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TV Review: American Gods - Season 2

TV Review, TV, Starz, Bryan Fuller, Neil Gaiman, American Gods, Drama, Fantasy, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Ian McShane, Crispin GloverSynopsis: While Mr. World plots revenge for the attack against him, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura and Mad Sweeney in tow. A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge on Cairo, Illinois: forcing Shadow to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice 

TV Review, TV, Starz, Bryan Fuller, Neil Gaiman, American Gods, Drama, Fantasy, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Ian McShane, Crispin Glover

Review: When the first season of American Gods ended, it was with a bit of a whimper. Rather than bringing a chapter of the story to a close, the season just ended mid-narrative leaving those unfamiliar with the novel wondering where there wasn't more of a close to the story arc. Well, with the departure of showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green before production began on the second season, it seemed like things were unsteady behind the scenes of the Starz supernatural drama. I am happy to say that season two is good and will pick up the unfinished threads left dangling last season but this is a different American Gods than we had before. Sure, the cast is pretty much intact (with the exception of Gillian Anderson being replaced by Kahyun Kim and the departure of Kristin Chenoweth), but the tone and style lacks the same flair that Fuller brought to the mix. The result is a much more straight-forward narrative that eschews art in favor of story.

Fans of the source material will be delighted to learn that Neil Gaiman himself has come on board to serve as showrunner which also means his oversight in changing elements of the story is not being done on a whim. Working with co-showrunner Jesse Alexander (Hannibal, Star Trek Discovery), Gaiman picks up directly from where the first season ended, sending Shadow Moon, Mr. Wednesday, Laura, and Mad Sweeney to the House on the Rock. We also see where Mr. World and The Technical Boy go after their defeat at the hands of Wednesday and Shadow in the previous season finale. From the moment the opening credits end, there is no build up or pause and the story continues as if the season finale was last week. This leads to one of the most seamless transitions between seasons I have ever seen on a television show, but it does not change the fact that there is clearly a stylistic difference between the first and second runs of American Gods.

While Bryan Fuller and director David Slade imbued the first season with the same dream-like visual style that was employed on the NBC series Hannibal, this new season is much more practical and workmanlike approach to the story. Each episode of the first season began with a flashback or unrelated origin story outlining who the gods were and how they came to be. That plot mechanism is gone (at least in the episodes made available for review) and we instead focus on how the events of the first season have led to where the characters are now. While this switch does make the narrative much easier to follow, it does strip the series of what made it so unique and distinct. Characters we saw once or twice in season one are given more focus here, including Peter Stormare's Chernobog, Orlando Jones' Mr. Nancy and Crispin Glover's Mr. World while the primarily focus remains on Ricky Whittle's Shadow Moon.

In fact, Whittle and Emily Browning are at the forefront along with Pablo Schrieber's Mad Sweeney and their chemistry leads to a laid back appeal for these characters embroiled in a war amongst the gods. But, as always, Ian McShane is the scene-stealer as he gets to embrace his alter ego revealed at the close of the first season. Without giving anything away regarding the events of season two, seeing these gods in their various forms expands the scale of this show but kept making me want to see what Bryan Fuller would have done had he remained directly involved creatively. Purely from a selfish standpoint, I cannot get past knowing that he left and how much this show changed course. It reminds me of how different Star Trek Discovery became between the first and second season for the very same reason.

TV Review, TV, Starz, Bryan Fuller, Neil Gaiman, American Gods, Drama, Fantasy, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Ian McShane, Crispin Glover

The mere fact that American Gods exists at all is special as a series like this is hard to pull off. Starz put it all on the line with a violent fantasy drama with a lot of sex and not all of it traditional. This season introduces a lot of new characters, both mortal and immortal, and keeps the eclectic soundtrack flowing. We also get some much needed backstory on Shadow Moon and how he fits into the grand schemings of Mr. Wednesday while also diving more into elements that never featured in the novel. I am hesitant to say that this season is better or worse than season one since it is also very different. If anything, American Gods is as good as it was but also in a different way. In short, if you loved how the first season looked, you will like season two. If story is what really matters, then you will still be just as engrossed as you were before.6

American Gods premieres March 10th on Starz.

Source: JoBlo.com

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