6:06 pm EDT, April 16, 2017

‘American Gods’ review: A stunning, yet challenging adaptation

American Gods demands every bit of your attention and you will not regret handing it over.

If you’ve never read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, what have you been doing for the last decade? There is something in the nearly 700 pages of a road-trip inspired tour through mythology that challenges where your beliefs lie. It is told through the lens of one Shadow Moon, a man choosing to give his life over to a stranger after being released from prison.

Circumstances, including his wife’s death, leave him a shell of a man. His reentry into American life offers him freedom. But freedom is lacking in a life where there is no purpose.

And that is exactly the mood Bryan Fuller and Michael Green’s adaptation leans into with American Gods. They’ve had success in this arena before. Hannibal fought against indulging simple pleasure. It challenged viewers to make it through a three course meal of human remains and still root for the cannibal.

The first season of American Gods takes the bluntness of Neil Gaiman’s language and spins it into a bold display of reality, mythology, and the grey area in between. It challenges you to consider where your attention goes. Are you worshipping at the altar of technology? Or do you define yourself by your connection to another, greater belief?

Ricky Whittle breathes life into the stoic and hardened Shadow Moon. Ian McShane steals every scene that calls upon Mr. Wednesday’s verbose antics. And there are no words to Orlando Jones’ Mr. Nancy. It is a show to witness. In the “Peak TV” era, this one will stay with you.

Related: For more on the Gods, check out our breakdown of who you can expect to meet this season.

In the coming weeks, fellow Hypable writer, Natalie and I will break down each episode. Our journey through the first four episodes took a grand total of eight hours. That is roughly two hours of conversation per episode with more attention paid to some than others. American Gods does not meld with standard recapping. In fact, to tell you what happens would be a disservice to the series. It demands discussion.

There was one interesting question that came out of our conversations that still gives me some pause. “Why do you think there’s the need to understand and define what it is to be American?” The question is not farfetched. After all, American Gods is, at its core, an immigration story. Throughout the journey tales of the Gods finding their way to America and catches up with them years into their residency across the nation.

But the question asks so much more of the show. Are these characters defining what it means to be an American? Are some of them even aware that they are? And for the immigrants, what is it that makes them feel apart from America? Rewatching the episodes, the first four were provided by Starz, I examined the narrative in a new way.

Shadow Moon Checkers American Gods

Watch and pay attention. With only eight episodes for the first season, every single detail matters. There is no room for filler. Each word, lingering pause, and drop of blood adds to the richness of a world I can’t imagine living without.

For years I lived with the American Gods of my mind’s creation, fueled by Gaiman’s words. The words are still there, but I’m happy to change my address to the world of Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.

Are you looking forward to ‘American Gods?’

American Gods premieres Sunday, April 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Starz.

We want to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Why not write a comment below or submit an article to Hypable.

Introducing the Hypable app

Free for iOS and Android