American Gods is one of the most highly anticipated shows of 2017. I think the other one is Star Trek Discovery. The show, which airs on Starz, is based on the 2001 novel by Neil Gaiman. The premise of the story is simple enough. The ancient and mythological gods exist, because people believe in them. Odin, Bilquis and Easter are just a few to mention.
So far so good. Enter Shadow Moon, played by Ricky Whittle, a former convict who acts as a bodyguard to Odin, known as Wednesday (played by Ian McShane). Shadow is released several days early on a three year conviction after his wife Laura was killed in an automobile accident. Shadow learns his wife died because she was performing fellatio on his best friend while driving. This and several other story aspects define American Gods – it punches hard to make Shadow and its viewers uncomfortable.
Not Harry Potter
Now despite the fantasy elements this is no Harry Potter in which there is a Hagrid to explain the basics of the magical world. Shadow disbelieves all of his supernatural interactions as he continues to drive the mysterious Mr. Wednesday across the United States. I certainly didn’t expect the show to reveal the plot quickly, but so far it has actively evaded the topic and raised doubts whether there is a basic plot to the show.
In this second episode, Shadow is introduced to even more gods. This time they are not mythological. Instead, Media, played by Gillian Anderson, reveals herself on a set of TVs. She tries to tempt Shadow away from Wednesday. This raises the question what either of them see in him, but Shadow’s disbelief has him rebuff her offer. That, despite an offer to show him Lucille Ball’s tits.
The episode ends with a surreal dinner party given by Chernobog, the Slavic god of darkness. Chernobog hints at a deeper understanding of Wednesday and questions his motives. But Shadow is not able to able to understand the conversation. The episode ends with Shadow having to deal with losing a game of checkers to Chernobog.
Not all sunshine
American Gods has longer than standard length episodes. They are around 60 minutes long, like Game of Thrones and Berlin Station. With pay television such longer running times are the new norm, but I am not convinced American Gods manages to use the this format adequately. A lot of the story is taken up by dream sequences that show visceral scenes imagined by Shadow. These suck the speed out of the story and frankly made me skip ahead a few times.
American Gods seems to go out of its way to make viewers dislike the show. Now I can understand there won’t be any straight answers in the first few episodes, but I belief the show has somewhat missed the mark. It won’t be long now before the lengthy dream sequences and lack of plot development will have viewers turn away.