American Gods (2017)
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Starring: Bruce Langley, Crispin Glover, Emily Browning, Gillian Anderson, Ian McShane, Omid Abtahi, Pablo Schreiber, Peter Stormare, Ricky Whittle, Yetide Badaki
Upon being released from prison, Shadow Moon is mortified to learn about the death of his wife in a car crash but to make matters worse, she died with her lips round another man’s schlong. With no life to live outside of prison, Shadow finds himself recruited by the mysterious charmer Wednesday who takes Shadow on a road trip across the USA recruiting old friends and persuading them to join him and Shadow at a particular meeting point. Shadow soon discovers that Wednesday is more than just a man, with the ability to bring on a storm and hail of snow at any given moment. Aligning himself with Wednesday as his bodyguard, Shadow finds himself in the middle of a war between the old Gods and the new.
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, AMERICAN GODS is the Amazon Original series that has gripped viewers across the globe. With its stunning, slow-mo shots, dark sense of humour and surreal imagery, it has split opinion as either itching for attention or downright genius. With Season Two already in the works and the finale of season one having just aired on Amazon, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this unusual series.
Having heard much about the series, I was pretty excited when AMERICAN GODS landed on Amazon. It’s premise sounded amazing and different, just what I was looking for after bingewatching another cult TV programme, Twin Peaks. However, three episodes in, I kind of gave up. With a story seemingly going nowhere and too much mumbo jumbo dialogue, I felt it was a bit pretentious and full of itself, particularly with its gratuitious sex scenes (both heterosexual and homosexual). However, as the episodes went on, I decided to pick it back up again and I’m so glad I did as I began to realise just how on-point and well crafted this series actually is. The slow burn start certainly picks up mid series before a fantastically executed finale that will have TV fans chomping at the bit for Season Two. But let’s get down to the real reason I gave this series a shot in the first place besides all the cool advertising over Amazon and IMDB. One word: Lovejoy. I adore Ian ‘Lovejoy’ McShane in anything he does and so with his involvement in this series, I just had to give it a go and thank God I did.
If you, like I, are a McShane fan then you’ll love his character of Mr Wednesday, a confident older gent who seems to know everything about ex-con Shadow Moon and takes everything in his stride. Full of wit, charm and humour, his magnetism will draw you into the show, even if you’re initially struggling to warm to it. Wednesday isn’t his real name though. Refusing to divulge his actual identity, he settles with the pseudonym Wednesday for Shadow’s sake, but it’s one that everyone adopts, even Wednesday’s own friends which drives the question throughout the series: who is Wednesday?
Ian McShane isn’t the only star to grace the (American) Gods with turns from an international cast including Aussie actress Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Legend) as Laura Moon, Shadow’s adulterous wife, Canadian actor Pablo Schrieber (Orange is the New Black, Weeds) as leprechaun Mad Sweeney, film favourite Peter Stormare as Czernobog, a man who likes to bash cows brains in, and X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson as the ever-changing God, Media. We even have another Lancastrian in a lead role with Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon. Whittle did a stint on Brit TV soap Hollyoaks before landing a part in The 100 and look at him now! Smouldering as the child-like, bright-eyed Shadow, Whittle manages to adopt the viewer’s curiosity with the entire situation with Wednesday and co. whilst carrying his character along on his strangest roadtrip yet.
So what is American Gods all about? The core storyline at the heart of the series is centred around that of the old Gods; the pagan ones and those that pre-date that. These God, who were once worshipped and given sacrifices to, have been forgotten in exchange for religious Gods and those we wouldn’t even deem an actual God. But what is a God? This is the question which the series proposes to the viewer. You could say that a God is essentially someone who has followers so why does a God have to be a person or diety… That is where the ‘New Gods’ come in, with Gillian Anderson’s Media being one of them. Media represents radio, television, cinema… what essentially we at HCF are slaves to as are many others. If you think about how many people tune into the media in some shape or form, be it screen, radio or newspaper, we are all swallowing what we are being fed from the media source, hanging off every word we are being told and that, in essence, makes Media a God. In American Gods, Media is many things… in human form, she appears as Lucy of I Love Lucy fame, then as music icon David Bowie and last but not least, as actress Marilyn Monroe. She can transform herself into all the ‘celebs’ to control the complusive followers. But she’s by no means the boss. She’s up there, alright, and is a lot higher than social tech God Technical Boy but it’s a certain Mr. World we have to be worried about. We don’t find out much about him in Season One, only that he’s a major threat and someone even Wednesday fears. Being such an enigmatic character, they’ve chosen the best actor they could have cast as the role: Crispin Glover. In his brief but impactful appearances, he plays his cards close to his chest and doesn’t appear to want a war, instead preferring to recruit the Old Gods and give them back their legendary status with their help. But Wednesday isn’t looking for such help. He’s been around long before Mr World, Media and Technical Boy were even conceived and he will not play second fiddle nor owe these lesser Gods anything. But will all the Old Gods feel the same way or will they be lured in by the promises of “branding” and “social media interaction” in their name to gain the followers they once had and so rightfully deserve?
Whilst the impending war between the Gods is the main plot driving the series, American Gods also lends its screentime to sub-plots, such as one involving Shadow Moon’s deceased wife Lora who comes back from the dead as well as that itching question of the true identity of Wednesday. We know he’s a God of some sorts, but who? The series keeps the viewer guessing right until the last moment when we can finally appreciate Wednesday in his full glory. But a God leading a battle needs an army and Wednesday will need to up his charm if he’s to have a frontline to take on the confident Gods of the modern era.
Meeting the various Gods of the series is probably one of programme’s main highlights. One of the very first we meet is a lady named Bilquis who has more than a strong sexual appetitite. With each conquest, bisexual Bilquis appears younger, feeding off the souls of her lovers as they end up being sucked up her vagina during orgasm. Yes, you read that correctly. And you mustn’t miss out on the Djinn who’s happy to engage in anal sex with an unemployed immigrant in order to give him a taxi and job for life. Then there’s the Leprechaun with the magic gold coin… I could go on. Yes, it sounds strange and even I ended up scratching my head at some points during the series but as it draws past the 5th and 6th episode, things start to come together a lot more and the surrealism, which is always beautifully shot, can suddenly be appreciated.
American Gods has a lot to offer if you accept it with an open mind and don’t mind the bizarre imagery that it brings with it. Stick by these Gods and you’ll be justly rewarded.