5 Talking Points from the First Episode of American Gods

5 things we learned from watching The Bone Orchard

American Gods has finally been adapted for TV. The first episode, The Bone Orchard, aired on May 1st and it has got us at Stranger Views excited about the rest of the series.

Here is what we learned from The Bone Orchard.

It’s going to take its time

American Gods, the novel, is a meandering work and it looks like the TV show will be too. I speculated after viewing the trailer that the TV show will be more focused on its core plot than Gaiman’s novel was. The first episode suggests that this will not be the case. Instead, you should expect little vignettes and side plots throughout the show.

The Bone Orchard was unhurried and more concerned with building up a sense of unease than advancing the plot. Nothing was spoon fed to the viewer, and much of what they see will only become clear to them after the show has progressed for a few more episodes. Although I’m doomed to watch the show week by week, part of me thinks this would be better viewed as a box set.

Magical Realism has rarely looked so cool

All of the great shows of the last few years have had their own unique look. American Gods has carved out its signature aesthetic in one episode. The colors are so vivid throughout the episode they seem almost to be more real than reality itself. This gives me a lot of hope for the rest of the show. If American Gods is going to work, it has to make its more fantastical elements appear more real than reality.

The smaller Gods may make the show

Pablo Schreiber nails the role of Mad Sweeney. He plays the seven-foot leprechaun with a genuine edge and a definite air of danger. The Mad Sweeny of the novel was as funny as he was threatening. It’s clear this Mad Sweeney is more dangerous than humorous.

Perhaps the most, ahem, eye-catching performance was from Yetide Badaki as Bilquis. She was as mysterious as she was terrifying and as otherworldly as she was sexual. I’m not sure what the mythical Queen of Sheba would be like if she were wandering around Hollywood today, but I imagine it would be something like that.

Ian McShane was a great choice for Mr. Wednesday

I’ve said before that Ian McShane was a great choice for Mr. Wednesday, and I think he showed why in the first episode. His charm barely concealed the danger lurking behind his smile, which is just how it should be given he is playing the ultimate swindler. It’s clear he is conning Shadow but we’ve already half forgiven him for it.

Ricky Whittle has his work cut out

Shadow Moon is going to be a difficult part to play, and the first episode showed why. He’s the audience surrogate who encounters Gods and monsters, yet he’s also a taciturn ex-con who keeps his thoughts to himself. This creates a clear difficulty. If he doesn’t show sufficient amazement at the strange events around him it would come across as unnatural. Yet, if he shows too much outward astonishment he will no longer be the rugged ex-prisoner who keeps himself to himself. It’s going to be a tough job for Ricky Whittle, but I’m confident he can pull it off. I also liked how he brought Shadow’s inner anger to the surface, something his novel counterpart sometimes lacked.

Top three quotes from the Bone Orchard

Oh my boy that is one astoundingly improbable name – Mr. Wednesday

Rigged games are the easiest to beat – Mr. Wednesday

Now you’re fighting for the joy of it. For the sheer unholy fucking delight of it. – Mad Sweeney

Last thought: Hope we get to see more of Jonathan Tucker as Low Key Lyesmith. Unfortunately, IMDB says he’s only in one episode. If you’ve yet to catch American Gods, you can pick it up on Amazon.

If you enjoyed this you might like this article on Four Fantasy Novels we would love to see adapted into TV shows. Although Stranger Views is primarily a science fiction blog, this is one of the many articles on the fantasy genre that we have written. 

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