching the next best thing to a television. As if they’re us, watching the action unfold… except the action is a man (a god) placidly cutting and sewing pieces together, and even that repetitive action is broken by his insistence on telling us a story. Another story.
Throughout season one, Wednesday has asked Shadow variants of the question he asks again and again in “Come To Jesus”: “Do you have faith?”
The first season of American Gods is a leap of faith. It’s a leap of faith, if not an act of hubris, to convert a popular novel into a series, especially a popular fantasy novel with a sprawling story spread across a nation in different times and locales, with different casts of characters. It’s a leap of faith to pluck key episodes from the novel and tinker with them, upend them, even ignore them entirely in favor of new stories. It’s a leap of faith to let the weight of the show rest on…