American Gods, the cornerstone of modern Americana fantasy, has been reincarnated by Bryan Fuller (of Hannibal fame) and Michael Green (writer of Alien: Covenant and Logan, both released this year), with astounding results. The new series, released on Amazon Prime, is based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, and follows the “outstandingly improbable” Shadow Moon after his release from prison.
After the death of his wife and best friend in less-than-ideal circumstances, he finds himself wrapped up in a world that he never would have expected to be a part of. Though the show follows a path a little deviated from the one laid out in the book, the first episode promises a truly outstanding series that I genuinely cannot wait to watch more of.
The credits alone are a triumph: the amazing amalgamation of ‘old’ Gods and their new equivalents (as some might call them) sets a tone for the series before the first scene even reaches the screen – the show quite literally sees the Old Gods of myth and fable fighting against the New Gods of media and technology.
Thankfully, the show so far includes much of the symbolism that wove its way through the original book, though excludes just enough crumbs to keep those who have read the book chuckling – if you haven’t read the book, you won’t have a clue who Shadow’s cellmate is. This is no doubt due to Neil Gaiman’s position as producer – his wonderful knack for tying loose ends together will evidently be put to use throughout the series.
Brian Fuller’s influence on the cinematography of American Gods is abundantly clear throughout the first episode. Gore to a level that some might deem a tad excessive seems to have come straight from Hannibal, and certainly adds its own special (read: horrifying) touch to the show; if there is a possibility for blood in a scene, it is there in abundance. That isn’t to say that the rest of the show isn’t well-shot, though – the gore-less scenes are aesthetically pleasing of their own accord. There is a clear love of black/white/red palettes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderfully shot.
The casting for American Gods is not unworthy of mention either; each character – no matter how small the role – is brought to life almost immediately. The choice of actor/actress for each character is so far perfect: Mad Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) anguish is made clear within his first scene, the raw sexuality of Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) is made tangible despite her limited dialogue, and Mr. Wednesday’s (Ian McShane) treacherousness is shown with ease. American Gods is brought to life by its characters, and though I was worried that the fine points and particulars of the many characters would be lost in such a highly anticipated series, there is no sign of disappointment thus far.
It’s a struggle to describe how genuinely relieved and excited I am by the first episode of American Gods. There was so much that might go wrong, but the team behind it have worked wonders with Gaiman’s astounding novel and produced a series that has me hooked already. I have little doubt that the rest of the series will be as astounding, and genuinely cannot wait for the next episode!
Ellen Smithies (with contributions from Jake Sutcliffe)
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Media Courtesy of Starz Productions