Well, that was a trip!
I am so glad I decided to read the novel first before jumping in to this series because, if not, I doubt I would have understood more than half of what was going on in this pilot.
In the premier episode, our main character Shadow Moon is released from prison early after his wife Laura dies. He attempts to get back home to attend her funeral but faces issues along the way. He is early and can’t exchange his ticket, which get’s him bumped to first class, where he meets a mysterious con man who calls himself Wednesday.
Wednesday’s attitude towards Shadow is very familiar and he immediately seems to know who he is and why he’s traveling. He offers Shadow a job, but Shadow politely refuses before falling asleep and having one of many crazy, trippy dreams he has during this episode. When he wakes, he realizes that the plane has landed due to weather, forcing Shadow to rent a car to drive the rest of the way.
During a pit stop at a bar, Shadow runs in to Wednesday yet again. Wednesday is a bit more forceful, and Shadow attempts to rebuff him yet again but is thrown off guard when Wednesday reveals that, not only did his wife die in that car accident, his best friend (who was offering him a job upon his release) did as well. At this point Shadow is annoyed, and makes a deal with Wednesday. He’ll flip a coin. If it’s heads he’ll work for him, if it’s tails he won’t. Although it’s meant to be rigged, the coin comes up heads anyway. Immediately afterwards, he is provoked in to a fight with an associate of Wednesday, a large Irishman named Mad Sweeney, who claims to be a leprechaun. The next morning, Shadow wakes up in the back seat of a new car. Wednesday has driven
him back to his home town in time for the funeral. After leaving Wednesday at the motel, Shadow cleans himself off and goes to the funeral, where he meets his friends widow. But this somber and respectful occasion takes a sudden turn off coarse when the widow
reveals that her husband and his wife were having an affair. In fact, she literally died with his [insert expletive here] in her mouth. Ouch!
Shadow is understandably stunned, but unable to do much else except keep going with the flow, even though nothing goes right. The machine that lowers the coffin into the ground malfunctions, the widow throws herself at Shadow – it’s a mess. During the whole debacle, Shadow manages to say a few words and tosses a gold coin (that he got from Mad Sweeney) on Laura’s grave – which sinks into the dirt. Leaving the cemetery, Shadow happens upon a glowing ox and when he examines it, the box moves, transforms and shoots a metallic mask onto his head, which seems to transport shadow into a room where he is interrogated by an unknown person. When Shadow refuses to cooperate, the man’s goons pull him back out into the real world, beat him, and attempt to hang him from a tree. Shadow, however, is saved when an unknown figure appears and slaughters all the goons.
I am a fan of Bryan Fuller. I have been for quite some time. Ever since I saw the trailer for Pushing Daisies and wondered how a show that seemed to bright and cheerful could have such a morbid premise. I related to it. I saw those as the types of stories that I would lie to tell. However, I saw the true nature of Fuller’s morbid sensibilities and his style as I went back on his earlier work and watched Dead Like Me, and fell in love with his take on Hannibal. All of these shows, I felt, ended before their time. I sincerely hope that American Gods will not be one of them.
American Gods is a visually stunning acid trip that lifts you up, then leaves you somewhere weird and more than a little creepy, then kicks you in the face before pointing you in the general direction it’s going – leaving you slack-jawed and wondering “what the fuck did I just watch?” I don’t know how that will translate to a casual viewer, but to a fan of Fuller’s work, I’m in.
As a story, the pilot is actually very faithful to the source material, sometimes repeating lines verbatim. The pilot also incorporates the “Coming to America” side stories, including Nordic explorers coming to America and bringing Odin to America and a scene of Bilquist devouring a man during sex. Yet, in order to make the story translate better for the new medium, there was one big difference. Shadow. Although Shadow is still very much a stoic character, he has a bit more fire in his belly than his literary counterpart and although I enjoyed Shadow very much in the novel, I can understand and appreciate the change here for the series. He is still very much the Shadow from the novel, but with a bit more to say.
Although I didn’t think so at first, Fuller’s style really lends itself well to Gaiman’s type of storytelling. Although they are considerably different, both are extremely intricate, visual, and a bit disjointed. With a pilot filled with Man eating vaginas and bulls with flames for eyes, this show promises to be extremely interesting. I look forward to seeing how the direction of the story will change and what will stay the same.