From the minds that brought you ‘Hannibal’ the television series, comes this adaption of the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.
A friend was reading ‘American Gods’ last year and told me the premise, which I immediately fell in love with. It sounded epic and like a really interesting twist on Norse mythology. So I figured I’d give it a go. Admittedly, I only got round to reading it at the start of this year (I hurriedly bought a copy and read it in February, ready for this series to be released!)
So, the story follows Shadow Moon, a convict who is released a few days earlier than originally planned due to the death of his wife. Upon travelling home, he meets a stranger called Wednesday and having little else going for him, agrees to work for him. And thus an everyday man is brought into a secret war being waged between the old Gods of legend and the new incarnations of Gods (Media, Technology, etc.) A wholly original concept and from the writer of ‘Stardust’ it held real promise…
Now, I don’t want to say I was disappointed as such, but it just wasn’t quite as epic as I had expected. I thought I was going into a story with as much richness as The Lord of The Rings and the book isn’t like that at all. It had a very simple narrative style and a very fast moving plot. Enjoyable, very much so – just not what I expected! Let’s say I enjoyed it enough to warrant being a little nervous about how this show would turn out…
This will be a weekly blog, updated after the release of the latest episode. It will, as always be spoiler free, and just be reflection of my feelings on the adaption. So, I’ve just pressed play and am about to check it out – here goes!
Episode One: The Bone Orchard
Initial feelings are, not overly positive. There are several elements I’m not keen on right away. The overall style of the piece. It feels like it’s trying a bit too hard to look pretty. The story itself, although dealing with grander themes, is generally quite grounded. This feels as though it is going for a more epic feel.
Some of the visual ambition comes across a little cheap looking, namely Shadow’s visions. And the pace seems a little rushed to begin with due to the editing. However, this calms down as the episode goes on.
Ricky Whittle isn’t too bad as the lead, Shadow. He manages to safely smoulder and pout his way through most of the scenes with conviction. Until an awful cliff-side fully fledged, classic – arms outstretched tortured scream into the open sky…cheesy. But that’s the writing more than anything to do with what Whittle does. Ian McShane still has some convincing to do for me as Wednesday, Shadow’s mysterious new boss. I think he could potentially do an amazing job, but for me – the vibe just isn’t right with him yet. It is only the first instalment though.
The highlight of the episode for me was the fantastic Pablo Schreiber, who plays Mad Sweeney. What a presence this guy has. The way the character is written in the book, it would’ve been so easy to overplay this one, but he nails it! Can’t wait to see more of him. Unfortunately, three actors I really didn’t think did a good job…Jonathan Tucker who plays Shadows prison pal is just a little too much. Again only a few short scenes of him feature here, but it was enough to put me off. Bruce Langley as Technical Boy plays his character like a villain in a school play. No nuances, just very one dimensional and flat. Really didn’t like him. And equally, Betty Gilpin plays drunk like someone who has never been drunk before, would imagine being drunk is like…
I’m being very critical here, I realise. However, it’s not the worst show I’ve ever seen or even particularly bad as a whole. I just think they could have saved on some of the effects and invested in a stronger supporting cast. And, looking at both sides of the coin so to speak (if you know, you know!) an actor can only do so much with a bad script. So perhaps some of the dialogue doesn’t lend itself too well to the screen and thats why some of the acting seemed a little hammy.
All in all, as with the book – not what I expected. Having spoken to friends, it seems to be dividing audiences. A couple said they were unsure but will stick with it, another flat out hated it and another really enjoyed it. It’d be interesting to get some other points. What did you think??
One scene I really didn’t expect would make it to the show was the bilquis ‘worship’ scene. For anyone that doesn’t know – I won’t spoil it, but that scene was handled pretty well I thought. Fucking weird…and yet, strangely hot. But anyway, I’m going to stick with it and see how things progress. Until next week – feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!
Episode Two: The Secret of Spoons
So, the second episode goes a little way to giving me hope in the series. It kicks off with another flash back of a God’s crossing to America – this time Anansi, played by Orlando Jones. This weeks opening was more along the lines of what I wanted from the show. A very strong, emotional start and packs one hell of a punch!
So, the main bulk of this episode is Wednesday and Shadow en route to get his hammer and recruit Czernobog to his cause. Along the way we meet another of the new Gods, in the form of ‘Media’ as she introduces herself to Shadow. Czernobog, played by Peter Stormare, was my most anticipated character. I’m not 100% sold on him yet, which is a shame, given that I love him in the book and love the actor. Again, willing to give it time.
One person who I think has been massively miscast still is Ian McShane. Usually quite a naturally charismatic actor on screen, he seems to have lost it all when it would’ve come in handy here. His attempt at charm seems forced and there is nothing Godly about him. Even in the book, whilst there isn’t anything exactly Godly about the things he does…there is just an air of importance in the way Gaiman describes him and his demeanour. Something McShane has yet to grasp.
A fairly slow episode for the most part, and I have a feeling that I know which point series one will conclude. In fact, I can probably guess how series 2 will unfold almost in its entirety before going into a third and possibly, final season (at least in my eyes, the third should be the final series in regards to the books story…it doesn’t need to be dragged out beyond that realistically.)
One friend has stopped watching and asked me to let them know if they should pick it up again at any point and another is completely in love with it after this episode (having not read the book.) Aside from the opening, it all just seems very much about the visuals. There doesn’t seem to be much substance, which is a shame – this could have been something incredibly, incredibly special.