OK, I’ll say it: Bilquis finally makes sense.
Shadow and Technical Boy’s rescue of Bilquis arguably takes the least amount of time for the episode. More time is spent on Wendesday’s efforts to con his way into Demeter’s nursing home, one Shadow and even Demeter seem to eventually be on board for. That in and of itself is actually a cool sequence as the con goes off in a stylistic manner reminiscent of an Ocean’s 11 sort of movie. Likewise, the cold open shows the Technical Boy’s origin, how he was one just a lowly inventor trying to build a robot to exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair, but a magician offered him some showmanship pointers before ruining the lad’s career.
Again, this was all good stuff, a sure sign the series has improved in its unintended final season, and still…I want to cover Bilquis.
I have spent a good deal of digital ink wondering why the show spent so much time on Bilquis. She’s a very minor character in the novel, appearing in one short scene where she sucks a “worshipper” up into herself before later getting run over and killed by Technical Boy. But she’s been hanging around here, even as other characters arguably more prominent in the source material have been pushed aside. Why her?
Short answer: she’s a goddess who, more than any other, can evolve.
See, Bilquis in her prison cell is visited by the Orishas. She’s just standing there on the outside, but inside, they are reminding her of who she is. And she’s not just some sort of sex goddess who absorbs her adherents. She’s known that, deep down, for a while. The reason she didn’t take too kindly for sucking up that tech billionaire wasn’t because she finally felt guilty. It was because she felt empty, as empty as her last “victim” was. Bilquis isn’t a goddess of death. She’s a goddess of life, reduced to something else out of a general societal fear for female sexuality to change into what she was. Now that she remembers who she really is, she can act. That involves summoning a lot of water to fill her cell (even with the door wide open), drown a pair of (white) interrogators, and then walk out to see Shadow trying to figure out how to rescue her.
Technical Boy had already turned tail and run.
Bilquis didn’t need Shadow’s help, but she is glad to see him, and unlike other beings he’s met, she doesn’t have a cryptic prediction for him. More like, she just points out how important it is to evolve and change and become who you are meant to be and not what others think you are, something that’s probably easier for a human than a god.
That’s a good lesson.
Plus, it looks similar to the one Laura learned in Purgatory. Sure, she’s still out to kill Wednesday, and she has Salim with her, but she sees more value in life now than she did, and in her own cranky and generally unpleasant way, she’s got a lot more wisdom in her than she did before. Is that the message of American Gods? Evolve or die?
That’s a good lesson, truth be told.