This article contains spoilers for American Gods season 3.
It seems that throughout the history of technology, there has been no greater driver of technological change than the most simple of human desires: sex. From nickelodeon reels of women dancing in skimpy costumes to the home video format war of the ‘80s to the modern dating apps of today, sex sells, and sex has always been at the forefront of human invention. Someone makes a product, and someone else figures out how to use it to gratify humanity’s baser urges. To that end, it makes sense that the ancient Queen of Sheba and love goddess Bilquis and Technical Boy keep running into one another, despite their apparent differences.
Two American Gods, one old, one new. The goddess of the most intimate act that can occur between two or more people and the soulless personification of every Internet pop-up ad turning that connection into a commodity. A being as old as time and a being that did not exist until the 20th Century. The cradle of civilization and the demise of Western civilization.
To Technical Boy actor Bruce Langley, the pairing could not be more antithetical.
“Tech Boy and Bilquis should never be in the same room together. It’s chalk and cheese. But whenever they are, there’s this wonderful chemistry of just these opposites grinding and smashing into each other and just so much weird tension.”
Since the first season of American Gods, Bilquis and Technical Boy have been in continual orbit around one another. Bilquis has been Mr. World’s pet project, and he has been using Technical Boy to keep tabs on her for his own mysterious ends. World wants to win her, to woo her over to their side, and yet he keeps sending the least appropriate God in his arsenal to keep her in line. It’s Technical Boy’s personal mission to deal with Bilquis, and she does not make it easy. When Shadow shows up in Bilquis’s beautiful appointment to find blood, discarded weapons, and a glitching Technical Boy, it’s easy for Shadow to assume the worst, but in fact, Technical Boy is something of a guiding hand for Bilquis albeit a rough one.
“He’s the one who offered her this soured apple lifeline with the app that enabled her to survive in the modern day, get a wonderful apartment, get a load of money, and get consistent worship,” Langley says. “He’s been not so subtly pointing to the sword of Damocles that he had attached over her head since he gave her the app. But this time, he more or less just comes in, detaches the sword, holds it up and says, ‘Hey, I can swing this thing pretty hard, get on side.’ Which of course, Bilquis is not going to respond to.”
Bilquis actress Yetide Badaki expounds upon the unusual relationship: “The Gods have such a hard time pinning BIlquis down, because they’re used to being able to lure individuals with power and money, but these are all things that don’t matter. She’s more interested in the journey for the whole, the journey for more than just the individual. That’s one reason why she shies away from this continued discourse by both sides about war. It really benefits individuals. It definitely does not benefit those that worship the Gods.”
That tension between the two of them is certainly the first thing Shadow jumps to when he walks in and finds Technical Boy glitching out on the couch. He is a New God, Bilquis is a free agent, and there are signs of a struggle. Shadow, despite being called a nice person by Ricky Whittle in our season 3 behind-the-scenes chat, is also a very action-oriented guy, and not an especially deep thinker. Hence, he thrashes Technical Boy a bit before he can talk a little sense into Shadow. However, Technical Boy is more than just trying to stop the beating at the hands of Shadow; he has an altogether more dangerous person who wants to make sure he is keeping an eye on Bilquis.
“Technical Boy has definitely used up eight of his nine lives, as far as World is concerned. So he’s got to get a W on the board real, real quick. He’s got to redirect Bilquis completely onto their side of the board. He can’t fuck that one up,” admits Langley.
A God cannot be brought over to your side of the table if that God is removed from the table, so the disappearance of Bilquis under suspicious circumstances is nothing if not concerning for her friend Shadow, and her recruiter Technical Boy. Hence, the two must make an alliance and undertake a hunt for a missing love goddess, with Technical Boy providing the technical details, and Shadow providing some much needed muscle for Technical Boy.
“He’s put in a position where he loses access to some of his toys, and he’s put in a position of vulnerability that he’s not used to. He’s in a spot without his back up,” Langley says. “Tech Boy’s more concerned with himself. He’s been always out for number one, but in season three, we see him put in a position where he needs to look out for himself or suffer the consequences. He makes some very interesting alliances.”
Strange alliances, yes, but it all ties back into the greater point of American Gods. All of these disparate elements come together, bounce off one another in interesting ways, and become something greater than the sum of their parts. Yetide Badaki describes it best; it’s not so much chalk and cheese but chocolate and peanut butter.
“What’s fascinating to see over this season is the places where they share common ground, places where they may mirror their experiences,” says Badaki. “We see Shadow Moon, not only having his moment of self-discovery, but we’re also seeing him find this whole new agency within him. The more all of these people learn about themselves, the more they see how interconnected they are.”
Shadow Moon and Technical Boy, the most unlikely detective pairing since Tango and Cash, brought together by their shared relationships with Bilquis. One is altruistic, the other entirely selfish, but for the moment, the tangled threads weaved by Clotho and dispensed by Lachesis have brought them together to prevent Atropos (or the mysterious suited goons who have her trapped) from making the snip that breaks their shared bonds with Bilquis. The whole over the self? Not exactly, but on the right track.
For Shadow and Technical Boy, working together is not fun, but necessary. For Shadow, it is the right thing to do. For Technical Boy, it’s the only way to save his cybernetic skin and fix whatever glitch Bilquis introduced into his systems.