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Sunday nights are prime television realty. Whatever you love to consume in pop culture vies for our collective attention on that day of worship. And now … Starz is giving us a show that will command that time and attention (better than lamb’s blood, according to one god) away from all that glittering fools’ gold. American Gods is coming to Sundays to deliver us.
For years, premium TV has dominated that Sunday night space with Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Scandal, Downton Abbey and others. Most of those start out strong and then start to disappoint, but still they reign the space until their tenure is up. If mega-church pastors were honest, they would let it be known that they don’t do Sunday night church anymore not because their parishioners “do life” in small groups during the week, but because they couldn’t compete with everyone’s overloaded DVR. America worships on Sundays. And now, Starz is stepping into that Sunday night game with what is decidedly the BEST show of the year.
The first half this season of American Gods has delivered on all its promises to us: it’s a faithful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel. Its cast is unmatched in watchability, clout and talent. It’s a fantastical, honest and deeply weird treatise on belief and reality. It’s a fully American road trip buddy picture (What’s more American than a maroon rental sedan? How about a black Cadillac named Betty?). It’s ancient relics and hard to pronounce medieval Slavic gods. It has all the imagery and attention to color, light and sound that you expect from a Bryan Fuller project. It starts with a giant blood splooge, and then treats us to half an hour of Ricky Whittle’s chest straining a finely weaved white button-down. It wastes no space. It never tires out. It’s lush and it’s stark.
And speaking of Ricky Whittle. This man. Shadow Moon in the novel is the stoic and silent type, often falling into agreements and binding compacts without a self-preservation instinct. Whittle’s Shadow has teeth (in addition to those deltoids). From his very first assertion that he “feels like there’s a fucking axe hanging over [his] head” to his fight with Mad Sweeney and his squabbles with Wednesday, Ricky is not just an absolute pleasure to look at, but he’s also a pleasure to watch. His Shadow is taking nothing sitting down, even while his reality very literally crumbles around him at times.
There isn’t a single wasted performance so far. Ian McShane’s Wednesday commands that character with ease. Yetide Badaki has infused Bilquis with a potent mixture of insecurity and menace. Gillian Anderson as Media (and Lucy Ricardo) is easily one of the best scenes of the first half. Orlando Jones opens an episode as Mr Nancy with a tour-de-force narration that makes you wish you had the Anansi Boys spin-off right now. Betty Gilpin as Audrey surprised me the most with an amazing turn as a heavily intoxicated, scorned and grieving widow.
I’m obsessed with every Coming to America scene. They are, of course, full of mythos, but also replete with prognostication. They aren’t just the simple story of how each god made it to the New World, but instead they are also the prologue to how they will begin to die off, how difficult it may become for their proselytes to find them. And therefore, truly prologue to the entire show itself.
Basically, you will not find yourself vacillating between options come your late spring Sunday nights about what to watch live and what to DVR to watch never. American Gods will win that war.
Image Source: Starz