American Gods, Neil Gaiman’s award-dripping (it won the Hugo, Nebula, Stoker, SFX, BSFA, Word Fantasy, yadda yadda I could go on and on) fiction text of ancient gods, flawed humans, and new beliefs in a decadent, American techno-waste land of the post-industrial era has found its television adaptation thanks to STARZ, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green. And I mean a BIG thanks, because the first few episodes are visually mind-blowing, bringing to life the eerie and disturbing secret realities deities, while simultaneously capturing the nuanced decay and gilded refuse of the post-modern age. Its actors revel in their crazy playful roles as gods, and Ian McShane shines in the lead as Mr. Wednesday AKA Odin, alongside amazing cohorts like Crispin Glover as Mr. World, Gillian Anderson as Media, Orlando Jones as Anansi, Cloris Leachman and Peter Stormare. They are all having SOO much fun being over the top in the lush world and characters that Gaiman has created. Anchoring the human side, though not showing as much range, charisma, or skill in bringing out his character is Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, the sympathetic ex-con with whom the audience takes its journey.
The plot of the book is long and bit convoluted, full of gods scheming and conniving in attempts to usurp power over the faith of humanity and the world itself, using humans like Shadow Moon as their pawns, but this show has put us very solidly in Shadow Moon’s shoes as he exits prison, meets Mr. Wednesday on a plane, and gets drawn in to this eternal deific struggle by accepting a position as his bodyguard. Basically, all old world gods exist and are given power through people’s belief in them. But as new “deities” like technology, media, the invisible hand of the market, and globalism arise, they give form to new gods, who are now in a power struggle as the old gods struggle to hold on. Both sides recruit humans to do their bidding in their attempts to come out on top. And this is how we find Shadow. The first couple episodes have opened beautifully, showing us Shadow taking his job with Mr. Wednesday, finding out his wife and best friend were killed in car accident AND having an affair, and dealing with the emotional fallout of this discovery. This is the only part of the show that is weak: Whittle can’t show much emotion (yet), but I hope he can get in tune with his character soon, because he will have to work hard to keep up with all the raw talent of this great cast and the amazingly charismatic and attractive god characters.
Where the show shines technically is its stunning use of imagery and flawless CGI, as the magic realism of the gods’ world seeps into Shadow’s reality. Masterfully shown are seminal scenes in the book, such as Bilquis’ (love goddess) seduction and vaginal consumption (that’s right, you read that correctly, she eats people with her vagina while having sex with them to stay powerful), Shadow’s foray into the digital world of Technical Boy the god of technology’s limo, and the awesome Orlando Jones monologue to the slaves on the slave ship as he goes back and forth from being a human to a spider.
Got your attention? Good. Start watching the show and pick up the book! The book is a must-read and the show has started out as much watch. It’s on STARZ Sunday nights!