Neil Gaiman is a famous British fantasy and mystery author. Besides best-selling novels, he has also written many screenplays and comics. American Gods is one of his well-known works and was published in 2001. I was really happy when I heard the news that the network Starz made a TV series this year. The first season includes 8 episodes, a second season will be published next year. After binge-watching the first season, I am now able to make a verdict. Did Starz succeed with their book adaptation?
At first a broad overview of the story of American Gods. It follows Shadow Moon, an average guy who went into prison for robbing a casino. Some days before his official release, he finds out that his wife Laura died in a car accident. Broken and nowhere left to go, Shadow decides to become the bodyguard of a strange old man with the name Mr. Wednesday. Little does Shadow know that his employer is the Nordic God Odin and soon he is torn into a war between Old and New Gods. Together, they are on a road trip through America to recruit as many allies as possible and fight off attacks of the New Gods. In several flashbacks the background stories of Shadow, Laura and some of the Old Gods are explained. At some point in the first season, Laura will come back from the dead as a kind of zombie and tries to follow Shadow and Mr. Wednesday to become fully alive again.
American Gods is doing a lot of things well. What struck me the most was the underlining message of the described conflict between the Gods. The New Gods consist of the Goddess Media, representing television and news coverage, the young God Technical Boy, representing computers, smartphones and the internet and their leader Mr. World, representing globalization. Thus, the fight between the Gods can be seen as a struggle in current society between classic religious beliefs and the accomplishments of modern society, becoming a replacement of religion (just thing about the hype every new Apple product is receiving nowadays). The characters are portrayed superb. It is very easy to connect with the main character Shadow, the average guy who is torn in a conflict that is so much bigger than he can imagine. The Gods are portrayed accurate, for example Vulcan, the ancient Roman God of fire and metalworking, owns a small town where the citizens are producing munition in stuffy and dirty factories. The visuals are stunning, the camera settings and the CGI animations are spot on. The producers were definitely taking a page from movies like The Matrix or Inception.
But there are some negative points as well. Even after 8 episodes the viewer is still confused about many aspects of the main story. It doesn’t help that the last episode raises more questions than it answers and ends with a huge cliff-hanger. Even though I called the visuals stunning, the series is too gory and in some scenes really nauseating. The backstories of some characters were too widespread and sometimes rather boring. They easily distracted from the main story, which in my view was much more interesting. In future seasons, the focus should be more on the actual main story.
So, is the first season of American Gods worth watching? Absolutely, I would say. Right from the beginning, one is curious what will happen next. The characters are interesting and the visuals mesmerizing. Some rather boring character background stories and several scenes that are in my opinion too gory, break the immersion of the viewer. One should also keep in mind that the first season isn’t answering much of the introduced questions and ends with a serious cliff-hanger. So, the first season of American Gods is a successful appetizer which leaves viewers wanting more.
American Gods, online available on Amazon Video.