TV Review: American Gods S1E1 The Bone Orchard
Neil Gaiman‘s long awaited adaptation of his novel American Gods has finally hit the small screen. As a fan of the book I can attest that the opening episode was very faithful to the book and I am excited to see the rest of the season. Without giving too much away, American Gods is a story about the globalized confrontation of new and older Gods, played out by virtue of American Immigration from a myriad of cultures. The main protagonist Shadow Moon gets sucked into the ensuing conflict, facing a number of surprises along the journey after being released from prison and finding himself in the employ of the Mysterious Wednesday.
After the first episode, I really must make a note to commend the choice of casting. The actor and actresses chosen to depict their characters do so flawlessly, carrying their authenticity and voice without a hitch. The taciturn Shadow Moon, is deep and complex, and very brooding, while Wednesday, shows off his knack for charm, and divine metaphor but without giving up too much about his plans and designs at the beginning.
As first impressions go you’ll find an interesting parallel between the current economic climate that we all face, and the what appears to be the current state of the divinities introduced in episode one. The Gods or otherworldly entities featured are Bilquis, Mad Sweeney, and Wednesday. (Odin for those who needed the hint) they come off as vagabonds, or vagrants at worst. Mere shadows of their former selves. As Bilquis admits to a man who solicits her “I’m not what I once was.” interestingly she is initially demure and shocked by his affections…a disposition in stark contrast to her confidence after “consuming” him. Here we have deities seemingly sustained by very different types of worship. (Sex, fisticuffs, and eye-gouging) But like our current marketplace the quest for hearts and minds (and worship) is a fickle one. There is that pesky reality of competitors. Near the end, we are hinted at an emerging conflict between the old and new guard. When the mystical “Technical Boy” kidnaps and queries Shadow about his mysterious new Liaison. Although this young upstarts denigrates and belittles the old Wednesday, and threatens to “delete” Shadow for his stubbornness, his bluster belies his fear, which is warranted given a very bloody intervention that saves Shadow. The likes of which was portrayed in a scene that has not rattled me since that Blood-flood elevator scene in The Shining.
To say American Gods is cinematically vivid as it is alluring and mysterious is an understatement. Shadow’s dream sequences anchor his mysterious ties this weird world he has found him in. The sequences are also very faithful to the descriptions in the book. Something that I always appreciate. It feels like a modern or futuristic homage to Alice in Wonderland. On a whole, American Gods is a story about survival. Survival and confrontation in an uncertain land told through a supernatural and mythic frame. Something we can all relate to on some level. If you find the tides of favor have shifted against you in any aspect of life, Bilquis’ words should resonate with you. If you find yourself questioning the value of that liberal arts degree, in a bloated employment marketplace then you understand the plight of the “old guard.” If you’ve been scorned because your age and lack of so called “experience” have eclipsed the genuine merit of your innovation and ambition then technical boy’s reaction will make perfect sense to you.
Fans of Americana served with a slice of mythopunk, definitely check the series out you won’t be disappointed, whether you read the book or didn’t. This series is a solid offering people will be discussing and debating for some time. The story is an intergenerational and intercultural morality play that is faithfully depicted. I cannot wait for episode two. The characters are ironically so human but the same time, the story told provides a subtle emphasis on the power and consequence of human belief, worship and attention.
Final Thoughts: The opening scene I believe was an addition to the series not included in the book. It anchors one of cultural mythological roots of one of the main deities and it was a very awesome scene, very Game of Thrones-esque. It also anchors the sub-theme of immigration and encounter among Gods and ideas.