In what is perhaps the most perfect fit of subject matter and television studio since HBO’s Game of Thrones, Neil Gaiman’s epic fantasy novel ‘American Gods’ has finally reached the small screen after being produced by Amazon Prime and Starz. With a premise that is both fantasy and drama, Gaiman’s 600 page masterpiece explores some of the most fascinating themes ever to be broadcast on television – namely ones place in existence.
Beginning with a weird segment based on a viking type warrior clan and there sacrifice to the old gods, the television series soon picks up in a modern day setting with prisoner Shadow Moon. Released from his sentence a few days earlier due to the death of his wife, Shadow soon encounters the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), a no nonsense man who seems to know more than he is willing to share about the people he surrounds. Suffering from strange dreams, that serves as the namesake of the episode, Shadow is instantly presented as a mysterious character that is engrossing from his first scene. The series soon shows the series’ main dynamic between these two characters, with shadow employed by Wednesday as a personal bodyguard.
Transitioning between a bar brawl with a modern interpretation of a Leprechaun and his wife’s funeral – where Shadow learns some some unsettling truths, the episode carries a similar structure to other pilot episodes in establishing the key characters and televised universe. It introduces the concepts, the characters, the overall tone of the show, and in doing such a broad outline, does little in explaining aspects of the wider picture or presenting the viewer with the end goal. Aside from a radically different middle sequence, where the god of love consumes a male interest with her nether regions, the episode feels very much like a teaser to what is still to come – which is in no way a bad thing.
Throughout the episode the special effects are designed and utilised to a high standard. This is an assuring aspect within such a bold television project, with the aesthetics and design allowing the epic scope of the book to be presented well onscreen. With a great deal of mystery and different concepts still to come, ‘American Gods’ is looking very much like the next big thing to hit the small screen. With Gaiman’s skill as a fantasy author – and his position as the series’ executive producer overseeing the production – as well as the well cast characters, Amazon and Star may well have created a series that can rival their most popular rivals.
Overall ‘American Gods’ is an intriguing concept that seems to be produced to a high standard in almost every regard. With the scope only hinted at within this episode, and the characters given a loose introduction, the series seems to hold a lot of promise within its premise. Within certain points of the episode the narrative presents a stylistic violence that will no doubt become a series mainstay – and as such compliments the obviously mature themes that the show will undoubtably explore. An adult series built from the foundations of a fantasy epic, the first episode hints at what is yet to come, and does so with a quality that is captivating to watch.
Overall – 8 out of 10