Starz delivers a powerful and politically relevant adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic novel ‘American Gods,’ starring Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane.
Early reviews of Starz’s American Gods championed the new adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel as one of the most relevant shows on television. The praise evolved to the point where Gaiman himself joked that he wouldn’t mind trading in the rave reviews just to bring a little sanity to the world. I’m not sure anyone is completely ready to dissect current America, but the first mainstream adaptation of American Gods offers such a compelling interpretation of what is happening throughout every pocket of the United States that you can’t help but follow along.
To put it simply American Gods explores the idea that every person on earth believes in something and those belief systems create power whether we admit to believe in something or not. This means that history’s trust in a higher power has led to conjurings of Norse gods to folk lore super beings as well as our current necessity in technology and media. What this leaves open for interpretations in future seasons is whether or not Carol Aird is walking hand in hand with Therese Belivet as they bask in the glory of the first true queer Oscar statuette.
We’re introduced to an America littered with fading gods and deities through the protagonist Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a convict released days early from prison only to find that his wife and best friend have died in a car crash mid fellatio. Travelling home to say his final goodbyes, he repeatedly encounters a deceptively charming con man by the name of Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). Persistent in his endeavors to hire Shadow Moon as his bodyguard, Mr.Wednesday gradually reveals he is more than a con man.
Also, there might be more to the world than what Shadow Moon already knows. In fact, Mr. Wednesday is none other than a modern incarnation of the Norse god Odin. It goes without saying that Ian McShane elevates any material he lends his talent to and the dubiously charming interpretation of the Norse god takes the reigns from the pedestrian Shadow Moon and transforms the portrayal into the story to which Americans need to pay attention.
In the end it’s not that important for Shadow Moon to excite audiences. In fact, if he were any different, he might risk becoming a distraction. Instead, we’re able to focus on the other fading deities scattered across America. Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), a modern interpretation of the Queen of Sheba, an elusive beauty that swallows up unsuspecting men mid-Tinder hookup. Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) is a self-described Leprechaun with a belligerent tendency for violence. Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), in a creative departure from the book, is the worst stereotype of an unhinged vaping millennial.
In future episodes actors like Kristen Chenoweth, Gillian Anderson, Orlando Jones, and Cloris Leachman all make appearances as the higher powers across the country. We are slowly introduced to these modern gods in their own time with the obvious promise that through a road trip across a new Americana that all of they will all eventually cross paths and either unite or clash in a desperate attempt for relevancy and power.
Producers Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) and Michael Green (Heroes) know how to entice cult audiences with fan favorite shows. American Gods shows the potential to be the first must-see significant piece of television to come out of Starz (sorry Outlander). In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the early days of True Blood – an exciting new world-building fantasy that uses a Southern Gothic backdrop to mystify audiences while also playing with a greater social conscience. Fingers crossed that, in the long run, American Gods doesn’t stray from the America they are setting up to dissect.
American Gods premieres Sunday night on Starz at 9pm ET.