Someone over at HBO woke up this morning kicking themselves after last night’s series premiere of American Gods. Why? Because that someone passed up on this flawlessly rendered show that graced our screens last night. Thankfully, STARZ saw Neil Gaiman’s vision and knew that they had something truly special. Add in a cast crammed full of talented actors, and Bryan Fuller’s wild artistry into the mix, and you’ve got an audience ready to follow wherever this riveting story goes.
American Gods has been highly anticipated by both readers of Gaiman’s award-winning novel, and those who had never heard of the book until seeing countless teasers and trailers over the past year. The long wait is over, and boy was it worth it.
If you somehow missed the premiere, read on for the top five reasons why this show will make your list of favorites this year. Be forewarned that this review will contain spoilers for the series premiere, “The Bone Orchard.”
1) Beautifully Rendered
Live-tweeting the show last night, I saw many a mention of the bold use of color and acid trip quality of some of the sequences. Granted, we now live in a post-Legion (FX) world, but damn American Gods was letting its audience know from the start that this was going to be another vehicle for one crazy ass story.
Still, how was it possible to make a bloody massacre appear so damn artistic? Those viewers who also watched seasons of Bryan Fuller’s work on NBC’s Hannibal recognize Fuller’s fingerprints all over scenes, like Shadow dreaming of the “Bone Orchard” and that insane scene with Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) and her “worshipper.” I literally couldn’t look away from that moment in that vividly red room as they indulged their passions.
Then, it got crazy when she seemed to get bigger and bigger (or did he get smaller?) as he disappeared into her “you know where.” She reveled in his literal worship of her body, and she was empowered as she consumed him.
Bryan Fuller and his co-showrunner/executive producer, Michael Green managed to accomplish so much in this introduction into the world. Whetting our taste for more of the wild vistas and scenarios to come.
2) Ian-Motherlovering-McShane as Mr. Wednesday
Deadwood’s Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) could be a cruel man, but damn, he could deliver the most eloquent and profanity-laden soliloquies. He was the perfect foil for Timothy Olyphant’s character. In the years since Deadwood ended, McShane has proven time and time again that he and his fictional counterparts can be utter forces to reckon with. He’s also appeared on NBC’s short-lived, Kings and Game of Thrones. I’d say more about all the stuff that went down with his character in Thrones, but no spoilers.
As for American Gods, McShane’s Mr. Wednesday owned the screen the minute his character stepped up to the ticket counter at that airport. I wanted more and to know just what the hell he was about to get Shadow pulled into just watching their scenes together on the plan and later at the bar.
3) Interesting Characters
The 100‘s imposing and handsome Ricky Whittle stars as Shadow Moon. Yes, that’s his name. His mother was apparently a hippie. Ex-con Shadow just can’t seem to catch a single break. Some twist of fate (or interference from the Gods?) seems to dog Shadow at every turn. Just days before he’s set to be released from prison, he finds out that his wife has died in a car accident. He’s granted an early release, but has a helluva time trying to get to the funeral.
Along the way, he meets up with the very strange Mr. Wednesday (McShane) who offers him a job, but Shadow’s not feeling the weird vibes off of Mr. Wednesday, and he already has a job waiting. Or, he did. That doesn’t work out, and he does end up in Mr. Wednesdays employ. That’s when sh*t truly gets weird.
They end up at a bar and meet an honest to goodness Leprechaun who is humongous and taunts Shadow, attempting to break the ex-con’s self-control. It works and the two get into this amazing bar fight. Just so well choreographed.
Poor Shadow finally makes it home, but only to find that his wife had been sleeping with Shadow’s best friend. Making matters worse, the two cheaters died mid-fellatio. Enter his old friend’s widow — Audrey (Betty Gilpin).
Earlier in the episode, we saw Shadow’s control break for just a moment as he shouted out his grief to the heavens, and then he was at Laura’s graveside, processing his betrayal and grief. Audrey informed Shadow that she’d just relieved herself on her dead husband’s grave. Then she thought a befitting revenge might be the two of them getting busy in the graveyard. On top of Laura’s grave? Shadow turns her down, which is a good thing. I was still processing the whole “Bilquis and her man-swallowing vajayjay” scene.
4) The Gods Must Be Crazy
The show’s premise revolves around human Shadow getting pulled into this war between the Gods of old and the new ones that humans have begun worshipping. Think Loki and Zeus going up against the gods that we’ve created.
What do so many value these days? Fame? Entertainment? Money? Poor Bilquis, a fertility goddess has to engage in online dating to get her kicks. We see a technogod(?) kidnap and interrogate Shadow at one point. Then he tries to lynch our protagonist when Shadow can’t tell him anything about what Mr. Wednesday might be up to.
This episode only gives a taste of what’s to come. I found myself wondering what it was about Shadow that brought him to the attention of the Gods. Could Shadow be God-touched or even a demi-God? Don’t tell me. I’m waiting to read the books after Season 1 ends.
5) From Book to the Screen
Again, I haven’t checked out the books yet. I didn’t want to color my perception of the show either way. I was already too excited for the show, and come on you guys, 90% of the time a show fails at doing true justice to what’s written. Based on the tweets and from what I’ve read since last night, the premiere was pretty much a word for word translation, but the showrunners have said that this will not be entirely true for the rest of the season. They do plan to take creative license with some things and make the story work in the way that needs to happen now that it is live-action.
I also saw that a lot of readers were quite happy to see wild scenes like the red room with Bilquis brought to life. The readers were initially uncertain how a true rendering of that scene could be depicted, and Green and Fuller definitely made it happen.
So what did you think of the premiere? Did it win you over, and if so what was your favorite part?
American Gods airs on STARZ on Sundays 9/8c