“American Gods is based on the idea that over the years, all of the people who have come to America have brought their gods with them. You have gods out on the fringes of American society. They are grifting, they are hooking, and they are pumping gas. These are the Old Gods. Now you have lots of shiny, bright New Gods. Gods of internet, telephone, media, finance. Things that Americans are giving their time and love and attention to. They are getting more power and there is going to be a showdown. War is coming.” -Neil Gaiman
Gaiman has a knack for making the mundane develop into something much more divine (or sinister). His novels usually grip you within the first chapter or so by simply throwing you a hint- like a starting itch that you eventually scratch into a scab. The 8 episode TV series is no different.
With Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Heroes) at the helm and Gaiman consulting throughout, the series begins with a seemingly out of left field viking scene. What does this have to do with American Gods? This is the itch. You start off with Vikings searching for new lands and with them in tow are their own beliefs– “new” gods in their right at the time compared to the one’s already inhabiting the “new world”.
It’s more than just the Vikings though. It is common knowledge that America (insert political jab at how the current administration is handling immigration here) has welcomed people from everywhere, from every culture- and with them, they bring “gods” from everywhere.
Shadow Moon, after finishing off a 3 year stint in prison is faced with his wife’s death just as he is about to head home and along his journey encounters Mr. Wednesday- expertly played by Ian McShane.
This not-so-chance encounter opens Shadow to the world of magic and divinity that has been just under the surface. He encounters a leprechaun, learns and forgets a magic trick, gets shaken down by some tech bullies and in the end of the episode realizes for certain that the world is more inexplicable, unsettling and dangerous than he once ever thought.
The premiere of the series casts a wide net in its attempts to get you up to speed with the world and how it works. The dialogue is witty and unnerving but never vulgar. The violence is unapologetic and treated with almost a wanton disregard for how the viewer will react because there is a constant barrage of imagery that just gradually numbs you just as how Shadow was numb at the start of his journey- gradually– ok maybe not so gradually, you open your eyes to the new world and how it has slowly eaten away at the old world and it’s old ways- and the destruction wrought by having these two collide.
The show has a lot of promise, but it also has large shoes to fill. There are a lot of twists and turns in the book and the characters are so well designed that they in fact can have their own stand-alone books (see Anansi Boys). I am hoping that the show lives up to the hype and carries the Gaiman banner as successfully as the novels.