No TV show can be perfect. Even the best-made ones stumble from time-to-time. Plotlines get fumbled, character arcs don’t pan out, whatever—every show has an episode that isn’t stellar. Unfortunately, this week’s episode of American Gods is one such episode. It’s not that “Ashes and Demons” is bad or anything. It’s still fairly solid. But it’s the episode that’s most emblematic of my complaints regarding season 3. It’s an episode filled with things that I liked, but it’s also one that never manages to come together as a satisfying whole. The editing, primarily, is what lets this episode down and results in it feeling like a collection of unrelated scenes with no sense of purpose or flow. But still—on their own, those scenes are pretty good. And there’s a lot to like about the episode. (3.5 out of 5 wands)
NOTE: This review features spoilers. Read at your own risk.
American Gods – S03E03 – “Ashes and Demons” Written by Anne Kenney, Directed by Thomas Carter As the search for the missing girl continues, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) dreams of Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), a hint that she too may be in danger. Wednesday (Ian McShane) discovers the whereabouts of his old love, the Greek goddess Demeter (Blythe Danner), and resolves to free her from the grip of an unscrupulous antagonist. Meanwhile, an impatient Laura (Emily Browning) is forced to confront her troubled past in purgatory.
It’s difficult to write weekly reviews of a serialized TV show. When writing a review, you typically want to be able to examine all aspects of the thing you’re reviewing. For a TV show or a film, you want to look at the acting, directing, and writing. That last element is particularly difficult when you’re covering a show that airs week-to-week as many of the episodes don’t have a self-contained narrative that can be evaluated; instead, you hope that what gets set up in earlier episodes is paid off in later ones. This is very true for American Gods—a show which has often been criticized for its slow-paced narrative. So, in that light, I don’t think it’s such a great idea to review each episode of the show the way I’d review an entire story. Instead, I am going to simply talk about what I liked and didn’t like in each episode, with an emphasis on what I hope to see the show do going forward. For this week’s episode, “Serious Moonlight,” there’s a lot to like. Sure, the episode still acts primarily as a setup for the rest of the season, but the individual events of the episode are pretty delightful—from finally getting a good glimpse at Lakeside to journeying to Chicago for a Slavic celebration. There’s a lot to like about this week’s episode and a lot to look forward to. (4 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review will feature spoilers for American Gods S03E02. Read at your own risk.
American Gods S03E02 – “Serious Moonlight” (written by Moise Verneau, directed by Julian Holmes) Shadow (Ricky Whittle) explores his oddly welcoming new town before heading to Chicago for a gathering of the Old Gods on Koliada, an ancient Slavic festival. At the Koliada, Wednesday (Ian McShane) reconnects with his oldest friend, and Salim (Omid Abtahi) mourns the unexpected end of his relationship with The Jinn. Shadow returns to Lakeside to find the town rocked by the disappearance of a teenage girl—and discovers that he himself is a suspect.
After a nearly two-year break, American Gods is back on our TV screens—and not a moment too soon. And, as is customary for the show, a lot’s happened in those two years. There have been more shakeups in front of, and behind, the camera, leading to the departure of actors like Orlando Jones, Kahyun Kim, and Mousa Kraish. However, unlike the previous season, it appears that the making of season three was a far smoother affair—an assumption that is borne out on screen. Despite everything that may have happened behind the scenes, the season premiere of American Gods is great. It does everything a premiere should do—establishes where the characters are as the season begins and where they’re headed, lays the groundwork for future episodes, and energizes audiences for the season to come. While the premiere sometimes feels like a pilot episode for a new show, it remains distinctly American Gods-esque and is genuinely fun and exciting to watch. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: This review contains full spoilers for the episode. Read at your own risk.)
American Gods S03E01 – “A Winter’s Tale” (written by David Paul Francis, directed by Jon Amiel) After months apart, Wednesday reappears in Shadow’s life, resolved to drag him back into his divine war effort. A meeting with the god Wisakedjak leaves Shadow with a prophecy about his destiny—a destiny that seems determined to bring him to the idyllic, snowy town of Lakeside, Wisconsin.
American Gods is one of my favorite TV shows. Its quality isn’t always consistent and there seems to be a lot of turnover in front of, and behind, the camera, but there’s nothing else like it on TV and I find myself returning to it time and time again. Its source material being so fantastic helps a lot, of course, but I still find much to enjoy in Starz’s TV adaptation. So, naturally, I was beyond excited to see what they’d do with season three. With another round of cast and crew shakeups, season three had a lot working against it. But it was said to be adapting one of the best parts of the book (the Lakeside arc) and featured a slew of new and exciting cast members, so there was still much to be hopeful about. And, having seen the first four episodes, I’d say that hope is fulfilled. The third season of American Gods feels simultaneously familiar and new—it’s identifiably the same show we’ve fallen in love with but it’s bursting with new energy and momentum. It’s not perfect, but it’s a promising start. (4.5 out of 5 wands)
(NOTE: This review strives to be as spoiler free as possible. There may be mentions to information officially revealed in trailers and promotional material, but no major plot points will be discussed.)
American Gods – Season Three Following his discovery last season that Mr. Wednesday is his father, Shadow attempts to break away and assert himself as his own man. As he settles into life in Lakeside, he uncovers a dark secret while exploring questions of his own divinity. Guided on this spiritual journey by the gods of his black ancestors, the Orishas, Shadow must decide exactly who he is—a god seeking veneration or a man in service of the “we.”
After a nearly two-year hiatus, American Gods returns to Starz in just over a month, and with the show premiering so soon, it’s about time for the promotional train to leave the station. Well, as of today, that train has officially left the station as the season’s official trailer has been released. Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Omid Abtahi, Demore Browns, and Ashley Reyes, American Gods Season 3 is the first to be headed by new showrunner Charles H. Eglee and sees Shadow hiding in the small Wisconsin town of Lakeside from the Gods—and his destiny. Take a look at the trailer below: