AMERICAN GODS Review 1.01 “The Bone Orchard”

AMERICAN GODS' first lesson: always pick fights with leprechauns.

You can catch the American Gods premiere on April 30th on STARZ. 

After months of promos, trailers, and waiting, American Gods is finally almost here. The show has a lot to live up to, acting as an adaptation from Neil Gaiman’s hugely popular novel. Like all adaptations, no one’s expecting it to match up perfectly (or at least no one logical), but there’s a lot of excitement to see just how well the show will match up to its damn near perfectly written predecessor. However, that’s not all American Gods has to accomplish. When pulling off an adaptation you have to stay true enough to the source material to appease the fanbase that got you where you are, but you also have to meet all the other criteria that make great television what it is. Which leads us to the reason you clicked on this review-- does the premier of American Gods do that? 

In every way imaginable, it does. 

Things kick off much in the same way the book does. That is to say, with little to no exposition. We meet up with Shadow Moon in prison, but have no idea why he ended up there, what’s going on with his wife, and eventually what’s going to happen with Mr. Wednesday. As pieces start to fall into place for Shadow, they start to fall into place for the viewer. Without taking a trip to spoiler-town—the “The Bone Orchard” story delivers just enough to leave you at the end of the episode craving more immediately. You find yourself invested in Shadow’s plight(s), and thirsty to know more about the other characters. While those who haven’t read the book may be a bit lost by the time the episode ends, it leaves you lost in a way that isn’t frustrating.

The same can be said for the characters. Every player we meet in the pilot is exactly what they’re supposed to be. Rick Whittle’s Shadow is flawed, but firm and kind when each is appropriate, and Ian McShane’s Mr. Wednesday oozes all the charisma and power that he’s meant to. Both do a stellar job in this first offering, but Mr. Wednesday is a force to be reckoned with, just as he should be. Adding to the already amazing ensemble is Pablo Schreiber’s Mad Sweeney. He’s a dick, but you love him. Which could honestly be Ireland’s motto. (The writer of this review is Irish and kindly asks that you take a breath before writing your rage replies.) These gents may get the honorable mentions, but there wasn’t a bad performance in the bunch. Each one of these broken-ass characters delivers something different and exceptional to the show. Hopefully we’ll see that continue as the season progresses and things start to hit the fan. 

Then there’s the cinematography. The wacky, colorful, contrasting, and completely insane-in-all-the-best-ways cinematography. American Gods looks stunning. Even the moments that are complete gore-fests are beautiful. This isn’t just cinematography, obviously. The effects have a lot to do with the colors and the movement, but they’re both married in such a lovely way that you’ll find yourself wanting to pause or re-watch a scene again and again just to take in all the detail. 

Neil Gaiman was deeply involved in this recreation, and it shows. It isn’t a straight adaptation, nor should it be, but everything that sits at the heart of American Gods is there. You can see and feel it beating all throughout this pilot. From the smallest character choice to the grandest nightmare sequence, the show lives and breathes exactly the way this fan had hoped it would. I also have a fair amount of confidence that those who haven’t turned a single page of the book will be equally as delighted and engrossed in what has and will transpire over the course of the show. A visually stunning and deeply entertaining first episode gives viewers a lot to look forward to for the rest of the season, and I can’t recommend enough that you tune in when it hits screens on April 30th!