Magazine article Variety

American Gods

Magazine article Variety

American Gods

Article excerpt

TV REVIEW

American Gods

Drama: 8 episodes (4 reviewed); Starz, Sun. April 30, 9 p.m.

Starring: Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane

Remarkably, "American Gods" feels like a bad dream. That sensation of perpetual surprise, the disorientation of the seemingly normal, is what characterizes the experience of its protagonist, Shadow (Ricky Whittle), a convict who learns on the eve of his release that his wife, Laura (Emily Browning), has died in a car accident. It gets worse: At the moment of impact, she had his best friend's penis in her mouth. When the audience meets Shadow, he's sleepwalking through disappointment and grief, struggling to reconcile the life he had envisioned with the tragedy of the world as it is.

Thanks to both the whims of fate and the grand cosmic design, he'll be doing a lot more of that. "American Gods" is about Shadow, but the show - based on the excellent novel by Neil Gaiman - is more broadly about that sense of unmoored reality.

Shadow takes a job offer from an enigmatic character and ends up a sidekick in a war for the ages: a battle between gods for dominion over America. There's a narrator who's never introduced, a series of gods who don't take the trouble to introduce themselves and a sense of electric possibility in an otherwise dull landscape. It's not just Shadow who's unmoored; it's the audience, too: Like a fever dream, the show presents a portentous panorama - with no instructions whatsoever. The result is a sprawling, beautiful series that's fascinating, brilliantly executed and hard to follow.

In Bryan Fuller's adaptation, Gaiman's vision becomes an immersive wonderland of extraordinary visuals and haunting music. Gaiman and Fuller excel at turning the horrible into the beautiful; Fuller, in "Hannibal," took the story of a serial killer and made it into a freak show. In "American Gods," adapting a novel with more symbolic resonance, his stunning tableaux feel rooted in something broad and meaningful. …

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