My favorite book ever, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, has just aired as a brand new television series on Starz. It’s made by Bryan Fuller (best known for the show Hannibal) and Michael Green, and Gaiman himself is an executive producer. It stars Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and a whole lot of other amazing actors. And it is a thing to be worshiped.
In case you don’t know, American Gods is a novel about the gods of old fighting the new gods. Led by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, the old gods from all over the world – brought to America thanks to the beliefs of the immigrants – come together to fight against the new gods rising up; Technology, Media, and so forth. And caught in the middle is Shadow Moon, our main man throughout the story. For more information than that basic description, see my review of the novel here.
When I heard American Gods was becoming a TV show, I didn’t think it would be possible. The book is huge and so very detailed that bringing it all to life would be an amazing challenge. Luckily Fuller, Green, and Gaiman were up to that challenge. They cast perfectly, they gathered the best crew they could, and they literally brought the words from page to screen. Every description, every detail, was shown on the screen.
Now, granted, I’ve only seen the first episode. And the first episode only covers the first maybe 30 pages of the book. But it was perfect. We open with a Coming to America story, narrated by the one and only Mr. Ibis (played by Demore Barnes), who – spoiler alert – is actually the Egyptian God Thoth who was the god of writing and knowledge which is why him narrating the Coming to America parts are perfect. This particular story is how Odin arrived in America. We get a particularly bloody sequence and then we’re in the modern world, where Shadow Moon’s life is about to change forever.
Shadow is released from prison early because his wife died in a car crash. On the way home, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job. Through a series of mystical happenings, Shadow reluctantly accepts. It’s here we meet my favorite character Mad Sweeney, who doesn’t really seem to have a reason to be in this scene – for now. Give it a few episodes and it’ll make sense. Sweeney and Shadow “bond” over coin tricks and a bar fight, and Shadow takes an odd looking coin.
Somewhere in all of this we meet Bilquis, the Queen of Sheba. And describing her scene would be me just quoting the scene from the book because it’s literally shown exactly how the book describes it. There are reasons this show is on Starz, and this scene is easily one of them. Luckily, she (and Mad Sweeney and others) will have expanded roles in the show so I cannot wait for more of her.
Shadow makes it home for the funeral, and afterwards some of these new gods appear and kidnap him to send a message to Wednesday. The time for the old gods is over, the time for the new gods has come. Shadow, of course, has no clue what any of this means. And here the episode ends.
Now, if you’re confused reading this or if you watched this episode without having read the book, then I have one thing to say to you. READ THE BOOK. The creators of the series took zero time in this episode for the big “extra exposition” scene. You know, the scene in all movie and show adaptations where they explain exactly what’s going on. Yeah, that scene doesn’t exist here. And to be fair, it doesn’t exist in the book until you’re a good chunk of the way in. Someone jumping into this series without reading the book will have very little clue as to what exactly is going on. The good news is you only need to get through the first third of the book, since that’s all the first season will be covering. But still, READ THAT BOOK.
But….if you’ve read the book, then you must and I mean must watch this show. Everything you pictured when reading the book will literally be on your screen. It is – and I don’t say this often – the perfect adaptation.
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