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American Gods is a psychedelic, urban fantasy series about an ex-con, Shadow Moon, who gets a job as a body guard working for Mr. Wednesday, a mystery man who is recruiting Gods for some sort of war. The show goes out of its way to obfuscate a lot of its specifics behind stylish sequences and vague, portentous dialogue, but it becomes pretty clear to the viewer early on what is actually going on, and most people with a passing familiarity with Old World pantheons will figure out who Wednesday is in no time at all.
It is a fairly simple story to grasp, but the show isn’t all that interested in getting on with it. Much of the running time is devoted to showing off the various Gods who have turned up in America, some of them only having an incidental role in the main plot. This is actually my favourite parts of the show, with us being shown some colourful entity who ends up tied to some modern day political issue, whether its Mexican immigrants crossing the Rio Grande, or a town of cultish gun nuts, or a Jinn taxi-driver who helps an Arab salesman come to terms with his sexuality and place in America. Each situation strives to show you something you've never seen before, and it mostly succeeds.
The gods are all charismatic creatures, but Ian Mc Shane’s Wednesday leads the pack, to the point that I find myself missing him the moment he is off-screen. There is also a developing side plot based around the death of Shadow Moon’s deeply flawed and directionless wife, Laura. Her contribution turns into a comedy/body horror road trip that counterpoints Wednesday’s more heady, ethereal scenes.
There is a lot to like about this show, with its fun characters, stark imagery and engaging fantasy plot. If I have one major criticism, it would be that the show is blatantly drawn out to permit a second season. By the end of the season I finale, the big reveals only reiterate the things we have already been shown or figured out for ourselves, and none of the plots are close to being resolved. It feels less like a finale and more like an act I summary to an unfinished play. I'll be damned if I have to wait this long to see it resolved, I'm buying the book.
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