IMDB 8.4 – Rotten Tomatoes 94% – TV.com 8.5 – Metacritic 77%
This Starz original was hotly anticipated by me, the other Fannibals, all fans of the Fuller-verse and anyone who read the 2001 Neil Gaiman novel from which it was adapted. Bryan Fuller & Michael Green brought the fantasy drama to life this summer and it’s all anyone I know is talking about. Already renewed for season 2, American Gods has received 2 Emmy nominations with other nods to follow I’m sure. It had a lot of expectation and the ingredients to be amazing, particularly for me. Not only Fuller but Loretta Ramos, Brian Reitzell and 6 of 8 episodes directed by Hannibal directors David Slade, Adam Kane and Vincenzo Natali. I was buzzing for this and I was NOT disappointed.
Plot & Writing
At first you’ll be in a slack-jawed state of What. The. Hell. Am. I. Watching?! I was like that for a whole episode at least, but then the stunningly hypnotic credits just draw you in and you have to enjoy the wild ride. If you don’t know a single solitary thing about America having little of it’s own culture or the fact that MANY other/ancient peoples have their own gods and myths, then there’s a chance you might struggle. I think if you go in knowing those are the broad strokes of it; and that since Bryan Fuller was involved you need to pay attention to the dialogue, you will have no trouble figuring out what is going on.
The old Gods – including Norse king of the Gods, Odin and Bilquis, Queen of Sheba – are unhappy that the new ‘Gods’ of Media, Technology and Globalisation are taking over America. They recruit Shadow Moon, fresh out of prison, to be their inside man as they prepare for war. The new Gods and a few other oddballs offer their help hindrance to Shadow, his ‘former’ wife and the old Gods along the way.
Scattered through the plot are “Coming to America” interludes which depict the beliefs, trials and revelations of different people who settled there through history. Some try, some fail, some love it, some hate it and they all have different Gods. Strongly highlighting that faith transcends time and culture and is about much, much more than which God is ‘real’. There is a lot going on with these, as they show us both the need for and the folly of religion. We have Gaiman to thank for these messages and Fuller & Green to thank for which ones they chose to bring to life.
Characters & Performances
Shadow Moon – Ricky Whittle: Shadow is a bit of a mystery and even the flashbacks do not fully explain him for me. I think he’s maybe more than just sweet guy who life hardened but we’ll see. Ricky…I mean, for me he will always be Calvin from Hollyoaks so I had my reservations. He held his own, I have to hand it to him and his accent is almost undetectable. I think he pulls off a much stronger and more subtle performance than I expected so Kudos to him. The character could so easily come off like Lincoln from Prison Break and he thankfully does NOT.
Mr. Wednesday – Ian McShane: Hello super famous person being the classic talent that he is. Also, yet another top-billed English person in this cast with another great accent. Mr Wednesday is a love to hate guy. I think fairly early on it’s clear he’s not whiter than white but he’s an old eccentric and it’s all a big adventure. McShane makes it a fun one and not at all over the top or panto despite his obviously being some kind of deity.
Laura Moon – Emily Browning: I loved her frank depth in Legend and think she is truly beautiful. An English actress too, she brings the same honesty and humanity to Laura. She is flawed but she is only a person, and her bloody walk down the road is just an outstanding homage to all things zombie. Speaking of which – I see you Bryan, making the lynch mob and her dealing with them so glaringly A Clockwork Orange.
Mad Sweeney – Pablo Schreiber: In case anyone doesn’t know (because I didn’t) that is George ‘pornstache’ Mendez from OITNB. Playing an angry human sized leprechaun. Really it is. I know right?! Chameleon that he is, his Mad Sweeney is so grumpy it’s comedy ‘gold’. Literally. Eh??
Bilquis – Yetide Badaki: I’m not familiar with this actress and she has few lines but she’s definitely as poised, stunning and strong as you’d expect from someone with Bilquis’ powers. No spoilers but if you don’t look shell-shocked after her first scene, you’re lying. She is endlessly fabulous and her character is reclaiming the exploitative nature of onscreen sex and then some. Looking forward to seeing more of her. Figuratively, of course.
Media – Gillian Anderson: My actual QUEEN. I mean we all knew super chilled sass was her jam but who knew flawless and scream-inducing impersonations were too?! Being styled to perfection helps but she just embodies those famous figures as if she really were just Media finding a host. Adore.
Lives Up To The Hype?
Yes I’m a die hard Fannibal and it reeks of Hannibal via Fuller, Slade and Reitzell’s combined signatures. Not to mention the cast popping up right left and centre, but it’s still definitely worth it’s own salt. Also let’s be real, it’s already more successful for a variety of reasons. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s really entertaining. There’s as much heart, especially in Shadow and Laura’s back story as there are fantasy convolutions. It’s fast and wordy but it’s also generally a rock-solid first season that is laugh out loud hilarious, moving and at times ground breaking in it’s daring.
I say this because, as you may have read, Fuller and his team got to do what they haven’t allowed much of EVER. They graphically but not gratuitously, showed two men having realistic, loving sex. Two Muslim men, I might add, in a scene which goes on for like 3 or 4 minutes. The stark imbalance of female nudity and ‘hetwashing’ on many other TV shows has been rebalanced a little by this act. It shouldn’t be a shocking or revolutionary scene but sadly it was, so I’m passionately glad that they kept it. Off the back of this, Fuller was recently honoured with the highest accolade at Outfest – The Achievement Award – for his ‘significant contribution to queer media’.
Love is love and American Gods is top drawer TV.