‘I Watched A Thing’ is an ongoing series that highlights either a film or television series (typically a pilot episode) that I found to be exceptional. ‘A Thing’ is just vague enough that it leaves enough freedom to write about either medium. Enjoy.
“Really fucking weird,” may be a crass way to describe American Gods first episode, but you know what? It’s also pretty fucking accurate.
After a seemingly never-ending development period, a television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s revered novel American Gods has arrived and man is it something. Now, as I am unfamiliar with the show’s source material, I can’t speak to how faithful of an adaptation it is, but I find it to be telling that Gaiman himself has stated that he thinks this is the most appropriate time for American Gods to come to television.
For those, like myself, who were previously unaware; American Gods world is filled with gods, more specifically old gods whose following has wavered over the years, being replaced by new gods who reflect modern societies obsession with technology, celebrities, and media. This puts the two god camps at odds with one another, and a recently released convict Shadow Moon finds himself in the middle of it. Now finding himself alone in the world after learning about the sudden death of his wife and best friend, Shadow Moon is approached by the mysteriously charming, yet blunt Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job as a bodyguard. The two then set out on a journey across America though the extent of their journey still remains a mystery, though undoubtedly encountering many a god along the way.
American Gods pilot leaves a distinctive impression, as it’s unique premise is matched by equally unique visuals. There’s a lot to unpack so I figured what better way to compile my thoughts than everyone’s favorite modern vessel for words; lists.
From its opening moments to its abrupt conclusion, American Gods is downright bizarre and convoluted. Actually, the entire episode feels a bit overwhelming given how quickly new information is thrown at the viewer. Trying to keep track of all the characters, their affiliations, and snippets of back story that clearly won’t play out until later in the season can be quite the task. If ever there were a pilot that viewers would benefit from a second viewing of it’d be American Gods, as there are undoubtedly numerous minute detailed morsels that would help to piece together it’s plot. Now, in all the insanity that was encapsulated in the pilot, I must say, I was never bored or put off by its bizarre subject matter, as it all feels very calculated. It’s clear that showrunner Bryan Fuller and Niel Gaiman have worked intimately together to bring a proper adaptation of Gaiman’s American Gods to TV. So far, I can’t claim to have a great understanding of the direction the show is going in, but I’m nevertheless intrigued and entertained by it.
A Tad Over The Top
Let’s start with our protagonist being named Shadow Moon. There’s that. Then there’s also the scene where the goddess Bilquis consumes an entire portly gentlemen’s body by stuffing him into her vagina. Yes, I think it’s quite clear that American Gods is going to be a wild ride from start to finish, and will surely test audiences threshold for far-fetched fantasy. Though I find this strangely reassuring that the weirdness never really lets up. Starz has fully committed to the weird. It’s very clear that the showrunners have fully embraced the shows strangeness, though I wonder if at some point the shock value of these bizarre characters and events will begin to dissipate.
We’re introduced to our first new age god, and the over the top nature, though still very accurately portrayal of societies obsession with technology/celebrities is quite jarring. Back to that name for a moment. I was pleased that the show smartly addresses Shadow Moon’s name in a scene that displays that American Gods is self-aware of how over the top some of its elements are. If there’s one thing I loath it is unaware television, where the showrunners are so far up their own asses that they lose sight of what their show actually is. So far, American Gods has kept itself in check in this regard, and it’ll be interesting to see if this self-awareness is retained throughout the season. I can’t imagine I’ll always take the show as seriously as it wants to be taken, but the pilot is an indication I’ll always be entertained.
Premium Cable Is Still King
God damn, do I love it when premium cable capitalizes on a rated M for mature audiences. If the pilot is any indication, American Gods will hold nothing back in terms of adult content, from violence to nudity and all that in between. Of course, I’m praising these adult elements so long as they continue to aid in portraying the world and tone of American Gods, to the best of its abilities. We’ve all seen half-assed adaptations of written works whether it be film or television that’s true potential was stifled by a rating that didn’t give the writers the flexibility and freedom to adapt the story the way it should be. Fortunately, American Gods found a home on Starz, and the freedom that comes with a premium cable network.
Give Me Something To Work With
I know it’s only been one episode, but I don’t feel all that connected to our protagonist, Shadow Moon yet. Sure, we have seen him vulnerable and hurting (both physically and mentally), but I’m hoping he serves as more than a bodyguard and an uninspired vessel to tell American Gods story. Again, I’m unfamiliar with the source material so I’m speaking out of school, but I’m hoping his character plays a larger role in the conflict of the gods, other than a punching bag for Mr. Wednesday. He’ll no doubt facilitate the human perspective, making him relatable for viewers, I just don’t want to be stuck with a hollow shell of a character for the entire season.
For all the shows quirks, convoluted plot points, and general insanity, American Gods has its hooks in me. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen on television, as despite its bizarre nature and subject matter, it’s still a shockingly blunt reflection of American society/culture. And even if that reflection is an exaggerated one, it still remains an accurate one. I am eagerly anticipating American Gods second episode.