TV Review: American Gods

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

American Gods, Neil Gaiman, Starz, TV Review, Fantasy, Drama. Ian McShane, Gillian Anderson, Bryan Fuller

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to the world of “American Gods,” where leprechauns are over six feet tall, djinns drive cabs, Jesus comes in all shades, and a spider god makes a mean tailor. The gods walk among us and until they decide to show their true selves, look just like us. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) finds himself at the center of this world that he doesn’t quite understand, with the guidance of Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who has an agenda of his own.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman, Starz, TV Review, Fantasy, Drama. Ian McShane, Gillian Anderson, Bryan Fuller

REVIEW: This truly is a golden age for television. With event series supplanting the traditional model for network television shows, marquee creative talents and top list actors have moved to the small screen to tell longer form stories that are still self contained tales spread out of the course of a season. It is also beneficial that cable networks are taking riskier and riskier chances on non-traditional stories due to the success of the showrunners pitching the idea. Like FX's critically lauded Legion, Starz has brought to life in American Gods something unlike virtually anything else on television and we the viewers are the lucky ones who get to experience it. Based on Neil Gaiman's popular novel of the same name, American Gods has had a long journey to fruition. At one point, it was set to be an HBO series before landing on Starz. While Starz is best known for their nudity and blood-soaked shows like Spartacus and Ash vs. Evil Dead, American Gods may be their best shot at creating a series that could rival Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.

Set for a limited eight episode first season, American Gods is a complex and layered fantasy drama that almost defies categorization. Over the first four episodes provided to us for review, we are introduced to over a dozen characters ranging from Peter Stormare's hammer-wielding Slavic checkers player, Cloris Leachman's aged fortune teller, Pablo Schrieber's pugilistic Irishman, the sexually voracious (literally) Bilquis played by Yetide Badaki, and Emily Browning's duplicitious Laura Moon. But, the majority of our time is spent with Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane. Whittle, who plays the lead character of Shadow Moon, an ex-con drawn into the world of McShane's Mr. Wednesday, is the skeptic forced into a fantastical series of events that defy explanation. In fact, we as viewers are given very little explanation as to what the hell is going on. The screeners provided had no sort of opening credits, diving directly into the story which centers around a bizarre variation on the great American road trip.

Mr. Wednesday has a mission and he enlists the help of Shadow Moon to help him complete the tasks he needs for a great end game. To explain what that mission is would be a spoiler for anyone who has not read Gaiman's novel, but I almost wish I did not know what was coming as the show is a phantasmagoria of imagination replete with zombies, genies, grim reapers and the embodiment of numerous folktale dieties from world history. A special shout out is reserved for both Gillian Anderson and Orlando Jones who have some incredibly memorable scenes in the first half of the season that will have audiences clamoring for more. American Gods is lifted by a vast ensemble cast who play this series as high art, which it certainly feels like. Every frame of every scene is painstakingly created in a vision that is both surreal and tangible, making American Gods the best looking show on Starz. And, like any other Starz series, there are buckets of blood and a lot of penises. Honestly, I think there is more male nudity in the first four episodes of American Gods than on the entire run of Game of Thrones.

Make no mistake, American Gods is not for the squeamish. This show packs in a lot of quite odd stuff, much of which was not in Neil Gaiman's novel. The author himself aided in the development of new characters and additional plot elements not in his novels which means there is a lot in this show that will be a mystery for fans of the book. But, the story does follow the familiar beats of the novel and blends Gaiman's sense of humor with a story that will confound and frustrate you and yet keep you glued to the television to find out just what the hell is going on. Taken as four consecutive hours of viewing, I found myself unable to take a break and sat through all the episodes without missing a step. I do wonder how the complex story will unfold with weeks in between but I am fully expecting the internet to be chock full of articles and conversations about what the story is all about and who these characters really are. That in itself should be a point of pride for the producers when they realize they are entering the rarified level of Westworld as one of the show people just cannot stop talking about.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman, Starz, TV Review, Fantasy, Drama. Ian McShane, Gillian Anderson, Bryan Fuller

Co-creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green (LOGAN, ALIEN: COVENANT) evoke a lot of their previous work with the style of American Gods. But, the biggest influence here is Fuller's previous shows Hannibal and Pushing Daisies which inform both the dark comedy of this story along with the nightmarishly beautiful landscapes that fill the screen. Director David Slade (HARD CANDY, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) reteams with Fuller from their time on Hannibal and the result is quite stunning. If American Gods proves anything it is that this creative team should be put in charge of an adaptation of Gaiman's seminal comic book Sandman which could use their eye for the surreal and the benefits of the long form storytelling of cable television. This show is unlike anything else on television and that is saying something. The best comparison would be FX's Legion which itself was a risky take on a comic book property but managed to tell a story that is unmatched by what any other network was attempting.

American Gods feels like someone locked Guillermo Del Toro, Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg in a room with a copy of On the Road and a bunch of LSD and then turned off the lights. I encourage everyone to give this show a shot. I have not been as confident in a series right off the bat since Netflix's Stranger Things and that show blew up all over the place. American Gods is hilarious, shocking, artistic, disturbing and flat out fun. Do not miss the chance to be a part of what is bound to be the most buzzed about new series of the year. If you have not read the book yet, don't. Set your DVR to catch the first episode of American Gods and you will be back every week for the next two months.

The first season of American Gods premieres April 30th on Starz.

TV Review: American Gods




About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.