American Gods premieres Sunday, April 30, 9pm on Starz.
Written by Neil Gaiman in 2001, American Gods has been translated into over 30 languages and earned countless awards. Naturally, the long awaited television adaptation is being met with skepticism from fans. They need not worry.
Starz’s American Gods opens with a flashback to hundreds of years ago. Things get extremely graphic early. When the Vikings first arrive in America, they see nothing more than a desolate land, and attempt to head home. They can only get a sail going when the God of War grants them passage home, so to please the God, the Vikings engage in an insanely gory battle. With heads flying all over the place, men are split in half from the waist down. Blood spills faster than the infamous Red Wedding. We even see a sword clenched in the hand of a detached arm, flying through the air as blood spurts all around it, and then the entire screen goes bright red. Again, this is all in the first few minutes.
The vivid imagery doesn’t end there. A few scenes later, we see the character Bilquis literally swallow a man whole with her vagina, in what may go down as one of the most graphic scenes in television history.
Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is an ex-convict, who after just being released from jail, learns that his wife and best friend were killed in a car accident. He heads home for the funeral and meets con-man Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who convinces Moon to work for him as a bodyguard. Moon quickly learns that there is a lot more to Mr. Wednesday than meets the eye.
The central idea of American Gods is that for something to happen you just have to believe. For example, on the plane where Mr. Wednesday and Shadow meet, Wednesday explains that it’s not because of Newton’s law that the plane is staying in the air. It’s the firm belief of all the passengers that the plane won’t crash, a belief that they have because of Newton’s discovery. That same principle is applied to the entire show. The premise of American Gods is that there are mythological beings, or “Gods,” that can only be seen by those who believe in them.
These dieties are split into two groups, the New Gods and the Old Gods. The Old Gods are more traditional, and their power has diminished as many of their followers flee to the New Gods, offering money, technology, sex, and drugs. One of the New Gods – Technical Boy – can even be seen vaping. The Old Gods, led by Mr. Wednesday, wage war with the rising New Gods, who they fear have taken their believers.
American Gods is full of positives to note, McShane’s performance in particular. My only gripe with the show would be that I just didn’t feel the emotion of Moon when he found out that his wife and best friend were dead. I haven’t read the book so I’m unsure of how the character’s personality was described. I cannot tell if that’s one of Moon’s character flaws or a hole in Whittle’s acting. Other than that, this show is amazing.
As gory and graphic as it may be, the cinematography is incredibly striking. Combined with rock-solid acting and a unique plot, American Gods is bound to succeed. Starz has an excellent show on their hands.
I give American Gods an A.