I’m really enjoying American Gods but is it everything I hoped from a series that mashes the talents of Neil Gaiman, David Slade and Bryan Fuller and his trusted crew – the crew that brought us Hannibal?
Last week’s episode four, which saw Shadow Moon’s zombie wife Laura come back from the dead, and this week’s episode five “Lemon Scented You” have been the best of the season. As I said from the beginning the show was going to need time to find its feet and has done exactly that by planting said feet firmly in one location and pausing for breath instead of hopping around collecting gods like a scary monster road movie.
A mesmerizing, quite literal cold-open saw puppets depict the diaspora into The Americas. The short CGI animation saw them carry their mammoth-skull god “Nunyunnini” across the Bering Strait landbridge only to find other Clovis-types had already staked a claim to the forests to and installed a better, living, breathing, Old Testament-like, unforgiving buffalo god.
The parallelisms are obvious – America is a land of monotheism. If one god is to survive and be worshipped, all other gods must be wiped out. Which leads us on to the show’s thematic question – who will win the battle of the new and old gods?
Nice to see Crispin Glover back on our screens as globalisation god “Mr World”
Aside from some terrible character name choices by Gaiman, (Low Key Lyesmith – come on!) I really feel that the show lets itself down because the technology at play and accompanying FX are, at best, anachronistic and, at worst, completely unutilised.
American Gods has clearly been hugely updated (the novel was written in a pre-9/11 world; a time when the Internet was still in its infancy) to highlight 2017’s civil war-like levels of division, partisanship and racism of Trump’s America.
Russian hacking or no, the 2016 US election was won via technology – Facebook, dark ads, fake news, slur-campaigns, dog whistle politics, echo chambers and microtargeting. The media controls every aspect of 99% of the Western World’s lives – it changes the way people perceive the fabric of reality but aside from Shadow Moon’s brush with a digital facehugger and I Love Lucy gaslighting him a little in Walmart – how exactly are these new gods utilising technology to win this war?
Because I just can’t see it.
Is the awfully named Technology Boy gonna vape Czernobog to death? Will Media vanquish Shadow Moon by becoming Chris Tarrant and hosting an ever-lasting episode of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Perhaps she’ll morph into the Pet Shop Boys and sing Laura back to her grave with a haunting rendition of West End Girls…
You have the most powerful weapon in the world, Media – use it!
Where are the Alex Jones-inspired insane conspiracy theorist talk show hosts stirring revolution? Where are the identity databases of Homeland’s most recent season six? Because that would be an interesting premise. And if the answer is the war between the gods is unseen by the public, then what’s the fucking point of having a god of media?
On the subject of anachronisms – what hasn’t updated is the tech. Nowadays, you can walk into any High Street store and buy a Samsung Gear or Oculus Rift, but the facehugging virtual reality headset of American Gods, and the special effects it induces are more The Shape of Things To Come than the shape of things to come.
In other words, V.R. doesn’t look like 1992’s Lawnmower Man any more. Technology Boy could have gotten away with being a spotty teenager in 2001, but in the here and now, it doesn’t wash… with Biactol.
I love that we’ve seen Media (one of the few god names that does work) depicted as icons from the golden age of film and TV (Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe) and into the 1970’s with one of my own (hell, all our) Heroes as Life on Mars-era David Bowie. It was a cute scene… aside from the wooden dialogue which tried too hard to shoe-horn as many Bowie lyrics in as possible.
I can only assume this was lifted word-for-word from the novel – Gaiman’s ideas are literally out-of-this-world, his execution – from clunky exposition, on-the-nose dialogue and naive prose – not so much!
However, if this show has been brilliantly updated to reflect 2017’s society the shouldn’t it also have been updated to reflect 2017’s tech?
Time May Change Me…
I can only remember three instances of cellphones in five hours of television. Where’s 2017’s social media? Where’s the statement on the narcissism of Instagram and selfies? Where’s the humanitarian conscience that points out that the device you’re watching the show ion was made my slaves? Does the internet even exist in this world?
By NOT featuring making a statement about how technology shapes our lives nowadays, Fuller and Slade’s American Gods really has missed a trick. This is down to the producers, not Gaiman.
I thought this show was meant to be about the old gods versus the new? If that’s your novel’s thematic question – you need to show us the technology these new gods have ushered in… and its impact.
And as I hope you remedy that, I hope we’re also gonna get to see Gillian Anderson playing some more relevant modern-day icons. I would pay good money to see her dressed as co-star and super freak Crispin Glover challenging David Letterman to an arm-wrestle before kicking him in the head.
Because that’s entertainment.
Wham Bam, thank you ma’am!
American Gods continues on Starz next Sunday.