Based on the book by Neil Gaiman and created by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, American Gods is a refreshing addition to the fantasy television genre. In this case, curiosity does not kill the cat, it gets it parking up in front of the TV, binge eating Friskies party-mix cat-crackers until season two.
After the untimely death of his wife, Shadow Moon is released from prison and conveniently taken in by a roguish Mr. Wednesday. Shadow is hired as his assistant and bodyguard, an agreement Shadow is bound by until Mr. Wednesday ‘pisses him off’. As shadow is taken across the country, his belief in nothing is challenged by Mr Wednesday’s peculiar and ominous meetings with old acquaintances. We are as new to this as Shadow, enticed and confused by surreal cosmic experiences and hallucinations.
Every episode begins with a short story of a God or Goddess’ role within the history of human worship, written and narrated by Mr Ibis, the Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. These stories explore the physical and spiritual worlds, whether it is Jesus saving a drowning migrant or the aesthetically powerful story of Mr Jacquel, Anubis, weighing a kind women’s heart against a feather, to determine her fate in the afterlife of paradise or suffering.
These stories progressively intertwine within the show, fostering an attachment to the old gods. One of the game-changing features of the god mythology is the concept of the ‘new gods’ as well as ancient. The new god that is irresistible to mention is Mr World, aka The Thin Man off Charlie’s Angels, Crispin Glover. There isn’t any hair pulling, but his controlled psychotic presence brings another tier of threat new gods can offer. They seek modern channels of human worship in contemporary society, creating the question of who’s way will it be?
The super power possibilities in this world are endless as the gods are taken from all corners of the mythological earth. Co-existing Nordic, Slavic, Ancient Egyptian, Christian and Germanic God and Goddess’. As well as African Folklore, and Irish fairies (we can’t forget the Irish). The persistently sarcastic six-foot Leprechaun, Mad Sweeney, finds himself with a certain Revenant in crotch-threatening desperation for his lucky charm. The comically hating relationship between these two is what entertainingly moves sub-plot along. But what is also refreshing are the subtleties and humble living of the old gods. They aren’t arrogantly thrown in your face as the elite beings, as some die and some still live in a run-down apartment making ends meet.
By the season finale, American Gods gains strong traction, but it sits in the mid-ground between high quality television and a cult-following show, like Supernatural. Tacky aspects like the unrealistic cold and harsh lighting style, along with needed improvement in acting from key characters like Shadow Moon hold the show back, which may turn-away general viewers. But stick with it. It develops an intriguing approach to a new concept of gods with strong personalities, like Mr World and Mr Wednesday, and it’s only just the beginning. Mr. Wednesday wanted a war and now he has one. For now, the cat waits curiously until season two.