Book adaptions are a dime a dozen these days, whether it be as a series or a film, and I think it’s safe to say there have been some proper stinkers out there. So with that in mind, you can imagine my caution going into an adaption of (probably) my favourite piece of literature.
American Gods takes the premise of “What if all the Gods were real and are wandering the Earth?” More specifically, it examined what happens when you take your Gods somewhere, then leave. We follow ex-con Shadow Moon as he travels across America with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.
Well, after watching the pilot, I can hand on heart say that it not only met, but actually surpassed my expectations of what I hoped Starz could do with Neil Gaiman’s iconic novel.
Honestly, from the cold open of Vikings landing on Vinland up to the last few seconds, I was absolutely hooked.
Following the story almost to a T, the changes are very subtle and, to be honest, actually make for better television. The dream world perhaps seems a little over the top compared to how I envisioned it, as is the Buffalo, however these changes are ultimately superficial and have no real impact on the overall flow of the story.
The real highlight of the episode is in the casting and characterisation, with Ian McShane providing to be nothing short of perfect in the role of Wednesday, with tiny nuances added that make you warm to him instantly as he manages to almost let the character take over. I probably should have known that an actor of McShane’s caliber would nail the role, but I had no idea he would have been this perfect!
No spoilers here, but the scenes featuring Bilquis and the Technical Kid were not only perfect replications of the book, but somehow managed to add to them in the processe. The “somewhere in America” introduction was a stroke of genius too.
To speak of the negatives for a moment, I do think the visceral nature of the violence was a little excessive. While it was certainly expected after seeing the direction that the likes of Vikings and Ash have gone with it in the past, I do think it was a little unnecessary for American Gods. Perhaps it was included for shock value, or to make the series seem more ‘adult’, maybe? There were also a few tonal shifts that felt unnecessary, however I understand it may have been to make better TV.
Overall I had a smile on my face almost from start to finish. This is a near-perfect interpretation of a near-perfect text. If you weren’t a fan before or are new to the series, the mix of fantasy and reality, new Gods and old, will have you hooked by the end of the first episode.
The first episode of American Gods (“The Bone Orchard”) airs on April 30th on Starz and Amazon Prime.