Here there be Spoiler!
By Ale Bodden
Brian Fuller, Michael Green, and Neil Gaiman have, without a doubt, managed to bring to television a perfectly rendered, edgier shape-shifting world of AMERICAN GODS to life in a mix of beauty, gore, and raw humanity. The imagery and symbolism within every scene is just powerful—I began and ended the episode with my heart beating its way out of my chest. Can something be considered beautifully gory? Because this show is—in that regard it reminds me of HANNIBAL; how delightfully grotesque it was. Every scene is just so striking and so charged with feelings and a sense of foreboding.
I never imagine it could be possible to ground this world more into reality than it already was—they proved me wrong. As we all know: when adapting a source material into a different medium some things will end up changing, of course. More often than not, it never seems to be pleasing changes; however, I loved they way each subject seems to symbolize themes we deal with nowadays: From beliefs to race. Another thing: they did a magnificent job in bringing together such a culturally diverse cast. Given the source material I kept my fingers crossed really tight and it did not disappoint.
The show begins with a historical “blast-from-the-past”—a group of Vikings who made it to America and are not greeted in the most welcoming way. Quite the opposite, to be exact—one down and the rest advised, with subtlety, to not take a step closer into land. The others are then stuck suffering ailments and sacrificing enough of their own blood, asking for their own God of War (as the narrator explains) for permission to go back to their lands in the form of consistent, strong wind.
And Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is introduced… Ah, I am so happy. Shadow is the one thing I feel makes such a difference when it comes to the tone of the story. He is so like the character in the book, yet so different in one thing that, as it turns out, has the potential to make it a very fun and entertaining ride. He has an edge to him. Much like the book, the aura of quiet and composed is there—which is incredibly awesome the way it translates onto the screen. He has this quiet rage about him that I did not expect, from the way I had already imagined him to be, that is. Whittle has a way of conveying so much through his stare that just kept giving me chills.
I was very appreciative that they gave us the chance to see Laura Moon (Emily Browning) and Shadow interacting. However… Papi? Or Puppy? Did I hear that wrong? Were my ears clogged? Anyway, I still smiled like an idiot when she said it. I will try to not go into many details, but yeah, Laura is no more and Shadow gets out of prison earlier than planned.
We then get to meet Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and THAT, my friends, was simply majestic. Their chemistry is on point. The magic of the book was directly translated to the show thanks to Whittle and McShane. I swear, McShane is Wednesday brought to life straight from the pages of American Gods. That entire sequence was the book itself. That was the moment I let my guard down and realized I am going to love this show. And Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney? Yes, he was a great pick; just perfect to play the part—the bar scene had a little change to it that I think worked perfectly to not just introduce us to more aspects of the characters, but also to build them up. Character development in just one episode was astonishing; they found ways of incorporating parts of Shadow into the story that we only get to hear about in the book.
Shadow gets back home and, during Laura’s funeral, he finds out the real story behind her death. That was as hard of a pill to swallow as it was when reading it. Not the best moment to be told your wife has been cheating on you and died while going down on your best friend while he was driving, by his own wife, Audrey (Betty Giplin). One of my favorite moments, though, was after Laura’s wake. Night had already fallen, but Shadow was still standing in front of her grave. Audrey approached him and just broke down at one point. It was so heart-wrenching to hear and watch. She was Shadow’s best friend’s wife and Laura’s best friend, so you can imagine where that went. Awkward.
The way they merge storylines—our main one and the side snippets in which we get to meet our deities: it was brilliant. It was so wonderfully thought out and made each god come to life perfectly by just showing us parts of who they are. It is definitely a splendid way of fleshing out their own stories for the viewers to know who they are. It felt seamless.
We then have Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), our goddess of love—she seems to be rapidly declining, feeding on what seems to be “empty calories” of lust instead of substantial worship. Let me tell you, all that reverence fucking leading to draining of a whole body seems like something straight of a Dragon Ball episode. Not to mention it was incredibly sexy as well. Who said terrifying can’t be sexy? I always imagined succubae functioned in a similar fashion—not just taking in pleasure, but also taking in something far more… like a person, no biggie. I did enjoy seeing a woman in play that part. Not for sexual reasons, but we simply don’t get to see many women in positions of power that way on TV. It was sort of refreshing, in a way.
And Technical Boy (Bruce Langley)? Let’s just say that was a powerful scene we end up with there. He wants to send a message to Mr. Wednesday and chooses Shadow to so do. It was bloody and messy and left me with a bitter taste in the mouth. A statement on society, I wonder?
I have been so eagerly waiting for this show and it feels lovely to be completely pleased with an adaptation of one of my favorite books. The AMERICAN GODS surely promises to be just as fun, quirky, and mind-tippy as the book is. I am very excited to engage on this adventure. I look forward to see what will remain the same and what has been tweaked. I really hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.
Ale Bodden is a freelance artist and contributing writer for Bleeding Cool and Old Man Geek. You can find her on Twitter @nerdy_faery and IG @nerdyfaery.