Amazon Prime – From Monday 1st May 2017
Written and developed by: Bryan Fuller and Michael Green
Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman
Directed by: David Slade
THE DOMINANT PARADIGM
Influenced by a wave of public anticipation, I knew I wanted to watch this heavily-hyped Starz/Amazon Prime fantasy drama series despite having zero knowledge of the 2001 Neil Gaiman novel upon which it is based. After the hour long pilot premiered online this Monday I’m still not convinced I’m any more clued up on the premise than I was before, but I do know that showrunners and screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have me curious to know more about this violent and muddily mythologically-inspired present day parallel America.
“Good news, we’re letting you out early. Bad news, your wife is dead.”
After three years behind bars, the “improbably named” Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released days ahead of schedule to attend the funeral of his wife (Emily Browning), who he learns has been killed in a road accident. Struggling to get across the States, the grieving former inmate finds himself on a flight sat next to enigmatic know-it-all Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane), who offers Moon a job as his “aide de camp.”
After a brutal bar fight with Mr Wednesday’s surly – and six-foot-tall – leprechaun assistant, the gold coin-loving trickster Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), Shadow attends the funeral only to learn a devastating truth about his late wife’s fidelity. Broken and wandering the roads that night, he stumbles upon an inexplicable piece of technology which attaches itself to his face and recreates him in a virtual limo where a cocksure madman (Bruce Langley) threatens to “delete” Shadow if he doesn’t betray Mr Wednesday…
If all of this wasn’t enough, a seemingly separate mid-episode subplot taking place “Somewhere in America” shows a middle-aged man on a first date with an internet match (Yetide Badaki). Taken back to her room he is shrunken and absorbed into her vagina during a passionate sex scene which sees her dominantly demand he “worship me!” It’s the most audacious WTF moment in an episode jam-packed full of WTF moments, from the bloody Norse opening set in 813 CE to the bloody rescue of a beaten Shadow by an unseen force following his refusal to turn over his new boss.
Epically shot and directed with filmic “panache” by 30 Days of Night’s David Slade, “The Bone Orchard” is visually stupendous and boldly unique, even if the narrative lacks coherency to novices to the material. Marrying fantasy, history, action, horror, science fiction and superhero genres with a Preacher-esque tangible Americana aesthetic, American Gods intrigues without infuriating. Through sinister slow-mo dream sequences, ancient flashbacks and crazy subplots, there’s a lot hinted at for the forthcoming 8-part season, and I am tempted to continue going in blind each week in the hope it will all make some semblance of sense by the close of play.
CR@B’s Claw Score: