TV Recap: American Gods, Episode 1: "The Bone Orchard"
I'm going to be upfront about my ignorance and say that I've never read the 2001 Neil Gaiman novel of the same name that American Gods is based upon. Going in to the new series the only thing I knew was a basic premise of Americanized gods and a peek at the absolutely stacked cast. After watching the series premiere, I can't say that I know much more about what American Gods is about. It's even possible that I may know less, because while I thought that the Starz Original certainly had its moments, I was frustratingly confused for a majority of it.
Focusing around Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a man nearing the end of a six year prison stint, eager to get back into the world and see his wife, Laura. The same day that Shadow gets released a few days early is the same day that Laura dies in a car crash. As the prison guard opening the door for him on his way out wryly observes, it's a cruel 'good news bad news' situation.
While waiting at the airport, Shadow observes a man attempting to get a bump up to first class. Through luck (or divine intervention), Shadow ends up getting bumped up to first class and seated directly next to the conman from earlier, who is looking decidedly less disheveled now wearing a slick grey suit. The man introduces himself, giving the name Wednesday (Ian McShane) because that's the same day of the week it is. Wednesday has a mysterious air about him. He's smooth talking and intimidating, speaking in long winded but well thought out speeches, he offers Shadow a job that he politely declines saying that he has a job at his friend Robby's gym when he returns home.
The plane lays over not too far from home so Shadow decides to rent a car and drive the rest of the way. In a sequence indistinguishable from a Nissan commercial (the logo is fully visible, how odd), Shadow drives along an idyllic countryside while polite music plays. He stops the car and lets out a roar.
After an interesting diversion we are back to Shadow, stopping off at a bar only to run into Wednesday again. Shadow agrees to work for Wednesday after losing a coin toss, "I'm not going to work for anyone who's got worse luck than me." It doesn't seem possible that it's luck that brings these two together at this point. The two drink as Wednesday informs the details of the job, acting as a bodyguard/assistant/ambassador for him. A fight breaks out between Shadow and a mysterious Irishman who seems to have something against Wednesday.
Shadow finally makes it to the funeral where Robby's wife informs him that his wife and her husband were having an affair. Shadow hangs out at the gravesite into the night and has a lengthy conversation with Robby's drunk wife, Audrey (Betty Gilpin). The conversation drags as she rambles on and on about how she hated Robby and how there is no closure in his death. It ends with Shadow tossing a gold coin on Laura's grave and it instantly sinks into the earth.
Shadow walks along a winding road until he spots a weird mechanical orb laying in a corn field. He investigates, only for it to grab him and transport him to an environment that looks like a white, brightly lit, mechanical limousine. Shadow's seated between faceless goons, at the opposite end of the limo sits a young man smoking an e-cigarette with a toad sitting inside the juice. The guy asks what Wednesday is up to, and when he realizes that Shadow has no idea he ejects him from the limo where he is suddenly back in the corn field being attacked by the faceless guards. They attempt to hang him before the rope snaps and they are ripped apart by an unseen force.
What does Wednesday do? Why do so many hate him? How does Shadow fit into this? What the hell is happening at all?! I don't know the answers to these questions or the many more that American Gods proposes. All I can say is that I was equally confounded and annoyed as I was intrigued. I want to know the answers and see more of the astounding visuals, but I could do without the endless monologues and cheeky black humor that misses more often than it hits.