For this review, I am going to pretend two things. One, I am going to pretend I have never seen Bryan Fuller’s amazing work before, that I am not familiar with the hyper stylized, hallucinatory, over the top violent film making of Mr. Fuller. And two, I shall pretend I have not read Neil Gaiman’s amazing fantasy novel American Gods. The reason I do this is because nearly everyone on the internet is going to compare this to either Hannibal or is going to discuss how faithful an adaptation it is. Or both. I want to bring a newcomer’s point of view or atleast try to bring an unaffected judgement to the show. I know that will be hard seeing how much of a hard on I have for both Hannibal and American Gods.
American Gods opens with blood and gore and death, and that might be all that you take away from it. But what it does is, quite deceptively it weaves in world building. We see the Vikings come to American shores, accept defeat, offer themselves to their god of war and leave his idol behind. In a sequence reminiscence of Starz’s other bloody and violent show, Spartacus, we see a quite impossible scene of a severed arm holding on to a sword skewer a hapless viking through the throat. And thats the first five minutes.
Shadow (Ricky Whittle) is a man in prison, hoping to see his wife soon. He has something to look forward to and yet can’t shake of the sense of foreboding that is washing over his imposing physique and he tells his wife as much. He falls asleep, with much discomfort, after seeing a vision of his wife through the prison ceiling, only to wake up to his own personal hell.
What follows thereafter, is Shadow’s journey into this new unexplored frontier for him. And by proxy us. He meets the charming and sleazy bullshit artist Mr. Wednesday (Ian Mchshane) and his world is changed for the – hard to tell right now – better or worse. The show just picks up with Mr. Wednesday’s appearance, Ian Mcshane is a brilliant actor and he brings it to bear here. Chewing through scenery like no one’s business, he brings a smarmy, dirty feel to this character he is inhabiting. You can’t help but be drawn into Mr. Wednesday’s shenanigans.
We meet other characters too. Bilquis is introduced, from what I assume, she is a God. What follows in the wake of her introduction might be the most unusual sex scene in TV history. We meet Mad Sweeney, who apparently is a Leprechaun with coin tricks. We meet Audrey, Shadow’s best friend’s wife. And we meet a weird guy who lives in a Virtual Reality (?) and has nameless or rather faceless goons. And he smokes Toad skins.
We are shown some really trippy nightmares that Shadow has. A tree. A bison with flaming eyes. An orchard of bones – as is the namesake of the episode. And all these sequences are indelibly seared into your mind as a nightmarish tableau of a demented imagination. Its beautiful and horrifying at the same time and you can’t take your eyes off it. 5/5 for Mr. Bryan Fuller as the showrunner.
The visuals are some of the best on TV. The story is intriguing. The cast so far is stellar.
Can’t wait to see more of this imaginative, provocative, sometimes hallucinatory sometimes lucid world. It’s a dense show that rewards the thinking viewer, for example you will get a lot more out of Shadow Moon’s nightmares if you are familiar with Norse Mythology.