Once upon a time a group of Vikings came to the Americas and tried to ‘conquer’ the land. Instead, they had their arses handed to them and try to immediately beat a hasty retreat. It doesn’t work until they give Odin, the Gallows God, a proper sacrifice of eyes, bodies and blood. They barely make it out alive but not before leaving a little bit of Odin behind. Thousands of years later ‘a storm is coming’ to those very same shores as gods clash in the new world for who will reign supreme.
Without spoiling too much for those who haven’t read American Gods, this series is one the most faithful adaptations from page to screen that I’ve ever seen other than Legion and Luke Cage. The show revels in its literary roots, without being confined to them, using Neil Gaiman’s colorful and detailed work as a true blueprint for the script. It helps that Gaiman is overseeing the show and helping to write the episodes. Plus, because Shadow Moon’s journey has been continued in two other fully complete novels, there’s a decent chance we’ll avoid a George R.R. Martin/Game Of Thrones situation.
This show is a visual feast from the outset, starting with the credits which give you the journey of the old gods to the new. The use of lighting and framing, as well as the backdrop of America itself, tells almost as much of the story as the actual words do. However, visuals would mean nothing without great performances and this show has them in abundance. Ian McShane is amazing as Mr Wednesday, a con-man, mischief maker and general rabble-rouser but it’s Ricky Whittle as Shadow that makes this show work. Whittle, a former American and European footballer and model, brings Shadow to life. When Whittle was cast I immediately thought, ‘Well, he certainly looks the part’ but not being familiar with his previous work on Coronation Street and The 100 I had no idea if he’d be able to bring what was needed to the table. I need not have worried, Whittle is Shadow. There are so many scenes that stand out but the the one that unequivocally confirmed it for me comes early on, right after Shadow is informed of the death of his wife, Laura. Without uttering a single word Whittle conveys all of Shadow’s shock, horror and despair and it’s heartbreaking.
The first episode gives us just a taste of things to come, introducing us to a few of the old gods and the new as well as the humans who inhabit their world. It’s an immersive experience from the outset and everything I could’ve ever wanted from one of my most beloved books.
The Gospel According To …
- ‘Prison has a way of trying to keep you in prison.’ – Truer words…
- The Bilquis scene is done exactly as it’s written and is one of the most sensual yet horrifying things you’ll ever see.
- Mad Sweeney’s concept of personal space leaves much to be desired.
- People, I beg you, don’t accept food or drink from charming strangers. It never ends well.
- It’s going to be really interesting to see how Audrey’s journey translates from page to screen.
- Half the fun of this show is figuring out who is who. The other half is watching it with people who aren’t familiar with the work and letting them figure it out.
Welcome to your newest television addiction. Five Shots of Mead out of Five.
American Gods can be seen on Starz at 9 PM or anytime on the Starz App with a subscription.