You are correct to be tingling with excitement for American Gods. The Starz TV series is based on the novel by Neil Gaiman about ancient old-world deities fighting young American ones, and its cast includes Ian McShane, Crispin Glover, and Gillian Anderson. And look who’s running the show: Bryan Fuller, who made NBC’s Hannibal such a gorgeously disturbing mindfuck, and Michael Green, a writer on Logan, Blade Runner 2049, and Alien: Covenant.
But as weird, sumptuous, and intermittently brilliant as American Gods may be, it’s also confusing, ponderous, and—at least during its first four episodes—too leaden to wholly recommend. A big part of the problem is that the show revolves around the improbably named Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a boring mortal enlisted as the bodyguard of Odin (McShane). Whittle is mopey and uncharismatic—although, like the rest of American Gods, he looks great.
To be fair, there are parts as stunning and wild as anything else you’ll see on TV, mostly during isolated chunks that stand apart from the main narrative—such as the sequence that opens the series, in which Norsemen arrive on the shores of an inhospitable new land. And there are some nutzo sex scenes, too: In one, a goddess absorbs Mad Men’s Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) with her vagina; in another, a salesman and a flame-eyed genie make gay love that’s so cosmic, it’ll have Mike Pence whimpering for mother.
But there’s also a dull-as-fuck checkers match that stretches over two episodes, and there are countless slow-motion shots that are more soporific than hypnotic. The show finally achieves liftoff in its fourth episode, which, tellingly, doesn’t revolve around Shadow Moon but rather his undead wife (Emily Browning). That episode and those brilliant stand-alone sequences will have me tuning in for more American Gods. But let’s hope they pick up the pace—our mortal lives are short.