Thank Gods it’s Sunday.
That was my first thought when I realized the day had finally come for the premier of the Starz series American Gods. After getting to experience all the great fanfare of the series at SXSW this year and trying (and failing) to get into the screening of the first episode, I knew that April 30, 2017 could not come soon enough. That said, I am going to try my best to provide a spoiler-free review of the series adapted from Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed novel: American Gods.
I want to first start by discussing the visuals of the show. From the moment the show opens, we are provided with stunning, albeit gory, scenes. The way the entire show looks is reminiscent of the “Battle of the Bastards” episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Maybe even better, if that’s possible.
The visual appearance of this episode does a wonderful job of making the viewer feel incredibly immersed in everything that is happening. I’ll point to a few specific (non-spoilery) moments in the episode where this is the case. First, the seemingly unrelated story of a Viking ship making first contact with the New World. There is a battle in this scene meant to turn the tide of their misfortune in a misguided attempt to regain favor from the gods of their homeland. This fight scene reminded me a lot of the movie 300. I felt intrigued by what I was seeing and the typical nausea one might associate with gory fight scenes was replaced with a feeling of fascination.
Filters and colors also go a long way to convey moods and emotions in this show, which is something that is always wonderful to see. It allows a sort of sub-conscious response within the viewer that gives them a bit of a hint as to what the general mood of the scene. This is particularly noticeable in the iconic scene featuring the goddess Bilquis. I’ll stop here because there are not enough words to convey how visually and emotionally mind-boggling that scene was.
Now, for the casting.
I want to start by saying that the casting for each role in this series is spot-on. Ian McShane (Deadwood) is beyond brilliant as the iconic Mr. Wednesday. He appears to be made for the role, delivering the dialogue perfectly and in a way that leaves you wanting to hear more from him even if he’d just spent an entire scene talking.
SOURCE: Starz & Entertainment Weekly
Yetide Badaki absolutely bodied the role of Bilquis. Though she appears only in that absolutely iconic scene, I look forward to seeing how she will be weaved into the rest of the story as the show goes on.
Ricky Whittle (The 100) is also well cast. He has the physical intimidation as well as the inquisitiveness and quiet intelligence that his character, Shadow Moon, embodies. Perhaps one of the most surprising castings was that of Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) as the Irish self-proclaimed leprechaun Mad Sweeney. Having only been familiar with Schreiber as Pornstache from Orange is the New Black, I was not quite sure if I would like him in the role of Mad Sweeney, but he, like the rest of the actors in this series, showed extreme dedication to his role. His Irish accent came across surprisingly authentic and it was clear he was having a wonderful time in his role.
If the characters we’ve seen so far are any indication, this cast is shaping up to be one of the finest on television yet. Next week and future episodes are set to bring Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow) as the eccentric Mr. Nancy, Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Pompeii) as Laura Moon, Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Charlie’s Angels) as Mr. World, Gillian Anderson (X-Files, Hannibal, The Fall) as Media, and Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) as Easter.
In terms of plot, the show appears to be following rather closely to the book. American Gods is proof that book-to-television adaptations are more than possible and can be done in a way that still honors fans of the book and manages to bring originality not only to the way the story is told, but also to television as a whole. World building on the show happens at precisely the right pace and does not overplay or underwhelm. Much like the book, it reveals important aspects of the plot bit by bit, enough to pique your interest but not bore you at the same time. For all its weirdness, the plot of the show seems surprisingly believable. Although the ending of the episode was odd in terms of timing, I think it best that the premier was restricted to one hour rather than two as it allowed the viewer to really develop an interest in coming back to watch it.
All in all, I would rate American Gods as 10/10. The casting, dialogue, visuals, and plot are stunning and leave you wanting more. Upon finishing the pilot, I found myself asking if it could be Sunday again so I could watch the next episode. I look forward to seeing how the rest of this show unfolds and how these amazing and incredibly complex characters are brought to life.
American Gods is developed by Bryan Fuller & Michael Green, who also serve as executive producers, and based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, who also serves as an executive producer. You can catch American Gods on Sundays at 9/8c on Starz.