The Link-Up Spell: The mythical war is served on the American Gods first season
From Old to New, American Gods is a new bet for the rampant new-school of the fantasy genre on TV. It is good? It is bad? Let’s find out!
There has been a good amount of cool fantasy and sci-fi related TV series since the last couple of years, probably in detriment of the mainstream breakthrough of the HBO mega hit, Game of Thrones, and while a lot of them are inclined to the action side with bombastic explosive elements, there are some works that take more literacy and finesse in the script to deliver different experiences to the viewer instead of relying only on special effects or cheap hooks.
While we are onto this topic, let me recommend you today American Gods, a dark fantasy TV rendition of the Neil Gaiman’s (famed for his Sandman graphic novel) critically acclaimed novella of the same name, who also serves as the executive producer for the tiny screen version.
Filmed with a precise and keen eye for details, the first season of this show is concise, evocative and stuffed with multiple narratives without deriving the main storyline of the show. Narrated from different character point of views, the series is a master class on how to construct a story that both entertain and deliver messages from the author’s mind.
The protagonist is a guy with the coolest name of the bunch, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a soon-to-be ex-convict that will return home after spending years in prison. Moon is informed by the cellars that his wife, Laura (Emile Browning) died in a car crash. In the travel back to her funeral, he meets a mischievous old man that meanders by the nickname “Mr. Wednesday” (Ian McShane) and ask him to become his personal bodyguard. At the first time, the ex-prisoner does not agree to work for the mysterious elder, but he finally makes the contract.
So it becomes the journey of Shadow Moon with Wednesday, which will come with the unraveling of a large-scale war between two sides: the Old Gods and the New Gods for the control of the humankind preaching.
The fantasy element of this argument is deeply entwined with the Gaiman’s intention. The author employs the Gods powers and state on a modern setting to point numerous descriptions and critiques towards the current society ways of life.
For example, one of the first deities Moon and Wednesday visits is the Dark God Czernobog (Peter Stormare), which is now an old eastern European guy enraged towards everything for the change on the cattle death. On his prime, the Slavic being was renowned for making the best craft on killing cows, and now he is surpassed by the cleaner captive bolt pistol method. While this may be a somewhat comical anecdote, the speech of Czernobog is way more complex and intuitive. The manual labor was humane and an art itself, but the current times needs fast automatization to cover the will of the free market in order to supply the high demands of humankind.
Following this example, I must say this is the motif of the series, several deities and mythical figures representations will surprise the spectators for their original reimagining’s on the actual globalized world. Islamic Jinns can be immigrant taxi drivers, African goddesses can be prostitutes and Egyptians Gods works at funerary locals. Gaiman’s setting is very convincible and the TV series nails this providing the American locations the way he wanted to make American Gods not only a solid representation of his books imaginary, but also a great TV series for the newcomers of his post-modern reinterpretation of the world’s pantheons and religions. Race, gender, beliefs, they are constantly depicted and confronted on each episodes without vanity and always respectful to each one.I felt acting is spectacular and the reactions of the mundane towards the divine is adequate in every scene. Characters grasp or get terrorized the first time they encounter the supernatural and that gives it a good dimension to the episodes, since the writers took patience to build every person in the story. The narrative resolutions and mysterious are all ahead if you have not read the books, which is fine for those blind seekers, and, to finalize my opinion on this aspect: Ian McShane, Emile Browning and Gillian Anderson (as the New God Media) deserves the kudos in this remarkable cast, these three handles the constant twists on their characters journey and dominate the screen with their particular styles.
Talking about the so-called New Gods, I am doing the impossible to not talk too much about them to not spoil some surprises, but their depicting is part of the whole critics of Neil Gaiman towards the status quo of modern society. Media, technology and globalization sends faceless henchmen to do their nasty work and dominates the decadent Old Gods for the favor of mankind in the conflict. The “heroes” in this story battles a fearsome entity, which gained the devotion of the humanity and power from their preaching towards selfishness and individuality.
The show runners, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, did not fear nudity and blood in the series; even when they are abundant in some episodes it is not a distracting element on the whole package. Music-wise, the Americana soundtrack reinforces the urban and rural settlements used for the scenes, which were carefully selected by Gaiman to portray a sense of “realism” on his work. The complete the technical aspects, special effects are solid and entertaining, even with some budgetary constraints, same with wardrobes and the past-times sceneries. The whole series is filmed with high definition, which secures the quality of the whole season.
Otherwise, the continuous use of flashbacks is the only aspect that slows the narrative of the whole scene. This negative trait can be the Achilles’ heel of American Gods and those adventurers towards this gritty series should be warned that this can interrupt from time to time the development of the story.
I did whatever I could to not doing circles on the plot for the sake of you, my fellow reader. American Gods can be certainly slow in the middle act, but the setting and the characters are so well-put that I know every fantasy themed media seeker will encounter at least one thing it will love from it. On the other hand, those who are more akin to dramatic products will enjoy the tragedies and the subtle critic of Neil Gaiman’s style.
I am know mostly interested to follow Shadow Moon’s and Mr. Wednesday journey on the next season, and also, to check Gaiman’s prose in the books. Since I hope some of you catch this, I will tag this TV series as “Super recommended”!
Are you intrigued now? Or did you already watch this rec? Shoot out your comments, opinions and thoughts about American Gods and let’s discuss it together!
The Link-Up Spell is a weekly Toilet ov Hell column about music, movies, books, retro video games and guaranteed Elfic nonsense. If you want to contact the author to send your material, mail us at toiletovhell [at] gmail.com with the subject “The Link-Up Spell” or message him on social media.