The big event of the last few weeks for genre fans everywhere was undoubtedly the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2. I was so eager to see this damn movie that the first thing I did after being discharged from a 4 day hospital visit for pneumonia, was run to the movie theatre to see Guardians 2. The first Guardians film was lightening in a bottle. One of those rare cinematic experiences that’s impossible to recreate. It was an instant classic.
Though Guardians 2 can’t quite reach the dizzying heights of its predecessor it’s a richer and more mature film. I have a lot more I could say about Guardians 2, but the short answer is I absolutely loved it. Also, I doubt anything I have to say would be all that different from a million other blogs and websites. So, I decided to take the opportunity to spotlight another excellent new piece of genre entertainment that isn’t getting quite as much coverage as it deserves: American Gods, the new Starz series that premiered a few weeks ago.
To borrow an overused phrase, we are living in the golden age of television. I feel we have officially reached the point where television has caught up to and in many ways surpassed feature films. When I looked back at 2016, all of my favorite on screen moments came from television. I would put Game of Thrones and Westworld against the best films of the year in terms of both spectacle and dramatic storytelling. Marvel is doing some of it’s best work in any medium on Netflix with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. What started with Arrow on The CW gave birth to a full blown DC cinematic universe that’s a lot more fun and thrilling than the films DCEU has on the big screen. FX knocked it out of the park with Legion, a comic book show that’s unlike anything on TV. And those are just a few of my favorites. Stranger Things, Fargo, House of Cards, there’s a wealth of great content from every genre. In my opinion, Starz has produced another fantastic must see show with American Gods.
American Gods is based on the acclaimed novel by the legendary Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is an award winning fantasy novelist and comic book writer, arguably most well known for being the creator of the groundbreaking comic book series, The Sandman. Neil Gaiman has been one of my favorite writers for years. Regardless of the subject matter, anytime Gaiman has a new book out, I can’t wait to read it.
American Gods is one of my favorite books and when Starz announced it was adapting the novel as a TV series, I was cautiously optimistic. I’m happy to say that so far, American Gods has exceeded my expectations.
American Gods is the story of a man named Shadow Moon played by Ricky Whittle, who just a few days before being released from prison, is told he’s getting out early because his wife has died. As an added kick in the nuts, not only did his wife die, she died in a car accident while performing oral sex on Shadow’s best friend who also died in the car wreck. With his world completely shattered, Shadow heads home to take care of his affairs. While on his flight home, he meets a charming and enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday, played by the great Ian McShane. Wednesday seems to know way more about Shadow than he should and wants to offer him a job. Wednesday has a road trip planned to recruit some of his old friends for a mysterious mission and he wants Shadow to be his right hand man on the trip. Shadow knows that there’s something extremely shady about this guy, but he’s so lost at that moment he accepts the job against his better judgement. From there, Wednesday drags Shadow into a surreal conflict between old gods and the powerful new gods who’ve replaced them. Gods survive and thrive on human worship and not many people are worshiping Anubis or Odin these days. Media, Technology, Firearms, these are some the new American gods and they have no interest in sharing the world with the old gods.
Shadow is tough role to cast. He’s a blank slate in some ways and with the wrong actor in the part it probably wouldn’t work. Fortunately Ricky Whittle is perfect as Shadow. He manages to make Shadow likable, sympathetic, and intelligent, which makes you end up rooting for him to make it through this insane journey in one piece. Ian McShane is one of our greatest living actors and it’s very fun to watch him play Mr. Wednesday. You know the guy is probably a piece of shit, but you really like him anyway. You can definitely see how a sharp guy like Shadow could get involved with this guy even though it’s most likely a really, really bad idea. The supporting roles are filled by fantastic actors like Peter Stormare, Crispin Glover, Cloris Leachman, Orlando Jones, and Gillian Anderson.
One of the very cool ideas the show plays with, is power of human belief. As the new god Media played by Gillian Anderson says, millions of people worship her for hours every day, staring at televisions, smartphones, and tablets. To Media, in the 21st-century, attention is a more valuable form of worship than blood sacrifice.
The things we put our faith in only have the power and meaning that we allow them to have. Whether it’s an old god like Anansi or a new god like the Technical Boy, the god of technology, their power stems from the importance we give them. Which begs the question do we have faith in something that’s already there or is it our faith and belief that allows them to exist? It’s unique and fascinating idea.
In addition to the original American Gods novel, Neil Gaiman has written a quasi-sequel called Anansi Boys, as well as several short stories that take place in and feature characters from the American Gods universe (all of which I highly recommend you read). So there’s a wealth of material for the show to draw from and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here… Oh, and a guy has anal sex with a genie cab driver with one of the biggest dicks I’ve ever seen. That’s got to be worth the price of admission alone, right?
Only 3 episodes into the 8 episode first season and I’m hooked (you can watch all of the episodes that have aired so far on demand or on the Starz app on any device). The cast is incredible and the look of the show is beautiful and different. Trust me, give this spectacular show a shot. American Gods airs Sunday nights on Starz.
Thanks for reading everyone!