When I first heard that not only was American Gods (my favorite novel and one of my major inspirations as a writer) getting a television series, but that it was also being developed by Bryan Fuller (of Hannibal and Dead Like Me fame), I was ecstatic. By the time the series aired earlier this year, I had read the book several times: at first, a weathered, paperback with the now infamous and iconic lightning-strike image, then the full cast audiobook of the tenth anniversary edition, which I now hold as a staple for any long roadtrip.
I’ve never read any other book quite like American Gods, and at this point I think I will be hard-pressed to watch another show like it, either. Its magical, mystical quality is only enhanced by the unique vision Fuller brings to it, and the showrunners stick close to the source material without feeling like it’s a word-for-word adaptation. In fact, I appreciated some of the liberties taken, including broadening the character of Easter (played by sunshine itself, Kristin Chenoweth) and the introduction of the Vulcan, god of fire and king of the gun craze (an episode that seems to play well into the paradigm of American Gods while still making its political message very clear).
Speaking of the star-studded cast, I can’t praise the show enough for its choices, which include Ricky Whittle as a perfect vision of Shadow Moon (whose description was always nebulous in the book in a very ‘expect the everyman’ kind of way), Ian McShane as the quick-witted Wednesday, and Pablo Schreiber, who replaces his ‘porn-stache’ from Orange is the New Black for flaming red hair, an Irish accent, and some coin tricks. Even some of the smaller roles are gold: Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare, even Dane Cook (don’t worry — just long enough for you to worry).
But by far, the actress who steals the show is Gillian Anderson in the role of Media, the new god of television who acts as the public face of her coterie. Anderson beautifully takes on every face she puts on, including Lucy Ricardo, David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, dominating every scenes she’s in.
The thing about American Gods – both as a book and as a television show – is that viewers have to be willing to enjoy the build-up and detail that goes into every scene, every episode, every chapter. If you’re expecting a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat story, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you want a piece of art that has details in every scene, on every page, and where the dialogue is so fantastically crafted that you’ll find yourself tasting every word, you will definitely be joining those of us who are hungry for the next season.
The overarching theme of the first season is Shadow’s utter inability to grasp that he is involved in something that is greater than himself and his entire world, and that is something the audience gets intimately connected to. Because you’re not going to get a full explanation of everything. Not yet.
But if you believe, and stick it out (even through the at-times surreal, fantastical sex scenes — just get ready, trust me on this), you’re in for a real treat with this series.