Neil Gaiman is a critically acclaimed award-winning writer who started his career with comic books – notably on the fan favourite Sandman – and novels (viz. American Gods, Coraline, Stardust and The Graveyard Book).
A STARZ TV adaptation of American Gods – Gaiman’s first and perhaps best-known novel – closed its first 8-episode season recently and we thought it would be appropriate to provide our concise assessment of the merits of the series.
Created by showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, the duo have described the adaptation as their fan fiction version of the novel. Certainly, fans of the novel will quibble over the numerous changes made, inevitably.
However, what does remain is what made Americans Gods interesting to begin with – its revisionist agenda, a tack borrowed from Gaiman’s mentor Alan Moore, who’s writing on comic books like Swamp Thing, Miracleman and Watchmen were ground-breaking work.
Thus, the premise of the old gods being the personification of archaic deities brought to America by various immigrants from their respective homelands being supplanted by the new gods of media, technology and the modern world is an irresistible one.
Depending on your perspective, the ponderous narrative pace of the series might be received with awe or frustration as the focus on plot is light and instead emphasises on flashbacks and origin vignettes of the various characters.
This is fine if that’s what one is looking for in this series but if you are looking for a story line, well then, you are going to be annoyed. And thus, at the end of season one, you are going to be either mightily impressed or massively disappointed.
We stand somewhat on the fence on this. Once one accepts that that is the purpose of season one i.e. to introduce viewers to the various gods rather than tell the main story, this first instalment of the series takes on a different tone. Presumably then, more will actually happen in season two. (Note: Showrunners have confirmed that season one covers about one third of the novel, with many variations, of course).
The performances are uniformly superb from Ian McShane (Mr. Wednesday), Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon), Emily Browning (Laura Moon), Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney) et al, even if the characters are not given the real time to develop but remembering the mission of season one and it all falls into place.
What does definitely work are the characterisations of the various gods themselves as it provides an intriguing social and historical study of religious habits in our modern culture. The idea that the new gods i.e. Media (Gillian Anderson), Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) and Mr. World (Crispin Glover) hold sway over the old forgotten ones is fascinating. Thus, the question is – what will the old gods do in order to change this new world order?
That, of course, we will find out next season.
… still there’s more …