In the first season of American Gods, the old gods struck back and showed the power they could still wield. Now, at the end of Season 2, the new gods finally have the upper hand again via revamped Technical Boy and New Media. The American Gods Season 2 finale, “Moon Shadow,” begins in the past with Mr. World reminding viewers of how much power there is in fear, using the infamous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast as a touch point. This will become important later on.
Back in Cairo, Shadow and Laura are face to face with each other and their inner demons. Mr. Wednesday snuck out under cover of night and Mr. Ibis is tending to Mad Sweeney’s body. Laura tries to apologize and sway Shadow’s favor back to her when he drops the bomb that Sweeney is dead. Laura rants about Wednesday and how Shadow really needs to think about things. She calls him puppy one too many times—which triggers a memory of how the nickname fell into place—and he tells her to not call him that. She counters that she will try and kill Wednesday. He lets her walk off.
The CEO (introduced earlier in the series) is thinking of a new way to push technology further, leading to the rebirth of Technical Boy, who sees humans as confusing systems full of synapses. The CEO recalls the tale of Jacob wrestling with God.
Laura heads to the house and runs into Bilquis. She tries to enlist her in her new quest to end Wednesday but Bliquis declines, warning that he is a wily one.
The CEO continues to wax poetic on the relationship between artists and god but then all the systems go haywire. Technical Boy reminds CEO that the new gods are made in humanity’s image. Technical Boy touches the CEO (much like the story of Jacob) and reveals himself to be in two places at once. He’s succeeded in creating a new surveillance system that can monitor everyone. Along with New Media, they can wield this system to shut down the banks and send out fake news and create a culture of fear. The new gods use this to go after Shadow and Wednesday, making them out to be suspects in a massacre. Salim watches this news in horror; Mr. Ibis and Mr. Nancy play chess instead, saying that Shadow remains ignorant and that Wednesday is cutting this close. (He’s calmly having lunch, while the world freaks out, which seems fitting.)
Shadow decides it’s time to run but is temporarily stopped by Bilquis (in all her naked glory) where she tells him that their fortunes are somehow linked. She kisses him, then anoints him in blood, whispering what should have been his active quest this entire series: finding out who he is. When he opens his eyes, she’s gone.
The Jinn decides to depart because the new gods have decided to target Salim as well. As Shadow continues to pack, the newscasters begin to talk back at him, a nice nod to (old) Media’s introduction in the first season. Cops head to the funeral home. Salim freaks out but the Jinn calms him while Salim tries to say goodbye.
Shadow goes to the greenhouse, where the life tree stands. He takes a hatchet and begins to bash at it. When the tree pulls him further in, all his memories of Wednesday begin to piece themselves together. Wednesday and his mother, his unknown father, Wednesday and him. Finally, it clicks. He’s Wednesday’s son. He uses the hatchet to break through the tree into the backstage world where he imagines himself as a child playing house. Police and figures surround the house. Child shadow clears the board and in real life, the police outside the funeral home disappear.
As the newscasters explain the data hack, the authorities come for the CEO and his only response is to pray. Meanwhile, in Cairo, the old gods depart. Mr. Nancy notices the life tree and Shadow have disappeared while Mr. Ibis warns the Jinn of how his relationship could end with Salim. And Mad Sweeney’s body is gone from the morgue slab, because Laura’s taken it, on a mission to bring him back to life, perhaps?
After the attack, both Mr. World and Mr. Wednesday have moments of reflection in their currently locations. Mr. World thinks chaos will reign. Mr. Wednesday has faith in Shadow Moon, who’s headed out of town on a bus. When it’s stopped, his license bares a new name—Michael Ainsel with a new location for him to hide: Lakeside, Wisconsin.
His fortune from the House on the Rock has finally come clear:
“Every ending is a new beginning
Your lucky number is none
Your color number is dead
Motto: Like father, like son”
The tension has been building all season for the final, most heavy-handed reveal: Shadow Moon is Mr. Wednesday’s son. The clues have been woven throughout the entire season for Shadow to finally put it together, but at what cost? Why did it take so damn long?
And even more important, how is Shadow able to wield powers so quickly, or was that Wednesday helping him along? Shadow and Laura’s relationship continues to fracture and show little purpose, and with Mad Sweeney gone, will Laura finally understand how she can help Shadow? Hell, was there any real reason for Bilquis to appear naked in this episode?
I’m often left with more questions than answers, which isn’t always a good thing. The series has so many strong players, but much like the chess game Mr. Ibis and Mr. Nancy were playing, it felt like they were slow to move from episode to episode.
As far as finales go, this didn’t feel like much of one. If anything, “Treasure of the Sun” felt like a better cliffhanger to end on with Sweeney stealing Wednesday’s spear in one final swoop. It was a natural point of closure and would have kept us wanting more. This episode took its time to make its point and even then, there wasn’t much reaction from the man in the middle of it all. Shadow can’t be taking all this on faith, can he? Is he in denial? It’s hard to tell.
It’s been an unsettling and uneven season at best, but hopefully a stepping stone to better things. While we’ll never know the full story of the changes behind the scenes of this particular season, it’s safe to say with a new show runner in place that American Gods, much like Shadow’s journey, will get back on track in Lakeside.