It would seem that there’s really no end in sight for the golden age of television. Make that doubly so now that the Bryan Fuller / Neil Gaiman adaptation, American Gods has finally hit Starz and Amazon Prime Video. The first episode is out for your streaming pleasure (stream, don’t download) and it’s a doozey.
Here are five reasons to get on board the beautifully absurd show that is American Gods!
I can’t lie to you: this show is bizarre. From living trees, 7 foot leprechauns, comically mental viking battles and vaping millennials, American Gods might be giving Legion a run for its money in the “Weirdest TV show of 2017” awards. And you’re going to want more of it. What makes its weirdness so wonderful is how absolutely unapologetic it is about it. Fuller / Gaiman and pilot director, David Slade give you nothing by way of convention and instead take you on the journey of Shadow and Wednesday, with the choice being on you whether you want to continue the psychotic fever dream or not. By the Bilquis scene (you’ll know which one I’m talking about), you’re either onboard or you’re jumping on Netflix to find something a little less challenging.
Adult Supervision Recommended
Outside of Game of Thrones very few TV shows offer much by way of adult fantasy fare. Sure, GoT absolutely dominates in that regard, but when the season ends, many fans find themselves scrambling for something to fill the void. American Gods is packed to the brim with fantastical delight that is uniquely adult and should definitely not be viewed by children (or do, I’m not the boss of you). From the pilot episode’s opening story of stranded vikings who are forced to do bloody battle with each other to appease their god, American Gods doesn’t let up on the mature and brutal content. Should all go according to plan, and once GoT reaches its conclusion within the next two years, this show will hopefully be there to act as your next adult television obsession.
Adherence to the source material can be a difficult thing in TV / Movie world. On the one hand, you want to create something that is uniquely your own and imprint your own creative DNA on to the project. On the other hand, you’ve rabid fans beating down your door, making sure you adhere to every single letter of the original lest you want to be the subject of an angry Twitter rant (is there anything worse?). Thankfully, Fuller and his team have managed to pull off a rarity, melding both Fuller’s creative sensibilities and Gaiman’s original text into something that feels fresh but will very much appease fans of the book. Again, not to harp on about it, but the Bilquis scene remains in tact, as written. If that’s not adherence to the source material I don’t know what is.
Eye of the Beholder
If nothing else American Gods is bloody gorgeous. From production design, cinematography and costume, every aspect of this show is visually stunning. While it’s not hard to find a television show that’s easy on the eyes these days, American Gods is a cut above the rest. The title sequence throws you in to bright fluoro colors and deep saturation, reminiscent of tacky, mid-west bars, the photography is crisp and highly contrasted, making you see every drop of rain in a storm sequence, reminding you of the best moments of Hannibal, and the costuming is eclectic as hell, wishing you had the same taste in clothing as McShane’s Mr. Wednesday. It’ll make you want to play back an episode and mute the sound just to take it all in.
Ian & Pablo
So far, across the board, the performances of American Gods are top notch. Rick Whittle plays Shadow with a hulking stoicism one would expect from your mostly strong, silent types. Jonathan Tucker is a delight as Shadow’s former cell mate, Low Key, dolling out advice about how not to treat airport personnel. The real shining beacons, however, are Pablo Schreiber and Ian McShane. Schrieber’s Mad Sweeney is the seen-it-all Irish leprechaun who’s quick to point out that being short is a myth. He skirts the line between tipsy charisma and all out alcoholic rage that is an odd mix of hilarious and horrifying. McShane, on the other hand, is almost a known quantity but his Wednesday nearly out does much of his work in Deadwood. There’s no doubt going to be comparisons to Swearengen and Wednesday. McShane plays his American Gods character with far more playfulness and laconic charm that you can’t help but hang off every word he says. The man is clearly having a blast playing this character and you can almost feel his joy in each scene. If there’s one reason to return to American Gods each week, it’s to see these two actors devour each and every scene, dialogue and moment of screen time they have in this show.
American Gods is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video, with a new episode out each Monday.