The fourth episode of American Gods opens with a stunning vignette of the birth of Technology—or in this case, Tech Boy. Similar to the “Somewhere in America” stories of the first season, this new god is birthed from a young Asian man who preferred writing computer code and playing Game Boys to listening to Bach (his father’s favorite), we’ll return to this powerful figure (simply named CEO) later down the line.
Back in Cairo, though, Mr. Wednesday implored Shadow to sleep on it before answering any questions. Shadow drifts in and out of what may or may not be dreams, and he’s visited by an unknown woman with a feline nature. She both heals and hurts Shadow as they have sex and he wakes with more questions than answers—and is startled by Ibis’ cat. The two briefly discuss Ibis’ profession as well as life and death before Mr. Wednesday shows up. It’s time to hit the road again; this time, in search of the god Money. Shadow presses that he must find Laura, to which Wednesday retorts:
“Only humans could come up with monogamy: an unnatural concept. Enjoy your life, my boy…leave the past where it belongs…in the past.”
And with that, they’re off to St. Louis. As they pull out of the drive, Bilquis appears and comes upon a young woman waiting for her grandmother’s funeral (she’s two days early). Bilquis asks the woman what she believes and the woman replies that her reverend says that “God is just one idea.” To which Bilquis replies he must be a fan of the theater as his thoughts are a reference to Beneatha, the non-believing daughter in Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun.” No sooner has she quoted the play, Mr. Nancy appears with a quote of his own. This time, Maya Angelou’s word on god takes center stage as Bilquis and Mr. Nancy spar over which side Bilquis is really on. The funeral goer asks, “So you know each other?” “Yes,” Mr. Nancy replies. “Biblically.”
We pick up with Technical Boy and New Media next, with Technical Boy wrestling with whether or not he made the right choice to let Laura off Argus while his loathing for New Media grows. New Media, on the other hand, is fixated on who she used to be and who she might become and if all those versions of self will remember the other. Technical Boy accuses New Media of not understanding what she really is: a god. And that’s when Mr. World shows up, full of quiet and controlled rage. Tech Boy tries to play it off, but World isn’t having it.
“Wars are built on information…this is blindness. Can you restore my sight?”
Tech Boy folds and promises to fix it, much to New Media’s amusement.
Meanwhile, Shadow and Mr. Wednesday make it to St. Louis and settle in for coffee at a Motel America diner, and Wednesday explains the love and worship of money: it’s been drilled into everyone that it has value, and it spans all cultures. What other god could do that? Mama-ji stops by to give the pair some coffee, which confuses Shadow once again. It seems she can be everywhere and that she and her followers own half the motels in America. She and Wednesday briefly reminisce on real battles, filled with blood and death, rather than scraping to get by as a forgotten god.
And then things get even weirder: the Girl Scouts show up. But they’re not any old garden-variety Girl Scouts, not by Wednesday’s wise gaze. Mama-ji tops off Shadow’s cup along with a warning: “He’ll be the death of you, you know that right?”
Tech Boy lets himself into X1E COMM, with New Media egging him on his way to his destination. It’s CEO, the Asian man from the opening of the episode. CEO asks Tech Boy if he’s there to show him something new, to which Tech Boy replies, “it’s time to get back in the game.”
The episode cuts back to the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor, where Mr. Ibis quietly records his findings. Bilquis pays Ibis a visit while Mr. Nancy waits impatiently. Bilquis says she doesn’t want to fight. Ibis says she’s one of them, a survivor and demands respect. Mr. Nancy calls Ibis out for not riding the carousel but Ibis stresses he is for peace, not war. Nancy then launches into one of his great tangents:
“All of a sudden, plop, an idea shits in your head. And you think that shit smells good. Peace is a beautiful but shitty idea.”
