The Dominant Paradigm is a weekly podcast where Geeks of Doom Podcast hosts Dwayne D, Andrew Sorcini, and Tosin Onafowokan discuss STARZ’s TV series American Gods, the works that inspired it, and the larger questions about the lenses in which we see our world, AKA, the paradigms.
Below you’ll find a written recap of the season 2 episode of American Gods (Episode 2.4 “The Greatest Story Ever Told”), followed by some salient themes and imagery, questions, and the big picture.
We meet the boy who would become the CEO. As a child he obeyed his father’s wish that he play the piano, but his passions always brought him back to technology. Video games in the 1980s through college in the late 1990s. Coding. Even taking his technology skills to music. He creates a Bach-engine — Artificial intelligence that makes more Bach. His father was disappointed with the method — because it showed that his son wasn’t didn’t appreciate Bach as he did. At his father’s funeral, a quartet plays Bach as his son listens and visualizes a being playing techno-Bach at the organ. Technical Boy is born.
Shadow is asleep during a storm at Jaquel’s place in Cairo. He wakes to find a woman eager for intimate relations. She magically licks the wounds he sustained from torture and the train crash healed before engaging in intercourse, but she scratches him during the act. When Shadow wakes up, she’s nowhere to be found, as if it were an erotic dream. The house’s cat is staring at him as he looks in the mirror to find that scratches are real.
Shadow leaves his room to find Mr. Ibis at work. Ibis tells shadow that death has changed Laura. That’s she’s not the same person.
Bilquis finds her way to the house of Jacquel and Ibis and is confronted by Mr. Nancy. Bilquis states that World would have had her allegiance had he not killed Zorya. Bilquis, Anansi, and Ibis talk. Anansi gives a speech about human trafficking. The others are unmoved. They seek peace without war.
We jump to Technical Boy and New Media sitting in what seems to be Mr. World’s layer. We learn that Media died, and that New Media is her reborn form.
Mr. World gives his team a talking to.
Mr. World appears. He’s bothered by Argus’s death because he can’t see the world as he used to. He attacks Technical Boy, who claims he has a friend who has a network they can use to gain back some of that Argus all-seeing functionality.
Meanwhile, Shadow and Mr. Wednesday drive to St. Louis, MO, where they end up at a diner. Wednesday explains that Money is a God because people worship it.
Technical Boy finds the young man that we meet earlier in the episode. He’s now a powerful tech CEO. He suggests using tech to track people. All people. He’s surprised by Mr. World, who suddenly appears and who is in cahoots with the tech CEO. New Media takes the CEO’s attention and Technical Boy is attacked by one of his own VR devices, which seems to gobble him up.
Mr. World was then confronted by girl scouts from the diner in St. Louis. They granted him passage to where Shadow and Mr. Wednesday are. They seem to shift to “Backstage,” where there is a parlay in front of Money.
Money declines to take part in the War.
Mr. World Surprises Technical Boy in the office of the CEO.
Salient Themes and Imagery:
Title: The Greatest Story Ever Told
A straightforward reference to money.
The opening 8 minutes with the son’s origin story was arguably the most engaging sequence of the entire series. It almost felt like it was from a different series. Sadly, this enjoyment was tempered with the bittersweet realization that, knowing American Gods’ track record, this story would ultimately lead to nowhere and was to showcase style more than substance. The buildup of emotional engagement in the son’s upbringing wasn’t worth the payoff of meeting the grown son later on in the episode.
Technical Boy’s attempt at Surveillance
Technical Boy wants to replace Argus by using the CEO’s products to surveil the connected population, much like Batman does in Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Ibis and his discussion of African American’ness
Ibis goes through the linguistic evolution of words used to describe him in America– N*, Negro, African American, etc.
Bilquis challenges mainstream Ideas of God
She does this by linking the mourner’s pastor’s words to a quote from the famous American play— A Raisin In The Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry.
“Then Mama and Ruth are discussing with her what she really wants to do in the future, Ruth says “‘Course you going to be a doctor, honey, God willing” and Beneatha instantly replies by saying “God hasn’t got a thing to do with it” (Hansberry 1884).
She further explains this radical claim made by her in the household when she says, “I’m just tired of hearing about God all the time. What has He got to do with anything? Does He pay tuition?…It’s all a matter of ideas, and God is just one idea I don’t accept. It’s not important. I am not going out and be immoral or commit crimes because I don’t believe in God. I don’t even think about it. It’s just that I get tired of Him getting credit for all the things the human race achieves through its own stubborn effort. There simply is no blasted God- there is only man and it is he who makes miracles” (Hansberry 1885).
Ibis, Bilquis and Anasi discuss their positions in the war to come.
Mr. Nancy and Maya Angelou
Mr. Nancy interrupts Bilquis, saying:
“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.”
He attributes the quote to the famous poet, Maya Angelou.
BUT! A search across the Internet shows conflicting reports. Max Lucado, a best-selling action author, is also attributed with that quote.
Most people believe it was Lucado BUT! Another poet named Carol Wimmer claims that SHE wrote it. My first inclination is to think that the writers got it wrong.
But… then again, this is Anansi. He’s a trickster. Using a quote and placing it with Maya Angelou even if it’s not hers is just the sort of thing he’d do if he thought it meant he could make a point/win an argument.
Technical Boy, the God of all our technical prowess.
What’s with the Girl Scouts? They seem to resemble the three fates, but… not quite.
Did the CEO/Son create Technical Boy or was he simply first follower (early follower) first worshipper?
Is Technical Boy dead?
The Big Picture
The Ages of the African Gods
We learn that Anansi and Bilquis are of age. Ibis is older. There’s a triangle here: Nancy wants war. Bilquis doesn’t know what she wants. Ibis chooses peace.
Over-Loquacious Mr. Nancy
This show spends an inordinate amount of time pontificating and speechifying, and often on the same theme — oppression of the immigrant in the New World by the forces in power. It tends to subscribe to the “tell don’t show” philosophy of storytelling, which is just lazy writing. I would love for it to make these points visually rather than in monologues– and less is more.
Media doesn’t just *change,* she’s a new entity altogether.
The Nature of New Media
Media didn’t just change. She died. New Media is her reborn form. This works with Argus coming back and perhaps Zorya coming back— but zorya, unlike Argus and the Deep State and Media/New Media— doesn’t have followers anymore. Without worshippers, the avatar cannot be reborn. Even if it’s reborn, the fact is the previous one is dead. It’s not the same entity. It’s a new entity that represents the same thing. This is not unlike the cycle of the Avatar in Avatar: The Last Airbender, or Jadzia Dax of Star Trek: Deep Space 9.
Bilquis & the conflicting images of Christian “Gods”
Bilquis: “They say he died for your sins, but that is not the truth. He died because he angered the men in power. He refused to be cowed. Controlled. And now look at the power he wields. The worship he commands. He was onto something.”
This seems somewhat in contrast to the depictions of Jesus we saw in the season finale five episodes ago.
Mr. Wednesday & the story of Money
The paper is only worth something because you believe in it. Worship it.
Wednesday & Shadow talk Money. Not cash, but the God.
Ephemera: Outside Works Related to the Episode
Book of Toth, A source of the Tarot.
A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
Maya Angelou, a poet laureate.
Max Lucado, a Christian writer/philosopher.
Carol Wimmer, a poet.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Joined Trills, like Jadzia Dax, in Deep Space 9
Despite being in the lead, Mr. World is not a happy camper.
That’s a wrap! Join us next week for an intelligent, entertaining discussion of STARZ’s latest hit series.