Jul 19, 2017

[TV] American Gods: Season 1 Review

Wow, I added this to my review queue as soon as we had finished the last episode, but I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for this review. There's just so much to unpack here, but I'll soldier on and do my best to write about this singular television experience.

Today we're going to talk about the first season of the American Gods TV adaptation. I super loved the book as it's the title that got me into Neil Gaiman and it has influenced most of my on-again, off-again attempts at short story writing over the years.

So yeah this is a big deal.

Long story short, I'm loving the TV show far. And this isn't just me liking the show on its own merits and trying to forget that I had ever read the book. No this is me as a huge fan of the book loving the series because I never thought adapting it would have been possible and here it is going way beyond all my expectations.

You don't get that sense of fan satisfaction every day. So I may gush a little.

Synopsis: American Gods is an American TV drama series developed for television by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. The show is based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same name.

Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released early from prison because his wife Laura (Emily Browning) has died in car accident and the warden shows clemency letting him go early to attend the funeral. A series of complications in his flight out lead to him sitting next to a slimy, snake charmer of a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who offers him a job. Initially Shadow refuses but in time he drinks his mead and they have a deal.

From there Shadow discovers there's a lot more to Mr. Wednesday's world that what he's possibly ready for. Wednesday's world is one of gods old and new living among us. The are those brought by the many immigrants who have come to America but are almost forgotten in these modern times. But there are also new gods that have risen based on what mankind has come to shower its attentions on. Wednesday is gathering players for a final confrontation - a war between the old and the new. And it seems Shadow is just another piece on the board in a much larger plot.

What I Liked: What didn't I like? The casting of this series is stellar. Ian McShane IS Wednesday and will forever be Wednesday and has probably replaced your image of Wednesday from when you first read the book. He's but one of many talented actors who have helped create an almost magical television experience that has so many great moments.

Marry such excellent casting with Bryan Fuller's visual styling for the show. He was already pretty creatively gory given his work on Hannibal but man, he really turned things up to ELEVEN in this season with some of the most beautiful yet bizarre scenes out there. And that's PERFECT for adapting a work of fiction like American Gods given how trippy the source material is.

As book fan, I totally love the fact that the Coming to America stories were given fair treatment. But at the same time we have so much new content added to the story that adds to the overall narrative an gives us more insight into certain characters. There is joy in not knowing what's happening!

And man that season ender? THAT WAS SO AWESOME!!! And it was both totally new to book fans and yet rather faithful at the same time! How does one do that?

What Could Have Been Better: That said, there is a LOT of keep up with in this show and the Coming to America bits at the end probably don't help non-book readers get into the show. This series has a significant number of characters representing different beliefs, pantheons and whatnots and it's hard to keep track. It's a HUGE story and the show doesn't quite make it universally easy to figure out what's going on.

Then you have story pacing that can feel a little slow at points, most noticeably when it comes to the added content not sourced from the book. There's joy in new material but there's also that distinct feeling that some of it doesn't fit as well as it could or maybe there's a good reason it was left out as now it feels wrong. Some episodes may drag, and that's sad in such a short season run.

TL;DR: American Gods is still one of the most important television experiences out there and one that is totally worth your time. The learning curve may feel a little higher than what you'd like for more casual viewing but once you commit you won't regret it. Thus the first season gets a solid 5 incarnations of Jesus out of a possible 5.

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