Last night's Supernatural, "Hammer Of The Gods," was a perfect example of worldbuilding fail. It answered questions that didn't need answering, and it answered them badly. Normally this show is amazing, but everybody has an off night sometimes.
I can imagine exactly why this episode got made. The producers were sitting around saying, "OK so we've got this giant apocalypse happening with Lucifer and God and all these Christian icons. What about all the other religions and gods in the world?" It's a good question, and I'm sure lots of fans have wondered about it too. So this episode happens.
A hodgepodge of pagan gods meet up at a hotel in the middle of nowhere called Elysian Fields, where every meal is human flesh (even though some of these gods are from vegetarian cultures). And they lure the Winchesters there as part of some vague plan to challenge Lucifer. But even before the Lucifer challenge happens, we've got problems. All the pagan gods are just lumped together, with figures like Odin and Mercury hanging out with Kali and Ganesh. So you've got the gods from faded or dead religions granted the same status as gods from powerful, living religions like Hinduism.
Worst of all, it turns out that all these gods are basically tiny flies compared to Lucifer. Are you kidding me? Kali wouldn't be a match for Lucifer? Sure, I could believe a god with as few worshipers as Mercury might have a tough time against old Luce. But Kali? Destroyer and maker of worlds? With millions of worshipers? Or what about Ganesh? The number of people who worship Ganesh in my neighborhood alone could probably kick Lucifer's ass.
My point is just that this episode, in attempting to answer that "what about other gods?" question, made things infinitely worse than if we'd just been left wondering. Now we're left thinking that somehow Christian deities are more powerful than any other deities in the world. Dean goes so far as to call them "just monsters." Which A) doesn't really fit the show's premise, which is that Christianity is one mythological system among many; and B) makes it seem that Supernatural buys into the idea that Christianity is somehow the "best" or "most powerful" mythological system out there. Thumbs down on that one.
By the time Lucifer stalks into the hotel looking for blood, we've already been told multiple times by human-loving angel Gabriel - who shows up randomly - that the pagan gods are "no match" for Lucifer. (Though he avoids explaining why.) We find out that Gabe has been banging Kali, and that he's willing to sacrifice himself for humanity. There's actually an interesting moment where Lucifer has ganked all the gods except Kali (who has to be rescued by Gabe and the Winchesters). Looking all fiery, the archangel who calls Lucifer "brother" explains that the side he's on in this war is "theirs, the humans."
This idea - that both Heaven and Hell are the enemies of humanity on Earth - is one of the themes Supernatural has explored throughout the last couple of seasons. In contrast with last night's hamfisted religious noodling, it's a notion that manages to be both badass and profound. When Gabe gives his tell-off speech to Lucifer, and tries (unsuccessfully) to kill him, we get a taste of the smart writing we've come to expect from this show. And the episode's denoument, where the brothers get a message from the now-murdered Gabe buried in a porn movie, is pure genius.
His message, by the way, is that their best hope is to send Lucifer back to "the cage" of Hell. But they can only unlock the gates of Hell if they collect rings from the Four Horsemen (they already have two, from War and Famine - which leaves Death and Pestilence). And who should show up at the end of the episode but Pestilence (played by Matt "Max Headroom" Frewer), driving a beat up old car full of flies and sneezing globs of goop all over everybody. Exactly what you'd expect from a modern-day Pestilence. Can't wait for the showdown with this guy.
But please, let's stop with this whole "what are the other gods doing" thing. Seriously, if this episode is the show's answer to that question, I'd rather not have known.