By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★☆☆

SPOILERS, obviously.

The first episode of American Gods does a decent job of introducing us to the extreme characters, and the extreme violence, of Neil Gaiman’s bestselling book. A memorable pilot that leaves us itching for more of this fascinating underworld of gods and monsters.

The long anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s bestseller American Gods has begun and for the most part, is quite similar to the book. Directed by David Slade (Hannibal, 30 Days of Night), American Gods has that southern dirty rock ‘n’ roll club vibe about it. It’s True Detective with more statues, booze, and neon lighting.

So, first episode ‘The Bone Orchard’ saw us get an introduction to ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), whose wife suddenly dies in a car accident… in a rather embarrassing situation involving a penis. After Shadow’s release from prison he meets Wednesday (Ian McShane), a cocky and mysterious hustler (and perhaps an old viking?) whom offers him some ‘work’. Shadow reluctantly accepts over a few drinks before he is challenged to a brutal fight by a ‘leprechaun’ acquaintance of Wednesday’s named Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber).

Speaking of brutal, they’ve spared no expense in the blood and gore department. From the graphic opening battle scene to the highway slaughter in the finale – there’s enough blood here to fill a semi-trailer. But the whole things is actually a pleasure to look at and suits the series. The blood is magical, floating – wild and vivid. It’s an art form.

One of the most surprising moments of the episode, and something that’s sure to put the series above its competitors, is its use of grotesque body horror. The way Goddess of Love Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) gradually swallows a man using her nether regions is in the book, but not many expected it to make it into the series. Albeit somewhat censored, it’s still there for most of the world to see. Amazing scene.

The dream sequences involving the bone tree and the bison-looking creature were also stunning and will obviously be revealed gradually as the series goes on, but probably one of the coolest scenes in this episode was the introduction to the ‘Technical Boy’ (Bruce Langley) with the limousine that suddenly unfolds into itself like a piece of IKEA furniture.

The only issue with this series is how loud and exaggerrated it might get. It’s not yet crossed over into absurdist or surrealist territory, and hopefully it doesn’t because we still need an element of realism that’s there in the book. It’s still set in the human world, after all. Sloppy and dramatic use of colour and distorted editing is what made the later seasons of American Horror Story terrible to watch, like it was trying too hard to be shocking. American Gods isn’t there yet, so let’s hope it keeps it at this level.

The performances at time seemed to be off as well. Ricky Whittle needs to prove that he has more than just a Holly Oaks soap opera face. Shadow is a damaged character and he needs to work on that.

Very much looking forward to the rest of this though, and can’t wait for the gods yet to come.

 

Photo: BWA Crew

 

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