Nancy continues, explaining that freedom is not free and they are three gods who have been worshiped by people who have been oppressed time and time again for the color of their skin, harkening back to his introduction on a slave ship in Season 1. Nancy calls slavery a cult and says it has been rebranded for the current world, where their children are snatched and no one cares. Ibis tensely reminds Nancy that he hears him as well as the victims, as he must record their names. Bilquis reminds both that they have lived long enough to know that certain things cannot be fixed—the problems are timeless. Ibis also reminds Nancy that all will lie before him.
Unsatisfied, Nancy carries on, pointing out that there are three African gods in the room and two want to exercise restraint, pointing out that Wednesday is avenging Zorya but he would not do the same for them. Bilquis is taken in, and open to what Nancy proposes. Ibis cuts the tension in the room by saying they need a drink.
Back at X1E COMM, Technical Boy gives an overview of how far he and CEO have come together and how comfortable people are giving away moments of their lives. Tech Boy wants him to turn it inward so they can have eyes everywhere, but the CEO hesitates.
Back to the diner and the Girl Scouts. They’re the go-between for Money. “Credit or debit,” they creepily chime together, flickering a bit the heady golden light of the diner. While Wednesday’s on their credit list, Shadow isn’t, so access is denied yet they’ve somehow gone “backstage” like they did at House on the Rock. Who knew having a credit card would prove important to the gods?
Bilquis returns to the sanctuary where the funeral goer waits, reciting Bible verses. She asks what Jesus gives her. The funeral goer responds with comfort and community, and talks about her grandmother and her joy despite her struggles, that she was content. Bilquis then points out that Jesus was no such thing.
“He was a rebel, a troublemaker. They say he died for your sins, but that is not the truth. He angered the men in power…and refused to be controlled. And now look at the power he wields.”
The funeral goer finally introduces herself as Ruby Goodchild.
Time continues to stand still at the diner, with the Girl Scouts ignoring Shadow and so he finally decides to have a go at getting answers again. Why him? Wednesday answers he needs someone who didn’t have anything to live for and has no worth for anyone living or dead. Shadow counters that Wednesday does need him, even if he doesn’t know why (yet).
Meanwhile, Tech Boy is continuing to make the sale with CEO but Mr. World shows up and beats him to the chase, letting New Media work her magic and seduce CEO. It’s the (literal) kiss of death for Technical Boy and the trade Mr. World needs to parlay with Money and face off with Wednesday. World and Wednesday verbally spar a bit about their current death tally until Money’s ready to pay. Wednesday argues that war is good for Money.
But Money isn’t making deals with anyone today, especially if they are emotional in nature. Wednesday takes one more shot at World, saying people like him more. Mr. World says he prefers to be feared. Shadow and Wednesday end up back in the diner as “Money (That’s What I Want)” starts playing.
We’re well off book now, introducing new characters that may or may not be important down the road. But we’re also getting back some of that fire and political flavor that Season 1 did so well. Every time Mr. Nancy opens his mouth, I literally lean closer to the screen because I know we’re about to get the truth and nothing but the truth, no matter how unpleasant or fucked up it might be. The terse dialogue between Nancy, Bilquis, and Ibis paired with long still shots of them scattered through a brightly lit room was some of the most striking imagery of the season thus far. My heart felt knotted up as the three gods tried to understand each other after so many years of pain and timeless struggle.
When it comes to the modern gods, I kept getting Matrix vibes from the costuming and set choices for Technical Boy and New Media, as well as Mr. World and the new CEO character. It’s the right mix of high concepts crystallized by dazzling performances.
While there might have been some behind-the-scenes turmoil during the production of this season, the casting choices of this series are spot on and I find I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. I’m also sad if this is the true end of Technology Boy because his performance over the last couple of episodes brought a bit more levity and bite to the material. It’s also ironic that we see his birth and death over the course of one episode, and even more so that his birth happened at a funeral. There’s probably a deeper meaning there for the gods, that everything is a cycle. Perhaps it’s the way of the human and spiritual worlds.
We’re also officially halfway through the season, with four episodes left. Like Shadow, I’m slowly realizing where we’re headed but I won’t be sure until we get there.