The much-anticipated adaptation of the Neil Gaiman fantasy tome has arrived and is a beauty to behold for fans of the book and, hopefully, newcomers alike.
Beware the Goddess of Spoilers is here, worship her…
Hello from the New World
The premiere starts with the arrival of the first old god to the shores of what would eventually be America. In 813 CE, Vikings land on the shores of a new land and are immediately attacked by biting insects and hostile natives. Defeated, the Vikings look to return home, but the wind is not cooperative. The travelers make sacrifices to their God, Odin, to catch his attention. But Odin wants more than just their eyes and one burning body. He wants blood and war. The Vikings hack each other to bloody pieces and Odin blesses the survivors with the wind to go home.
Job Offers and Leprechauns
Flash forward to the present and we meet Shadow Moon, a man on his last week of a three-year stretch in prison. Shadow is a practical man, he only believes in what he can see and touch, but a foreboding feeling has over taken him and platitudes from his wife in a phone call are not calming him down. The next morning, he is giving the good news of his released happening a few days early. The bad news is he is being freed because he wife, Laura, died in a car wreck during the early morning hours.
On the flight home, Shadow meets a charming stranger calling himself Mr. Wednesday who offers Shadow a work as the con man’s assistant. At first, Shadow declines the offer. He already has a job waiting for him back home with his friend. What he later finds out is his friend, Robbie, was in the car with Laura and was also killed. Another “chance meeting” with Mr. Wednesday at a bar not far from his hometown has Shadow agreeing to the job with three shots of mead to seal the deal.
Shadow is confronted by Mad Sweeney, a man calling himself a leprechaun who pulls gold coins out of thin air, and challenges Shadow to a fight in exchange for a gold coin. Shadow wins the fight. At Laura’s funeral, Shadow learns of his wife’s affair with Robbie from Audrey, Robbie’s infuriated wife. Laura was servicing Robbie at the time of the accident.
Audrey once again confronts Shadow at Laura’s gravesite looking for some revenge sex on their cheating spouses. Shadow repeatedly turns the drunken, distraught widow down and doesn’t see the gold coin he won from Mad Sweeney he tossed on Laura’s grave sink into the ground.
Hostage to Technology
Walking home from Laura’s gravesite, Shadow is virtually kidnapped through a VR headset by Technical Boy, the New God of all things technology. The electro deity wants to know what Wednesday is up to, but Shadow has no idea. Even if he did, he is not one to turn his back on boss. Technical Boy orders his faceless, digital henchmen to kill Shadow. The henchmen beat the ex-con within an inch of his life and proceed to string him up a tree. Just as Shadow is about to join his wife, an arrow comes from nowhere and cuts the noose. Shadow beings to lose consciousness just as an unseen figure slaughters the henchmen in a wave of blood.
That Moment Elsewhere in America
At a bar in Hollywood, a lonely man meets the beautiful Bilquis for a date. They hit it off and she takes him back to her place. The two undress and start to get it on, but things turn freaking quickly and I’m not talking Fifty Shades freaky. The man disappears completely inside of Biliquis’ nether regions as he finds his release.
For those not familiar with the book, Biliquis’s (or The Queen of Sheba) moment is one of many vignettes that pop up during the story that talks of other gods that are spread out across America. The opening scene with the Vikings is another one.
There was some worry on my part as to how exactly the imaginative story of the old gods versus the new was going to be adapted for television. Gaiman’s award winning tale is, at best, strange, but mostly it is ball-tripping-crazy. How do you translate all the insanity to a visual medium and still attract the attention of those who have never even heard of the source material? Game of Thrones managed to do this, but it had the massive advantage of being on the powerhouse HBO. That network has earned the track record of making solid shows which had viewers willing to give the risky series a chance. Starz is gaining an audience, but has a long way to go to compete on the level of HBO or Showtime.
American Gods is a good start for the network to put itself on par with the big boys of premium cable. It is as visually stunning as anything GOT has produced so far, and challenges its audience to take the narrative on faith just as much.
There has to be props for the risk the producers are taking. The opening sequence, at first glance, has nothing to do with the rest of the series. But it also has everything to do with it. The brutally shocking image of Shadow (a dark-skinned man) being strung up a tree by a group of faceless beings dressed all in white was also a big risk. One can’t help but feel they are attempting to say much with that image.
I have high hopes for this show after an engaging premiere. For those who are new to the world of American Gods, I would suggest doing a bit of side reading about various mythologies. It will make the little Easter Eggs dropped throughout the series much more fun for you as a viewer.
Till Next Week!
About the author: The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale