‘American Gods’ Season 1 Review: The Adaptation Neil Gaiman’s Book Deserved

'American Gods' 1x01 Review: The Bone Orchard

I know this sounds cheesy, and it might not be the most glamorous way to start a season review, but American Gods has raised the bar when it comes to well-told stories that are diverse, beautiful, and thought provoking.

It showed us that quality over quantity is where it’s at with it’s 8 episodes. And it told a story that resonates with the America and world that we live in right now. It didn’t shy away from the ugly truth of adultery, depression, poverty, and a whole batch of other things that many shows are still afraid of even touching. Because of that, American Gods came out on top and gave birth to a whole new legion of people who are ready to worship Neil Gaiman, Shadow Moon, and the Gods of Old & New.

Without further ado, let’s talk about what we loved, hated, and would like to see more of in our season one review of Starz American Gods!

Overall Impression

American Gods was a trippy, out of this world, experience that made you sit back, wonder what the hell you were watching half the time, before running off to dissect every last bit of this beauty with your friends. It was groundbreaking with its intimate love scene between two men, tragic but real vignette on slavery, and frank discussion about immigrants in the United States. It was weird with it’s bigger than life portrayal of Tech Boy, the way Gods consume power, and what comes after in death. And it was deserving of all the praise with the way it portrayed women, depression, and what we believe in. It’s every bit of what Neil Gaiman’s book deserved from the very moment someone thought this should come to life on our screens.




What Worked

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Ricky Whittle Bringing Shadow Moon to Life

From the very moment I started reading American Gods I felt a disconnect with Shadow Moon. He’s a reactionary character who doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about things. Not saying he isn’t smart. He just goes from one thing to another without pause and with an ease I’ve never seen before. Because of that I never felt like I could connect with him. I never saw myself dealing with these fantastical things with such, dare I say, poise.

A couple minutes into the TV series, I knew there was something different about this Shadow Moon. He still goes with the flow and continues to be that reactionary character we know and love. But the added visual of his face and body made me understand him on a completely different level. It was in his voice, the little ticks, side eyes, and micro expressions that I finally connected with Shadow Moon. And it was all because of Ricky Whittle and how he brought this character to life.

Distinctive Gods

Time on screen isn’t what makes Bilquis, Anansi, Media or Ostara distinctive. It’s the quality of the work that every single cast member, writer, producer, and director put into these characters. Each and every single God that appeared on American Gods had their own ways of clothing, traditions, and styles of manipulation to get those lowly humans to worship them. They didn’t drown each other out or make it seem like one God was more important than the other. There was a balance to them that wasn’t overshadowed by Mr. Wednesday even though he is the central character alongside Shadow Moon. And because American Gods chose quality over quantity, I find myself invest equally in all of its moving parts.

Stunning Visuals & Shots

At first I thought the shots were a little bit too much. Like when Shadow’s cleaning his bathroom and scrubs until his fingers bleed and we get up close and personal with those bloody bubbles. But as the show progresses and the stunning visuals continue, you find yourself enthralled in the visuals and shots of American Gods. They all feel like a beautiful extension of what I always thought the book could be and could never properly explain to someone who’s never read the book. Sure, I’m still not too hot on that bloody Viking battle (that was a lot of blood) or Vulcan losing his head. But I fell in love with the stunning visuals and shots of when Easter regained her power and Bilquis consumed love from her worshippers.

What Didn’t Work

Quite frankly…there wasn’t anything that didn’t work. Sure, there were little things that bugged me like Czernobog, Vulcan, or the fact that there were only 8 episodes, but they were little things not even worth mentioning in this section. At the end of the day they all fit the complicated tapestry that is American Gods.

What We Wanted to See More Of

Shadow Reacting to Things

One of my biggest problems with the book is that Shadow was a reactionary character who went with the flow of things a little too often. The show rectifies that to a certain extent, having Shadow break down in intimate moments and freak out at Mr. Wednesday when he was lynched. For the state of mind he was in, just losing his wife and not having a job, this was understandable for Shadow’s character, the need to be reactionary. But now that Shadow knows and believes in Gods and crazy supernatural things, we’re going to need a little more of Shadow reacting to things and initiating contact with the world that has opened up around him.

Laura Moon & Mad Sweeney Interacting
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One of the most entertaining parts of season one were the interactions between these two loud, proud, rude, assholes. With these two we saw the trope of the ‘big man having all the power’ turned on its head with Laura being the powerful one. They schemed, kidnapped, and stole things together. And most surprisingly, cared. They’re not blind to the fact that things have changed between them and still continue to hit the road together. If this kind of chemistry can grow in one season, imagine how much more we have coming when Laura finds out the truth about her death and Mr. Wednesday sees that he’s helping Shadow’s dead wife aka jeopardizing his plans for the future.  

