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.
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).
I’d say this episode pretty much confirms those rumors about Gaiman being unhappy that season one of American Gods departed a bit from the events of the book as nearly half of this episode is stuff that didn’t happen in the book. This isn’t a bad thing at all; in fact, I like that the show is continuing to branch out from the source material. There is so much stuff in American Gods that wasn’t explored in the novel but can be explored in the TV show, so I am very happy with the show taking the occasional detour from the book. That being said, is this detour worth the time spent on it? Yeah, I’d say so. (Spoilers for episode 2×02!)
Episode 2×02: The Beguiling Man (written by Tyler Dinucci & Andres Fischer-Centeno, directed by Frederick E.O. Toye)
Promising vengeance for the death of a beloved old god, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) begins preparation for a great battle. Meanwhile Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) chase Shadow’s (Ricky Whittle) diminishing light after his disappears. The Jinn (Mousa Kraish) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) set out to retrieve the Gungnir spear, and Shadow encounters an associate, Mr. Town (Dean Winters), of Mr. World (Crispin Glover).
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.
After last week’s less than stellar episode, American Gods is back with another strong, engaging episode. And just in time, too, as it’s the season finale. And, boy, it’s quite an epic one. All the various plot threads of the season come together in one big cluster as it all leads to the house of the goddess Easter. In Come to Jesus, written by Bekah Brunstetter, Bryan Fuller, and Michael Green and directed by Floria Sigismondi, it’s the eve of war and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) must recruit one more Old God: Ostara, ne Easter, Goddess of the Dawn (Kristen Chenoweth), but winning her over will require making a good impression, and that is where Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) comes in. (As always, this review will contain spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk.)(more…)
Well, we were bound to encounter a less than stellar episode eventually, and A Prayer for Mad Sweeney is that episode. It’s certainly not bad; in fact, it’s very enjoyable and if it were placed anywhere else besides as the penultimate episode of the season, it would raise from less-than-stellar to good. The problem is that this episode is essentially one long detour from the main plotline right before the season finale. It’s a great story that’s well told, but placing the episode this close to the finale was a mistake. Written by Maria Melnik (and Michael Green and Bryan Fuller) and directed by Adam Kane, A Prayer for Mad Sweeney tells the story of how Mad Sweeney came to America. After her reunion with Shadow (Ricky Whittle) ends far too quickly, Laura (Emily Browning) turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life, and back to Shadow. Mad Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) long, winding, and often tragic past is explored. (As always, this episode will feature spoilers. You have been warned.)(more…)