I don’t even know where to start.
I apologize if the following seems a little scatter-brained. I’ve had a hard time rounding up all my thoughts on this one, and this is coming from all angles. But what else is new?
There’s never been anything like this on television before. Visually, nothing compares to this, thematically, this is exceedingly timely, about the journey of immigrants, and emotionally, this is a shining light to make it through the next several weeks alive.
I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan. And American Gods is an intense novel. As much as I wish everyone would get a move on with Good Omens and Anansi Boys (and both are happening), this is the TV show we should have now at this exact moment. And Gaiman’s been involved with the show every step of the way, updating and adding things that will make the world of the show seem more real, more complete, and much larger than it did in the novel. Not that I didn’t totally believe the world in the novel. This is just some whipped cream and cherries for the viewers. And the fact that we sit by week after week as it unfolds, rather than getting it all at once in a binge, like you can with a Netflix show, is probably a good thing. You could easily OD on something as rich as American Gods.
It’s also an exercise in patience. I realized pretty quickly that, because the show was taking the time needed to tell the story right, it would take a little while to get to many characters and aspects that I was most looking forward to. Like Mr. Nancy. He’s my favorite. He wasn’t in the first episode and depending on the order they choose to roll out the characters and the story, I could see them really waiting to reveal him, building him up.
Watching this show is like witnessing a moving painting and bloodshed has never been so stylish. That’s one thing about American Gods. In order to really do it right, you need the space to do things that most TV shows just won’t let you do. The fact that Starz was the station to pick the show up was either really lucky or really well thought out or a combination of both. And they let them really go there with the gore, but the colors are so rich and deep that even a wave of blood is mesmerizing and oddly beautiful. The opening credits alone are a visual feast. And the accompanying music is perfect.
And we have to talk about THAT scene. There are a handful of books that have a scene you can simply refer to as just “THAT scene.” American Gods is certainly one of them. I knew it was going to be in the show, but I didn’t know how well it would work. They handled it SO well. One of the tricky things about American Gods in general is it’s terribly twisted and it’s got some truly unsettling moments. And it’s all spun together in such a way that it’s kind of funny too. What’s that? It makes you uncomfortable? That’s the whole point!
But if you don’t think that scene can be funny go on YouTube and look up the performance Neil Gaiman did of the scene starring Patton Oswalt as the businessman and Zelda Williams as Bilquis.
You see a lot of Bilquis in the first episode of the Starz series. Physically. As a woman, I’ve often watched scenes with female nudity and felt, what has become, a familiar squeamishness, where a woman’s body is meant to be a spectacle of sorts. I fucking hate that.
This scene doesn’t feel like that. For one thing, Bilquis is in no way exploited, manipulated, minimized, or belittled. She’s empowered. It’s extra fun to think about any male viewers not knowing what was coming, thinking they were getting a skin show, and then watching THAT scene. And the creators described the scene as quickly veering off into a horror movie for middle-aged white men, which I also find funny. So if you want to talk best and most memorable character introductions? That might just top your list. No one’s forgetting about Bilquis any time soon.
Oh, and the scene in the bar. It covers a lot of exposition and does so in a totally entertaining way. It seals Shadow’s role as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard, and it’s the introduction of Mad Sweeney, who was a lot of fun. He’s the world’s tallest leprechaun and his coin tricks are better than even the impressive Shadow. Because magic. And just the look of the bar! Where is that? I want to go there! Is it real? Basically, the entire bar area looks like it’s inside a crocodile’s mouth. With matching bar stools. And a cool old jukebox.
Part of the importance of this scene is that Shadow gets in a punch up with Mad Sweeney, and Mr. Wednesday can’t even be bothered to hide his glee. It says a lot about his character, and it’s just fun to watch him bask in mayhem.
The other scene I wanted to be sure to give a mention to was the one in the cemetery after Laura, Shadow’s wife’s, funeral. Shadow has an exchange with Audrey, whose husband died in the same car accident that killed Laura. Shadow and Audrey also discovered that their deceased spouses had been having an affair.
The emotion packed into the scene is amazing: the pain, the anger, the sadness, the frustration of both the death and the betrayal. And it all played out perfectly, partially due to Gaiman nixing a blowjob that occurred in the original draft of the script. Didn’t need it. We understood what they were feeling just by watching the scene play out. Audrey is frightening in her unpredictability in this scene, torn between so many emotions.
And there are a million things I just want to bring up:
I’d be remiss not to mention Technical Boy who needed an update since the novel was published and was perfect. I can’t wait to see where else they go with him.
The hanging tree/buffalo/bone orchard madness positively made my hair stand on end. Well done there. BELIEVE MOTHERF***ERS!
The conversation on the plane between Shadow and Mr. Wednesday was great. Especially the latter’s little speech about what was actually keeping the plane flying (try not to think of that next time you’re on a plane).
I slightly wonder if many people who are new to the American Gods universe aren’t left in a daze of confusion. If you haven’t read the book and don’t know the story, there’s a lot coming at you. Way more than you would expect from the average TV show (gee, I wonder why The Walking Dead popped into my head). But at its heart, this is meant to be a bit of a mystery and a bunch of a journey. AND OH MY GOD! I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT EPISODE! BRING ME MR. NANCY!