American Gods (Episode 1)

Based on the book by Neil Gaiman, American Gods introduces us to a world where the supernatural and the real come alive in a commentary on modern America and the interplay between society, religion and mythology. The opening scene shows a group of Vikings landing on a beach and being unable to leave until they appease the god of the winds. How do they do this? Well, realising he is a war god, they decide to slaughter one another until the wind starts to blow again. This scene sets up much that is to follow, with the supernatural elements, bloody violence, and dark satire on human society.

We then cut to modern times and the character of Shadow Moon. We find Shadow in prison, with only a week to serve on his sentence. However, following his wife's sudden death he is given early release and leaves to travel across country to her funeral. Boarding a flight Shadow meet a mysterious stranger who introduces himself as "Mr. Wednesday". After being offered a job by the stranger, which he reject, Shadow continues on his way. Later he is forced into accepting the job, though still unsure exactly what it entails. He also comes face to face with a real life Leprechaun, able to produce gold coins from thin air, and gets involved in a bar fight with him. Finally arriving at his wife's funeral he discovers that she was having an affair with his best friend. A little depressed he heads away from the cemetery and this is where the show takes another sharp turn into the surreal. He is accosted by a digital god, a sort of representation of technological progress who informs him that the time for "Wednesday" has passed and it is now his time. He then attempts to kill Shadow.

The show has a great deal of creativity and intelligence. The opening credit sequence is a psychedelic mash-up of ancient religious iconography and modern symbols (such as a neon cowboy) that clue you in to what the show is trying to say. It is essentially about what drive humanity and why they believe or follow certain things, sex, money, religion, whatever the ideology might be they are all mixed together in this complex web of society. There was also great humour. In the opening sequence we see a Viking turned into a human porcupine by a hail of arrow, and this type of dark humour comes to typify the show. There are a few great lines and it is clear the show is going to provide a cast of fun characters as things progress. Perhaps the most talked about scene will be the one with Bilquis, a sex scene in which a man gets swallowed whole by the goddess (yes, exactly how you would imagine). It is a fairly intelligent show, with the kind of oblique references and you will get a real kick out of it if you have an interested in classical religions and mythology guessing who the various characters are or represent.

There is also an incredible level of violence, with buckets of blood being thrown around and heads and bodies being smashed or shredded, guts flying everywhere. This is a show that doesn't hold back on showing you what happens when you mess around with gods, and I liked that. If I had one problem with it then it would be that at times it appeared to shiny and polished, as much American television does. There is a sense of unreality there in the way it is presented that doesn't help draw you in. But overall, the script and acting is solid, and it is such an original story I am really excited to see where they go with it.