Vignettes, Vignettes, Vignettes
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Over 8 episodes we were introduced to a multitude of amazing characters who have shocked, surprised, and awed us with their journeys to America. Anansi left us feeling like he saw, spun, and told more tales than we’d never be able to comprehend. Bilquis left us feeling like we didn’t truly understand passion and have been reduced to scraps aka mobile love apps. And Essie left us wondering about our lives and how much belief plays in it.

Each played a part in the story of American Gods and left us wondering about them long after the show ended. And that right there is the most important part of the vignettes, they engage. They make people talk about some of the harrowing things these people and Gods had to go through to get where they are today. It doesn’t matter how many seasons this show gets if it ultimately engages people in a discussion. That’s how shows live on forever.

What We Wanted to See Less Of

Diverting Away from Shadow and Mr. Wednesday

I know I just said that we needed more vignettes, Bilquis, Anansi, Laura Moon, and Mad Sweeney. But just because I want more time dedicated to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice all the things I want. The only solution to this conundrum we have here is…more episodes.

Starz needs to give American Gods more episodes so they can balance out introducing new characters and expanding on their stories with the journey that Shadow and Mr. Wednesday are on. With more episodes we can all be satisfied!

Favorite Episodes

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“Head Full of Snow” (Episode 1×03) – From the stunning vignette to Shadow “creating” snow with his mind, this episode was complex, layered, and really started getting the ball rolling when it came to the power of the Gods. And let’s not forget Salim and the Jinn. Their love making scene was intimate, tender, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen on TV before or thought I’d ever see.

“Git Gone” (Episode 1×04) – This episode grounded Laura Moon and helped paint a picture of the life she led with our leading man, Shadow Moon. And whether you loved or hated her by the end of it, you’ve got to admit that her heartache and depression was familiar. We know someone like Laura or have been that person. Her spiral was shocking and left us feeling helpless despite her brash attitude and the ass kicking she did at at the end.

“A Prayer for Mad Sweeney” (Episode 1×07) – This episode made me see Mad Sweeney in a completely different light. Yes, he’s an asshole. And yes, he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of General Mills. But there’s more to him. He’s had a long, winding past full of anger and guilt that led him to Laura Moon’s side. Sweeney might be a foul mouthed jerk, but he’s also a good man that decided to right a wrong that he took part of and gave Laura Moon a third chance instead of running.

Least Favorite Episodes

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“The Secret of Spoons” (Episode 1×02) – One word: Czernobog. I couldn’t stand him and felt like he was dragging on the episode. He’s a brute who wants to kill, kill, kill. And if approached by the New Gods, I think his loyalty/bargain with Mr. Wednesday and Shadow would go straight out the window. Also he was overshadowed by Zorya Vechernyaya in a matter of seconds. I want to know more about her!

“A Murder of Gods” (Episode 1×06) – Part of me feels bad for saying this because it’s Corbin Bernsen  from Psych, but Vulcan was forgettable. His episode spoke of an America I have no desire to know more about and some of his monologues made me cringe because of how proud he sounded about a weapon that has caused so much pain.

Season Finale Impression

The season finale felt like the true beginning of the show or like the start of us finally getting to the meat of things. It felt like we’d gotten our first glimpse of what this show is truly about and I instantly wanted more. There were funny moments in the season finale like Shadow blushing at Easter’s…everything, all the Jesus’, and bunnies pooping out jelly beans. And there were riveting moments that left you with more questions than answers like Easter and Mad Sweeney’s familiarity, Media and Easters exchanges, and the New Gods surprise at Easter breaking free of their hold.

It wasn’t exactly the pay off I expected after so much buildup but it’s acceptable for such a short season. And all that matters is that I’m excited by what’s to come and the fact that I’m still thinking about the finale and all the little things I caught later during a rewatch and while writing this very piece.

Next Season Speculation

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With Shadow believing, Easter taking control of Spring, and Laura Moon returning to her husband, season two is going to be a complicated chess game that few will be able to predict. Unless you’ve read the book. And even then, with any good book to screen adaptation, they have to make changes. American Gods has to deviate from the source material or interpret it in a new way to keep people who love the book as surprised as those who haven’t. (You really should read it if you haven’t. Not because of spoilers but because the TV version is a great companion to the book.)

Shadow will become a more active participant in what’s going on in his life in season two. He’ll also have to face a choice between his past and his future in the form of Laura and Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday will probably be livid with Mad Sweeney for not taking care of the dead wife. Laura will try to sabotage Wednesday’s plans. And Sweeney will probably flip Odin the bird and ask for a seat at the table now. As for Easter, she’s pissed off the New Gods, practically having torn off the chain they had around her neck to restrain her. The New Gods will try to come down harder on the Old Gods as punishment and try to place their own queen on the board in the form of Bilquis.

What were your thoughts on American Gods season one?

American Gods has been renewed for season two and is expected to return in 2018.



Lyra

Editor, Writer, Supreme Mugwump

Lyra enjoys loud mouthed, damaged characters, with a penchant for rescuing people and drinking their sorrows away. When she isn’t splurging on Netflix shows she’s not so quietly ranting about Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural!

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