American Gods- Season I – Ep. 1 “Bone Orchard”: A Review

Posted: 05/03/2017 in Uncategorized

American-Gods-Poster-Featured-03272017.jpgWell. This was something completely different. Having read the book, I did not expect the series to match the written work frame by frame. Amazingly in several instances they did to visual glory and disturbing effect. I am not sure if I am sold on the show as yet after one episode but I am certainly engaged enough to continue. With a brief 8 episode run via the STARZ network, I am of the opinion that a lot will get done in this time frame. My shaky opening offered, on to my review.

Let’s begin with the casting. Via the two main players, Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday, there can be no complaint. I would go so far as to say both are perfect. Ian MacShane, as always, dazzles as a bizarre con man who is clearly so much more. Ricky Whittle’s Shadow Moon delivers with gusto, presenting a character with intelligence, empathy and strength. Five minutes in, if you do not empathize with his plight, you are made of stone. With each nasty revelation, the viewer’s sympathy grows. From convict to employee of Wednesday, the concept of freedom for Shadow remains elusive. With the introduction of Audrey (Betty Gilpin), we are gifted with the most formidably awkward and unsettling moments. Her sharing that Shadow’s wife was having an affair with  her husband, his best friend (and future employer) Robbie,during the funeral proceedings, is grotesque. No less so is his graveyard farewell to his wife Laura (Emily Browning). Gilpin crushes her scene, manically channeling her anger and hurt in tirades that are both funny and unsettling. Her offer to have sex with him as a retributive act of “restoring her dignity” is brutal.

The deviation from the source material is to be expected as the series will undertake to move beyond the novel original. The able, bloody hand of David Slade whose work with “30 Days of Night” still resonates as the best horror/vampire presentation in a decade, is in plain view. The opening segment gamely titled “Coming to America” features a Viking horde landing in the most inhospitable setting, ancient America, and their efforts to leave the land as soon as possible. The notion of Odin as a god of war informs their initial self mutilation followed by a visceral fight that is gory by any standard. With this as the opening template, the viewer wonders what next awaits them. Enter Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), ancient goddess and current on line date. There is a much talked about scene in the novel in which while having sex with a stranger, she calls upon him to ‘worship her’. I will say no more on the matter as the scene in the book was enervating and twisted. The visual delivery of said moment on the small screen echoed it formidably and brilliantly.

The bar fight with a ‘leprechaun’ Mad Sweeney, played by Pablo Schreiber was well…crazy. Seeing a nearly 7 foot giant throwing darts, doing coin tricks and attempting to warn Shadow about trusting Wednesday was odd enough. The full out brawl between he and Shadow was ripped from the pages of Neil Gaiman’s critically acclaimed novel. The contract negotiation and drinking transaction between Shadow and Wednesday to make if ‘formal’ played well. The immediate chemistry between the two was unquestionable. After conning his way to first class at an airport, he catches Shadow’s attention. After a five minute conversation between both men on a plane, he catches ours as well.

An end sequence ‘meeting’ with Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) introduces the first of the “new” gods. He is horrid, contemptible and as befits many in our current generation, ridiculously impatient. His faceless agents added to the bizarre moment. That he fears Wednesday is clear however as this is a creature that needs to know all things at all times and Wednesday is just too wild a card at play. At this point, nothing is clear. A beat down ensues that ends in a mind-bendingly violent end to Shadow’s attackers. We are left with as many questions at the episodes end than we had at its beginning.

This show is exceedingly lurid, clever, zany and challenging. The visuals and dream segues are trippy as hell. The protagonist is thus far engaging. While very early in the game, I believe American Gods might deliver on its promise, proving ultimately to be simply outstanding and well worth your time.

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