If you’re a fan of Starz Original, you should already be watching American Gods, and if you’re not, I highly recommend taking the time to check it out. Starz has been killing it with their production of original shows, from Outlander to the recently concluded Black Sails. They’ve developed a house style for beautiful and chilling opening credits tailored specifically for their shows. American Gods’ title sequence perfectly reflects the tone and style of the show, mixing roadside/classic Americana with imagery of ancient and arcane ritual and worship, and is well worth looking up on Youtube. You know what, why not take a minute to do that now and then continue.
As for the show itself, it has its problems, as any first season does, but it more than makes up for them with excellent writing, landscape porn, a soundtrack that manages to be both elegant and full of gritty southern rock, Ian McShane in the role Ian McShane was made for – American Gods’ own Mr. Wednesday, and Ricky Whittle as everyone’s best boy, Shadow Moon.
And we can’t talk about casting without giving truly honourable mentions to Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney and Australia’s own Emily Browning as Laura Moon, Shadow’s wife.
American Gods is adapted for TV from the novel by Neil Gaiman and follows Shadow Moon as he is released from jail early to attend the funeral of his wife, who died in an automobile accident along with Shadow’s best friend Robbie. On the way back to Eagle Point, Indiana, where they both lived before Shadow pulled a job on a casino and got put away, he runs into fellow con man, and in his own words ‘Hustler, swindler, cheater and liar’ but undeniably delightful, Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job.
Most of the season is dedicated to Shadow and Wednesday’s road trip on the way to Wisconsin and the mysterious House on the Rock, and their stops along the way to recruit various personages into Wednesday’s brewing war between the old gods of America and the new.
But with the resurrection of Laura, from dead corpse to undead corpse, thanks to the leprechaun (and not the kind on the lucky charms box) Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin, things in Shadow’s world get even more complicated.
With her resurrection of sorts, the story splits; Shadow and Wednesday to their road trip, to convince a murder of gods (the shows wonderful technical term for a large gathering of gods) to fight a war. Laura and Mad Sweeney to their own, to get Laura her true resurrection; with beautiful vignettes about various gods ‘coming to America’ stories opening each of eight episodes of the first season.
While the show can have some trouble with pacing and certain problematic references (which have been of huge debate on twitter) it is without doubt superbly produced. It has complexity and mystery, and just enough charming Ian McShaneness, stunning visuals, and sparkling dialogue to lift the ready use of Spartacus-level Starz corn-syrup blood and dramatic gore. Though the latter becomes sparser and sparser as the season goes on, which renders the former even more enjoyable.
American gods was developed for television, produced, and more than occasionally written by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daises, Dead Like Me, Hannibal) and Michael Green.
It has been greenlit for Season 2 and my eyes, as well as my ears, brain and body, are ready.
American Gods is available in Australia on Amazon Prime.
Review by MC Dunn