TV Review: American Gods (Season 1, 2017)

A war is brewing. Based on novel by Neil Gaiman, developed by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Michael Green (writer for Logan and Alien: Covenant) is American Gods, airing on cable network Starz. Ricky Whittle is Shadow Moon, a man recently released from prison due to the death of his wife Laura (Emily Browning), who soon comes to be a bodyguard and confidant of the mysterious and fast talking Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane). As Shadow and Wednesday travel across America on Wenesday’s mysterious instruction, various Gods, old and new, make appearances, including Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), the new God of technology, and Media (Gillian Anderson, reuniting with Fuller after Hannibal) and even multiple variants of Jesus Christ. Pablo Schreiber plays Mad Sweeney, an atypical leprechaun, who follows the main duo and acts as a rival of sorts to Shadow, with an ally of his own who wants to meet the pair.

+ all of the major actors are good-to-great, but Ian McShane is simply in a league of his own. His role as the cryptic Mr Wednesday is just a joy to watch, and he steals every scene he is in even when he has very little dialogue. Langley as Technical Boy, one of the new gods, is so much fun to hate, with his nasally voice, punchable face and smug attitude. Sweeney (Schreiber) is another personal favourite, especially once his tragic backstory becomes clear. Crispin Glover also shines in a limited but important role as Mr World, the new God and embodiment of globalisation
+ at only eight episodes in length, this first season didn’t have much time to get through a lot of stuff, as well as adding it’s own material in between the scenes ripped straight from the novel. Two episodes, one each focused on Laura and Sweeney, were a very welcome break from the norm, but at the same time added so much more to their respective characters
+ I particularly liked how various aspects have been updated from their initial book versions; Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), for example, uses a Tinder-like app as the Goddess of Love, rather than being a prostitute (I’ll let you make up your own mind if the two are related at all)
+ the ‘Coming to America’ sequences documenting how and when various Gods arrived in America (or what would later become America) at the beginning of most episodes were incredible world building, and really helped show there is more to the story of Gods than just what Wednesday and Shadow see

– those who have not read the book, or at least know the basics, may find the plot too slow and confusing. With Wednesday playing the long-con, so to speak, be warned that if you don’t already know what the idea behind it all is, you might not appreciate the slower story telling
– there is significant nudity, predominantly male, and several extended sex scenes which might not be for everyone. I’m not a fan of sex scenes in most tv series (even things like Game of Thrones or Banshee would be better without, in my opinion)
– I’m sure we’ll get more of all the various gods, but dammit I want more Peter Stormare now. His role as Czernobog in two early episodes was fantastic, and I feel almost like he should have been saved for the end of the season, which in many ways felt a bit lackluster. In many ways, too may threads/characters were left hanging by season’s end

> I still miss Hannibal.

Should you watch this show: As a fan of the novel, I enjoyed this. My viewing partner did not know the plot beforehand, and had no idea what was going on for the most part, but was still able to enjoy the acting and side stories. I think you’ll enjoy this, if you are not expecting a million-mile-an-hour violence- or sex-fest – which is not to say you won’t get a bit of both.

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