As evidenced by my weekly coverage of the American Gods TV series when it airs, I adore the book, originally written by Neil Gaiman. It’s one of those books that’s super weird and truly hard to explain and honestly just needs to be experienced. But, sometimes it can be hard to find a swatch of time with reach to read a 600+ page novel. Which is where visual adaptations come in. Obviously, they can, and should, never be replacements for reading the original text, but they can often be a great way of experiencing a story you might otherwise not have the time to experience. Unfortunately, Starz’s television adaptation continues to both stray from the source material and be plagued by behind-the-scenes troubles. Luckily, Dark Horse Comics’ has an adaptation of their own. Helmed by P. Craig Russell, these three volumes have been a very faithful adaptation of the novel and an utter joy to read as they’ve released. Now, with the publication of the third and final volume of the adaptation, it’s nice to have a fully-completed, semi-visual adaptation of the novel – if you consider a graphic novel to be a visual adaptation; I do. (Mild spoilers for both the original novel and the graphic novel.)
American Gods Volume 3: “The Moment of the Storm” (by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell, illustrated by Scott Hampton)
The new and old gods agree to meet in the center of America to exchange the body of the old gods’ fallen leader–heading towards to the inevitable god war in this final arc to the bestselling comic series! (Collects American Gods Volume 3: The Moment of the Storm #1-#9.)
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this second season finale of American Gods but I can pretty confidently say it wasn’t this. And I mean that in the absolute best way humanly possible. The summary provided for the episode was just vague enough that all anybody really knew when going into this episode was that many of our characters would be reeling from the events that happened at the end of the previous episode and that Mr. World and New Media would launch some kind of attack on the nation at large. Aside from that, it was really anybody’s guess. There were certain things that could be inferred based on a basic knowledge of the novel and from events from earlier in the show’s history, but much of this finale was genuinely surprising and very satisfying. (Spoilers for the season 2 finale of American Gods, as well as the novel, follow!)
Episode 2×08: Moon Shadow (Written by Aditi Brennan Kapil and Jim Danger Gray, directed by Christopher J. Byrne) In the aftermath of Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) death, Wednesday (Ian McShane) has disappeared, and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) is tormented by the night’s events. Those that remain witness the power of New Media (Kahyun Kim) as she is unleashed, and the nation is enveloped in a state of panic brought on by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), who cunningly illustrates the power of fear and belief.
I’m on record as not loving last season’s A Prayer for Mad Sweeney. It’s not that it was a bad episode or anything, but it was the penultimate episode of the season and, instead of focusing on setting up the finale in any meaningful way, it spent all of its time on a flashback sequence that was only tangentially connected to one of the characters. It was the story about how Mad Sweeney came to America – but the character didn’t actually appear in the flashbacks until the very end of the episode. Instead, it was basically thirty minutes of the story of Essie McGowan – an interesting story but the definition of padding out an episode. Had this not been the penultimate episode of the season, I might not have been as disappointed by it, but since it was, I really didn’t dig it. So, hearing that the penultimate episode of season two was going to be another one that primarily focused on Mad Sweeney’s backstory, I was a bit skeptical about it. I went in expecting it to be another episode full of padding that didn’t really set up the finale at all. Boy, I was wrong. This episode perfectly balances the flashbacks and the present-day scenes, making sure the flashbacks actually seem related to what’s happening in the present day scenes – and then using those present-day scenes to raise the stakes for the finale in surprising and exciting ways. (MAJOR spoilers follow)
Episode 2×07: Treasure of the Sun (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Paco Cabezas) In Cairo, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) entrusts Shadow (Ricky Whittle) with the Gungnir spear. Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), plagued by the cries of Banshees, recalls his journey through the ages as he awaits his promised battle. Once again, he warns Shadow about Wednesday. Meanwhile, Laura (Emily Browning) receives sage advice from Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey), and Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) finds an audience.
The moment I heard that Rachel Talalay would be directing an episode of the second season of American Gods, I grew really excited. I loved Talalay’s work on Doctor Who during the Peter Capaldi years, so I was extremely excited to see how her style would be applied to the world of American Gods. I’m happy to report that this episode totally feels like an episode that’s directed by Rachel Talalay – and I mean that in the best possible way. She has a distinct style and it’s very much on display here – while still staying true to the style of American Gods as a series. Add to all of that the fact that much of this episode takes place in a 1930s burlesque run by Mr. Wednesday, himself, and you have an episode that’s equal parts delightful, deeply emotional, and visually sumptuous. (This review features spoilers!)
Episode 2×06: Donar the Great (Written by Adria Lang, Directed by Rachel Talalay) Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) seek out Dvalin (Jeremy Raymond) to repair the Gungnir spear. But before the dwarf is able to etch the runes of war, he requires a powerful artifact in exchange. On the journey, Wednesday tells Shadow the story of Donar the Great (Derek Theler). Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and New Media (Kahyun Kim) harness the power of her worshippers to prepare for the coming storm.
Season two of American Gods seems to be establishing a pattern in which one episode moves the plot forward quite a bit while the next episode slows things down for a more introspective look at the characters. This episode is an example of the former. It’s another episode where a whole lot happens, but it also leaves plenty of room for some truly beautiful character moments. If you’ve been waiting for this second season of American Gods to reach the heights of its first, I think you’ll be very pleased, indeed, with this episode. It’s an absolutely stellar one – and it might be the most visually impressive episode of the season – aside from the premiere, of course.
