‘American Gods’ 1×01 Review: First Meetings, Faith, and That Scene with Bilquis

American Gods ‘Bone Orchard’, the premiere episode of the Starz adaptation, has breathed new life into Neil Gaiman’s novel and started us down a road that is weird, unbelievable, visually stunning, and bloody as hell.

This adaptation has opened doorways for us to understand Shadow Moon like we’ve never done before, exposed us to television I never thought would be possible to bring to screen, and started a conversation on what faith is and the power it holds. Faith is what drives this show. And we’re just passengers along for the ride as Shadow discovers what it means to him.

Shadow Moon Like We’ve Never Seen Before

I’ve never been able to connect with Shadow Moon. He was a little too closed off, unfeeling, and accepting despite the crazy shit going on around him. Top that off with Neil Gaiman making sweet literary love to the world he created and you’ve got a connection to your characters that is missing.

Ricky Whittle breathed life into Shadow Moon. For the first time, because I’ve read the book multiple times, I felt like I could connect to this character. I could feel the loneliness and shell that he placed around himself in prison, the heartbreak of losing his wife, and the surprise at meeting Mr. Wednesday in the way he carried himself and every single emotion that flitted across his face.

I don’t think Whittle did better than the book version of Shadow as those are two different mediums with various limitations to each. Whittle’s performance gave me a new appreciation for this character and what he faces in a world that’s pulling itself apart to reveal how weird and magnificent it truly is. So if anything, the next time I read American Gods, I’ll understand Shadow Moon in a way I’ve never done before. That, to me, is the product of excitement casting, acting, and writing.

Simply put, Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon is a home run.

Two Con-Men Meet & Come to a Bargain

From the moment Mr. Wednesday and Shadow meet the chemistry between them is, as cheesy as this sounds, electric. It’s like watching an elaborate chess game between two men who understand the life of a con-man but aren’t trying to one up each other. Their respect in that first meeting carries over to their second and allows Shadow to accept Mr. Wednesday’s offer, after the fight and all that jazz, despite the weirdness that has started appearing in Shadow’s life the moment he met him.

Now, Shadow doesn’t really have a lot of faith, something that a God like Mr. Wednesday needs. So in this first episode we see Mr. Wednesday testing the boundaries of what he’s willing to believe and what will send him running for the hills. He’s banking on the fact that he can build Shadow’s faith in him and in us, because we’re experiencing everything from Shadow’s POV, with time and calculated exposure to the world of Gods.

Yes, That Woman Just Devoured That Man with Her Vagina

This was the scene I always thought everyone would be too afraid to bring to screen. For some, it was too carnal, outlandish, and put a woman in a position of power over her own body. (Which sounds ridiculous, but people are absolutely frightened of that.) I, on the other hand, always found the scene with Bilquis to be empowering and liberating.

Yetide Badaki, who plays Bilquis, perfectly encapsulated what I loved about that scene and made me understand the pain and desperation of a God of Love living on scraps. When you first see her she’s on a date and she’s clearly made an effort to look stunning and well put together. But you can also see how worn down and desperate she is for a connection others have forgotten about.

Taking that man into her body was only a brief respite from the weariness and loneliness she feels every waking moment. And honestly, if we were in her shoes I don’t think any of us would do it any different. Why? Because American Gods is a story of survival.

In those tales, nothing is off the table and all bets are off. Even if that means you have to devour a man with your vagina to survive.

Additional Notes from The Bone Orchard:
  1. The scene with Audrey grieving and proposing to have revenge sex by Laura’s grave was more disturbing that Bilquis devouring that man. It was desperate and sad. But then again, she was grieving and was shocked to find out her best friend was sleeping with her husband. Woman gets a pass.
  2. Tech Boy’s clothes and demeanour definitely shout, “Fuck you!” and give the feeling that he’s flipping you the bird.
  3. The blood in the ‘Coming to America’ scene was disturbing and kind of beautiful. I don’t know what that says about me or the people who wrote this. Maybe we just have an appreciation for the color red?
  4. Loved Low-Key Lyesmith’s advice to not piss off those bitches in airports. Especially with the buzz special airlines have been getting lately. You know which ones.

American Gods airs Sundays at 9/8c on Starz.

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