I’ve heard a few people say they’re on the fence about watching Bryan Fuller’s new tv adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods, brought to us lucky mortals by Starz. The aim of my words here are to push you one way or the other. Warning: there will be blood (not actual blood, only really, really bloody SPOILERS, but still).
Many fans of the book are afraid to watch, worried that the adaptation can’t possibly live up to the source. ‘They’ll cut the wrong stuff and they won’t get the characters right, not the way they are in my head.’ Episode one down, and I’m here to tell you; it’s going to satisfy you. Obviously not every word and deed can be included but it seems a pretty solid match so far. Toward the end there’s an epic bar brawl between our hero Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mad Sweeny (Pablo Schreiber) where they decimate each other and destroy part of a gator-mouth-dominated bar. Look no further than Mr. Wednesday (expertly played by Ian McShane) casually enjoying their violence to perfectly exemplify the role in which he was cast. The performances throughout were nuanced, deep, and thoughtful. Whittle’s physical performance gives the audience incredible glimpses of Shadow’s inner struggle often without words, or even concrete action.
Another cause for hesitation is the fear that this show, like many other MA rated, high-end cable productions, will use rape to convey horror, character motivation, or heighten the suspense of the male protagonist’s storyline. Fuller don’t play that. He is against using rape scenes just to add drama, saying, “My role, as a showrunner, is to want to watch the show we’re creating. And if something feels exploitative or unnecessary, I’ll try to avoid it.” That being said, smack dab in episode one, a man just re-entering the dating scene (Joel Murray) agrees to have sex with Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) and does gets sucked into her vag, happily consumed whole. I think most of us would qualify that as a violent sex act, so perhaps Fuller intends to stick with the story as written on this subject.
Then there’s the old, ‘it looks too violent. Isn’t it going to be gory?’ dilemma. It is. One of the Gods’ coming to America origin tale is told here in the first episode. Vikings land on a shoreline and must plead with the Allfather to make wind for them to sail home. They end up fighting each other to please him (war God, don’t you know) and the resulting battle is absolutely horrific. A man’s arm is severed while holding a sword and flies through the air to land stabbed directly through his pal’s exposed throat. Truly fantastic pacing, cinematography, and effects during this scene, but if action/horror is not your thing, you might need a blanket to shield your eyes as needed.
More obstacles: ‘But I don’t have/can’t afford Starz.’ The app is just $9 a month. Wait a few weeks and it’ll only be a bit over $1 per episode. Well worth it. ‘I haven’t read the book yet!’ Go to the library. The novel by Neil Gaiman is wonderful and I highly recommend it.
With no other issues to address, I think it’s clear that American Gods should be your new favorite show. Now let the wait for next week’s episode begin.