Episode 2×05: The Ways of the Dead (Written by Rodney Barnes, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield) Steeped in Cairo’s history, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) learns the ways of the dead with the help of Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) and Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). In New Orleans, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) introduces Laura (Emily Browning) to old friends who share their world of voodoo healing. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) embarks on a road trip with Salim (Omid Abtahi) and the Jinn (Mousa Kraish), and they have a challenging discussion about faith. Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) discovers an opportunity to draw new worshippers that might give her the power to break free of Mr. World (Crispin Glover).
American Gods continues its second season with another very good episode. While last week’s episode moved the plot along at a pretty speedy pace, this week’s episode slowed things down a bit more with a more introspective episode, filled to the brim with conversations about religion and faith, as well as renewal. Like I said, it was a pretty good episode. (There will be spoilers ahead!)
Episode 2×04: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Written by Peter Calloway and Aditi Brennan Kapil, directed by Stacie Passon) While Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) take a secret meeting in St. Louis, Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) arrives at the funeral home in Cairo, where she engages in a debate with Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) and Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes). Laura (Emily Browning) rejoins Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and Tech Boy (Bruce Langley) pays a visit to his first worshipper (Andrew Koji).
Man, this episode is exactly what I wanted to see coming out of last week’s episode. While, on the whole, I liked last week’s episode quite a bit, I did feel like it didn’t progress the overall plot forward enough, instead focusing most of its time developing Shadow’s backstory some. Muninn, thankfully, does the exact opposite; quite a lot happens in this episode and much of it is really exciting. We’re introduced to New Media, Sam Blackcrow, and Argus and a whole lot of pieces are moved around the metaphorical chess board as the season continues down its current path. I really, really, really dug this episode. A lot. (NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE WITHIN THIS REVIEW!)
Episode 2×03: Muninn (Written by Heather Bellson, directed by Deborah Chow) As he is tracked by Mr. World (Crispin Glover), Shadow (Ricky Whittle) makes his way to Cairo, thanks to a ride from Sam Black Crow (Devery Jacobs). Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) slyly gains Laura’s (Emily Browning) help in forging an alliance with a powerful god. Mr. World introduces Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) to New Media (Kahyun Kim) and assigns them a very important task.
First, American Gods was an award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman. Then, it lingered in development hell for a decade – first as a film, then as a TV series – only to finally be picked up by Starz and given its first season in 2017 (and currently airing its second). Lastly, it was adapted by Dark Horse Comics – and P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton – as a comic book. American Gods is a story that lends itself very well to the medium of comics as it’s a very visual book, with characters and locales that are large than life. It’s an adaptation that many fans have desired for a long time – given Gaiman’s beginnings in the world of comics with The Sandman – so, with two (of three) volumes of the American Gods comic now complete, how is this adaptation holding up? Answer: very well.
American Gods: Shadows
Shadow Moon gets out of jail only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard–thrusting Shadow into a deadly world where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a god war is imminent.
American Gods: My Ainsel
The bizarre road trip across America continues as our heroes gather reinforcements for the imminent god war! Shadow and Wednesday leave the House on the Rock and continue their journey across the country where they set up aliases, meet new gods, and prepare for war.
It’s been nearly two years since the first season of American Gods aired its final episode and a lot has happened behind the scenes. In November of 2017, original executive producers (and showrunners) Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left the show after reported disputes related to the budgeting of the season. From there, Jesse Alexander was hired as showrunner and, with the help of Neil Gaiman, retooled the second season of the show a lot, tossing out the six scripts that Fuller and Green had written. For a while, everything seemed to be going fine until reports emerged in September of 2018 that Alexander had been fired from the show and the finale had gone through seven different drafts and everything was in disarray. Gaiman and various members of the cast and crew have disputed these reports, but, nonetheless, to say that the show has been mired by behind-the-scenes drama would be an understatement. Many were worried the second season of the show would never see the light of day, and if it did, that there would be a noticeable drop in quality from the first season. Well, it’s March 10, 2019, and the first episode of the second season of American Gods has premiered on Starz and I’m happy to report that there is no noticeable drop in quality and the show’s just as good as ever. (NOTE: Spoilers for episode 2×01 follow!)
Episode 201: The House on the Rock (written by Jesse Alexander & Neil Gaiman, directed by Christopher J. Byrne)
Following the epic showdown at Easter’s party, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) continues his quest to pitch the case for war to the Old Gods with Shadow (Ricky Whittle), Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. Meanwhile, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plans revenge and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) goes on the hunt for Media. First stop — the House on the Rock, where Shadow is taken “backstage.”
Season two of American Gods has had a pretty tough time getting to our screens. Originally renewed shortly after the first season began airing, season two suffered numerous production woes – first, the loss of its original two showrunners, Michael Green and Bryan Fuller; then the hiring and subsequent (reported) sacking of new showrunner Jesse Alexander; and, finally, countless delays to the show actually arriving on our screens. For a while, it seemed as though American Gods would never return to TV again or, if it did, it would return in a state that was dramatically less spectacular than its original season was. Well, thankfully, season two of American Gods officially premieres on STARZ this Sunday, March 10. STARZ has provided critics with the first two episodes of the season – and I have seen them – and I am happy to report that the show has, indeed, returned – and it’s returned without a significant drop in quality! (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Full, spoiler-filled reviews of each episode will be available on the Sundays that they air.)
Starring Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, “American Gods” is a one-hour drama adapted from Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel about a war brewing between Old Gods and New Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two the battle moves inexorably toward crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide. While Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) 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.