American Gods: Why Neil Gaiman’s strange world makes must-see TV
American Gods, the extraordinarily successful Neil Gaiman novel, has been deemed unfilmable. Starz stood up to the challenge and have created an eight-episode adaption. Is it any good? Film Daily thinks so.
Let’s get something straight: we love Neil Gaiman. Literary god Stephen King (author of The Shining and It) called him “a treasure trove of story”. His body of work is huge, and we really admire his forward-thinking attitude. So you can imagine our delight when the screener episodes for American Gods landed in our inbox last week.
Helmed by showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green (Hannibal and Logan, respectively) the show hits hard from from the get-go, illustrating an epic American journey. American Gods follows the story of Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle in what looks set to be a career-defining role), an ex-con serving time for a scam gone wrong who learns he’s going to be let out early. But all is not quite as it seems in the mythical world of American Gods. Shadow’s wife (Emily Browning) has died in a car crash and the reason he’s being let out of prison is to attend the funeral.
As he travels home, Shadow meets the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, portrayed by Ian McShane – nothing short of picture-perfect casting. (Has the incredible McShane ever been miscast?) Mr. Wednesday’s voice beckons us to listen and take in every word, leaving the audience delighted and fearful at the same time. If this performance doesn’t send chills down your spine, we’re not sure what will.
One scene that left us thinking foregrounded Yetide Badaki as Bilquis, goddess of the old world. Initially portrayed as a shy and fragile woman, we soon find out she is anything but that – when she swallows a man whole inside her vagina. Yes – literally. Bathed in blood, this beautifully shot yet horrific scene is a highlight of the show. As we see the goddess’ poor hopeless victim beg and worship at her body like an altar, we can’t help but feel this scene to be symbolic of everything American Gods is trying to say. We fall headlong into Gaiman’s world of pure fantasy, victims to his captivating narrative.
Filled with decadence and debauchery, American Gods invites us to enter another world, hooking us straight from the opening titles. What gives this show the potential to be a huge hit for Starz is the fact there is nothing else quite like it on TV. We were left dazed and sated, yet begging for more.