Adapting a beloved novel is always a tough proposition, especially when the author in question has a devoted following.
Such was the case with “American Gods,” a new series adapted from Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel by Brian Fuller and Michael Green, of “Hannibal” fame. Fans of the book can rest assured: Fuller and Green do more than justice to the source material. Part road trip, part epic adventure and part winding mythology, “American Gods” proves to be a trip worth taking.
Ricky Whittle stars as Shadow Moon, a convict who’s just been released from prison following the death of his wife Laura (Emily Browning). On the flight home, he encounters a mysterious stranger named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), first seen pulling a grift on the airplane desk worker. Of course, he isn’t who he seems to be and Shadow soon finds himself thrown into a battle between the gods, both old and new, along with recurring visits from a wife who should be in the ground. It’s the start of an epic adventure, but given what we’ve seen from the show this season (which ends at about the halfway point of the novel), the trips on the side will be just as interesting as the main attraction.
Speaking of side adventures, Fuller and Green take ample time to dig into the various interludes scattered throughout the novel, covering both the immigration of the old gods to America and their place in the modern world. The opening minutes feature a rather exquisitely rendered sequence of a viking raid, awash with blood whose unreality only serves to make it more fantastical. Of course, this use of gore doesn’t always work when placed into relatively normal scenes and there’s a definite sense of Fuller and Green just using style for style’s sake. But when there are sequences this well-filmed it’s hard to argue against it.
In addition to Whittle, there’s McShane, perfectly cast as Mr. Wednesday, able to flip from a stuttering old man to casually dropping a vulgar one liner within seconds, not to mention his overall flourish and pure confidence. He looks exactly as you’d imagine him to look and it’s hard to find any fault in his performance. Emily Browning has perhaps the hardest job given that her character was only introduced post-death, but with the work of the writers she brings a greater depth to Laura, turning her into more than just a deadpan comic relief or method for Shadow to find himself.
And let’s not forget the new gods, especially Media who is played by Gillian Anderson. You can tell she’s having a lot of fun with the character — flipping between pitch perfect impressions of Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and even David Bowie.
As the show goes on, we can be sure to get more scenes of old gods like Bilquis (Yetide Badaki, introduced in the most infamous scene of the novel) and the wonderful Pablo Schreiber as leprechaun Mad Sweeney. No matter what directions they decide to go once they exhaust the plot of the novel, you can be sure that whatever journey you take with Fuller and Green, it won’t lack for visual flair or fun, nor will they ignore the impact that immigration has had on America.