American Gods Episodes 1-2 Review
American Gods is an incredible adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel of the same title.
From page to screen the characters are fittingly cast and the lines delivered in a seamless manner.
The enigmatic Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) is fascinating. Watching his micro expressions and gestures, he is impossible in his appearances and confoundingly elusive in his motivations. A masterful and actively wise man that both resonates with his novel self and his on-screen self.
Shadow (Ricky Whittle) is everything the first few pages of the book entertains, a man going through extreme soundless grief. His heavy opening of his door from prison to suburb to the unopened letters blocking the smoothness of his homecoming. His expression is every bit loving for his dead wife Laura (Emily Browning) and his integrity so important to the story as he declines the spite his fellow widowed friend Audrey(Betty Gilpin) suggests they do.
The first two episodes lead the viewer from scene to quaint scene from an American prison to the tiny town of nearly derelict motels and gas stations and then to the open road. The dandelions are blown into the wind by Mr. Wednesday transition the viewer quickly from one leg of the journey to the next. The meticulous workings of Czernobog's(Peter Stormare) day job opening the second episode to the stern but the grandmotherly hospitality of the Zorya Vechernyaya(Cloris Leachman) and her sisters. There is love in every teacup, every fortune and word for Shadow. There are foreshadowing and setup.
The meetings that the colourful cast has from the powerful insatiable Goddess Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) devouring in every sense of the word her prey (as they pray) and to the VR power-hungry Internet deity (Bruce Langley) show how jarring and surreal America or our ideas of it are in actuality. How ought the old and new co-exist and get along? They don't. The violence meted out is awful and terrible, yet accurate to the novel. But hands down Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) is everything one crying out in anguish would want to heed their calling upon the endless colonial tides. Every bit of that suffering, every bit of that conflicted past that is both tragic and awe-inspiring, that is America. And every Viking hacking their posts into the Earth calling forth for their one-eyed All-Father is as much a part of America as it is this show and novel. The burning anger of immigrants and their creative passions and great love is a duality that is faced and well thought out in execution.
And if viewers pay close attention, Mr. Wednesday's many friends call him many names, and familiar or not Mr. Wednesday is every bit Wotan as he is named. Every raven flying overhead to indicate time passing is another hint that the world is still moving despite Shadow's grief. Pay attention to every alias, every hint because it will be worth it. Whether it be the Leprechaun Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), Low Key Lyesmith (Jonathan Tucker) the prison inmate, or even Shadow himself, each alias is hauntingly hints of which Gods or Goddesses Shadow is facing. Read them aloud and hear them aloud to distinguish one from the next. Watch every coin flip and toss through impossibility to reality.
Those dreamscapes and flashbacks Shadow has of his dearly departed wife continuously haunt Shadow and the need to keep in memory that she is both terrible and beautiful is just as conflicting as the novel. The actors and actresses have made it clear that this world, whatever it is, it is just the surface of a greater whole.