In 2017 show runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green dared to bring Neil Gaiman’s epic novel American Gods to screen, delivering a brilliantly bonkers masterpiece of fantasy which explored religion, mythology and legends. To me the series was a bold and brand new concept – to have the old gods struggling to survive in today’s USA as they continue to battle the new Gods in a secret war over our faith was just so intriguing to me. What followed was eight episodes of pure visual delight as Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) travelled across America with Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane), helping him recruit old gods to his cause. Along the way Shadow experienced visions featuring talking buffalos with flames spurting out of their eyes, as well as tales of Gods literally swallowing men up during sex that left me wondering, just what the hell is going on?!
Two rather long years later and American Gods has finally returned, following numerous reports of behind-the-scenes trouble with production, as show runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green unfortunately left the project. Given their departure, many were doubtful that the show was actually going to return, especially considering that Gillian Anderson (Media) and Kristen Chenoweth (Easter) were quick to follow. However, it’s safe to say that the first two episodes deliver excellent plot, fantastic visuals and character moments. The story is much more driven this time around and we can’t wait to continue watching the rest of the season!
Story wise, episode one revolves around Wednesday bringing together the Old Gods in an effort to get them to join his crusade, reintroducing us back into the show’s mythos. For book fans, we finally get to see The House on the Rock – the fabled and baffling tourist attraction located between the cities of Dodgeville and Spring Green, Wisconsin, that we’ve all been waiting for.
Much of the second episode is spent exploring Shadow’s tragic past chronicling his journey to America with his mother, through a sequence of flashbacks. Shadow’s importance is starting to be revealed as the bigger picture of his storyline is teased. We experience a hilarious relationship develop between Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) and Laura/Dead Wife (Emily Browning) on their road trip to find Shadow. The obvious dichotomy between the two characters is slowly starting to dissolve, showing us a softer side to their relationship. Meanwhile, the new Gods are plotting against the old in an effort to destroy their influence, once and for all.
It’s great to see this stellar cast return, along with some fantastic new additions including the brilliant Sakina Jaffrey’s Mama-Ji, the Hindu goddess of death, and Dean Winters’ Mr. Town. We’re particularly fond of Pablo Schreiber’s Mad Sweeney, so to see him get more air time out from under the shadow of Mr Wednesday was definitely great to see. I can’t wait to see more of his relationship with Laura/Dead Wife as they’re absolutely fantastic together and bring some lightness to the narrative. I’m glad to see that McShane still seems like he’s having a ball as Wednesday, as he’s as gleeful and charismatic as ever! Another intriguing development is seeing Ricky Whittle’s Shadow becoming less naive following Wednesday’s dramatic revelation, as he starts to truly believe in the existence of gods. Also making more of an appearance this season is the brilliant Orlando Jones and his stylish and eccentric portrayal of Mr. Nancy, as well as Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), The Jinn (Mousa Kraish) and Salim (Omid Abtahi). It’s great to see that they’re bringing more of the extended cast together.
One of my favourite parts of American Gods season one was the outstanding visuals, and so far they don’t disappoint. The carousel sequence at the House on the Rock was particularly impressive; the psychedelic trip to another realm was filled with gorgeous colours and stunning scenery, complete with expansive tunnels and carnival oddities. The whole story behind the House on the Rock was so captivating; the fact that it simply started as a man building a house on a rock, could turn into such a sprawling curiosity that people visit from miles away and spend their hard earned money to experience it, is fascinating. It’s definitely not something we ever heard of before, but would like to visit – certainly better than the worlds biggest ball of yarn! This show truly is one of the most visually impressive, bold and fantastical television shows out there.
So far we’re really excited for the direction of this series and we’re intrigued to see the old gods finally coming together to deal with the threat of modern America, hoping to re-balance and regain some hearts and minds. Unfortunately, it’s with the new gods where I’m most concerned, as I really felt a Gillian Anderson sized hole in their lineup. I really do hope they flesh out Mr World (Crispin Glover) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) more as so far this, and the show’s slow pacing, seem to be the main weakness. However, it’s great to see the narrative of the series gravitating back towards the novel as the show evolves from the first season. Overall we really enjoyed the story, imaginative visuals and character performances, and can’t wait to watch more when the show airs on March 11th on Amazon Prime.