Starz’s American Gods: 2017’s Doomsday Painting

Like the rest of the human race, you and I included, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is a man with baggage, with a past he’d rather leave behind. Now he wants to live a life of contentment, with his wife and keep his head down, up until he finds out she’s been killed in a car accident. Flying home for the funeral, he meets a strange man on the plane who calls himself Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane), and he knows more about Shadow than anyone ought to, which is quite odd. Wednesday warns his flying companion that there’s a storm coming, a storm that will impact both of them long after they touchdown in their desired destination. And nothing will be the same again.

I’ve not read the source material, but everyone I know who has says that the TV show is a good adaptation of Gaiman’s original novel. Being the home of Outlander and Black Sails, Starz is certainly in my top five television networks at the moment. And American Gods only reinforces my love for this low-key network. They have some of the biggest budgets on television, yet they’re still not universally known like Netflix and HBO. And you can tell that Starz have dished out some of the big money for the effects. HBO, watch out! When I saw the trailer for the show after being released at San Diego Comic-Con 2016, I knew this was going to be great and I was not disappointed at all.

Ricky Whittle and Emily Browning: Shadow Moon has a Masters and PhD in how to steal your girl
(American Gods, Starz)

From the get go, I had the feeling I was on a David Lynch acid trip, like I was living inside one of his episodes of Twin Peaks. Was Agent Cooper about to give me a lecture about his perfect cup of coffee? And then we’re at a motel or a diner which felt very Alfred Hitchcock. Was I about to be brutally killed by Norman Bates or Ed Gein? The show might be all over the place to start, but that’s due to Shadow being all over the place. He’s just been sprung from jail and doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. We see things from his perspective and not everything is going to be coherent and easy to follow. His wife’s dead and he’s met an odd man on a plane. Would you be thinking rationally?

American Gods is a slow burn for the first couple of episodes or so. Yet, if you don’t know what’s happening from the start, that doesn’t make the show bad. They called Hitchcock The Master of Suspense and I guess the creators and writers have done a good job in mirroring that. What’s more, this is not ABC or the CW, you don’t need to be spoonfed storylines. You must work for your supper and not have everything dished up on a silver platter. With executive producer Neil Gaiman (wrote the novel) and created by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan), I knew we were in for a ride. When the author is on deck as well, only good things would ever come of this.

When Moon (Whittle) met Wednesday (McShane): “today is my day” says Shane on the plane
(American Gods, Starz)

American Gods is an honest reflection of our world and how the concept of religion/belief is arguably changing. Once upon a time, populations worshipped one god, which they still do, but people have found more things to pledge the faith in. Media, government, money, technology and other things. Money is a religion in itself. People do crazy things for it. Faith in money is a faith in corporations and that faith keeps people wanting. Faith in the latest iPhone, faith in evasive politicians, faith in the media and their propaganda techniques to keep everyone subjugated. American Gods talks about faith, a word that has more connotations than just organised religion.

I’ve been spoilt rotten this year. Again, television is one hundred miles ahead of film these days. And the production value of this show follows the tradition of many of the Netflix dramas, Game of Thrones and their like, in the fact that it’s better than most films. The sheer scale of American Gods rivals Game of Thrones. When the HBO series finally finishes in in the next few years, I feel American Gods will likely fill that vacancy. Starz doesn’t get as much as love as others. When you’ve got HBO and Netflix ruling from King’s Landing, everyone forgets about Starz Beyond The Wall. Proven with four seasons of Black Sails and two season Outlander, they can compete.

Biliquis (Yetide Badaki): the photography in this series is only matched by things like Netflix’s The Crown
(American Gods, Starz)

From the acting performances to the cinematography to its views on how the West steals things (like Christmas / Easter) to the musical score, American Gods has it all. In the beginning, I wasn’t a fan of the intro but it grew on me with each episode and now I really like it. Bring on season two.

When you look at Tolkien, GRRM or JK, you see that fantasy is often more real than not; and AG is more than a brawl between the Old Gods and the New