American Gods (TV series)
by Neil Gaiman
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||52–63 minutes|
|Original release||April 30, 2017– present|
American Gods is an American fantasy drama television series based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name and developed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for the premium cable network Starz. Produced by FremantleMedia North America and distributed by Lionsgate Television, the series premiered on April 30, 2017. Ricky Whittle plays the series' lead Shadow Moon, who meets a strange man named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) after being released from prison, and soon becomes embroiled in a large-scale conflict between the Old Gods and the New Gods, who grow stronger each day. Fuller and Green served as the showrunners for the first season, and are set to be replaced by Jesse Alexander for the second season. Gaiman serves as an executive producer along with Fuller, Green, Craig Cegielski, Stefanie Berk, David Slade, and Adam Kane.
Since its debut, the series has received critical acclaim, with praise for the performances and visual style. It received two nominations at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Main Title Design and Outstanding Special Visual Effects, but did not win in either category. It also received three nominations at the 8th Critics' Choice Television Awards, including Best Drama Series, Best Actor in a Drama Series for McShane and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Gillian Anderson. In May 2017, the series was renewed for a second season, which is scheduled to premiere in 2019.
When Shadow Moon is released from prison, he enters a world he doesn't understand and meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Left adrift by the recent death of his wife, Shadow is hired as Mr. Wednesday's assistant/bodyguard. He finds himself in a hidden world where magic is real, where the Old Gods fear irrelevance and the growing power of the New Gods, including Technology and Media. In a grand plan to combat the threat, Mr. Wednesday attempts to unite the Old Gods to defend their existence and rebuild the influence that they've lost, leaving Shadow struggling to accept this new world and his place in it.
Cast and characters
- Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, a former convict who becomes Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard.
- Emily Browning as Laura Moon, Shadow Moon's wife and a revenant. Browning also portrays Essie MacGowan, the Irish woman whose belief in leprechauns changes the course of her life.
- Crispin Glover as Mr. World, the new god of globalization and the leader of the New Gods.
- Bruce Langley as the Technical Boy, the new god of technology.
- Yetide Badaki as Bilquis, a goddess of love, identified with the Queen of Sheba.
- Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney, a leprechaun in the employ of Mr. Wednesday who has trouble coming to terms with his lost charm.
- Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, a con artist and the god Odin.
- Gillian Anderson as the new goddess Media (season 1), the public face and "mouthpiece" of the new gods. She appears in the form of famous personalities, including Lucy Ricardo, Marilyn Monroe, David Bowie and Judy Garland. After Anderson's departure from the series, for the second season the role was redefined and renamed as New Media, played by South Korean actress Kahyun Kim (see below).
- Jonathan Tucker as Low Key Lyesmith, a friend of Shadow from prison.
- Cloris Leachman as Zorya Vechernyaya, "the Evening Star", the eldest of three sisters who watch the stars to guard against forgotten horrors.
- Martha Kelly as Zorya Utrennyaya, "the Morning Star", the middle silent sister of the Zorya.
- Erika Kaar as Zorya Polunochnaya, "the Midnight Star", the youngest of the Zorya sisters who sleeps during the day and only appears late at night. She guides Shadow and sets him on his path.
- Peter Stormare as Czernobog, Slavic god of darkness, death and evil who suspects Mr. Wednesday's motives and is reluctant to lend his aid.
- Chris Obi as Mr. Jacquel, the Egyptian God of the dead, Anubis.
- Mousa Kraish as the Jinn, a mythical being of fire who, fearing for his safety, considers fleeing the United States.
- Omid Abtahi as Salim, a foreigner who is "one half of a pair of star-crossed lovers".
- Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy, the Ghanaian trickster god Anansi. He works as a tailor.
- Demore Barnes as Mr. Ibis, the keeper of stories past and present, the Egyptian god Thoth.
- Dane Cook as Robbie, Shadow's best friend.
- Betty Gilpin as Audrey, Robbie's wife and Laura's best friend.
- Kristin Chenoweth as Easter, Germanic goddess of the dawn.
- Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan, who has renewed himself by binding himself to guns and those who worship them.
- Jeremy Davies as Jesus Prime, one of many versions to appear at the home of Easter.
- Conphidance as Okoye, a scarred slave who leads a revolution.
- Beth Grant as Jack, the owner of the bar where Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday.
- Kahyun Kim as the new goddess New Media (season 2), who is described as, "the goddess of global content and in this age, a cyberspace chameleon, who is also a master of manipulation".
- Sakina Jaffrey as Mama-Ji (season 2), a waitress at the Motel America and the Hindu goddess of death and liberation, Kali. With her necklace of skulls, acerbic wit and free spirit, she's a match for any mighty god or man.
- Dean Winters as Mr. Town (season 2), a brutal and efficient agent tasked by the new Gods to find out what Shadow knows about Mr. Wednesday's plan.
- Devery Jacobs as Sam Black Crow (season 2), a fierce and confident hitch hiking college student, who sells chainsaw art by the roadside for extra money. She is spiritually cynical for someone who claims to believe in so much.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Teleplay by||Original air date||US viewers|
|1||"The Bone Orchard"||David Slade||Bryan Fuller & Michael Green||April 30, 2017||0.975|
|In 813 A.D., a Viking ship reaches the shores of North America, where unseen indigenous people force them to retreat by firing a barrage of arrows. The Vikings make several blood sacrifices to Odin; eventually they find a wind to sail home on. In the present, Shadow Moon is released a few days early from prison after his wife, Laura, dies in a car accident. On the flight home, Shadow meets Wednesday, who offers him a job as a bodyguard. On the drive home, Shadow stops at a bar, where he again meets Wednesday. Shadow learns that his best friend, Robbie, died in the same car accident as his wife. Mad Sweeney introduces himself to Shadow as a leprechaun, and goads him into a fight. Shadow wins and earns a gold coin. Shadow attends Laura's funeral, and learns of her affair with Robbie. After the burial, he throws the coin onto her grave. Leaving the funeral, Shadow is abducted by the Technical Boy, who demands to know about Wednesday. Technical Boy orders his men to kill Shadow and they attempt to lynch him. The noose snaps, freeing Shadow, while his attackers are killed by an unknown assailant.|
|2||"The Secret of Spoons"||David Slade||Michael Green & Bryan Fuller||May 7, 2017||0.710|
|In 1697, on a slave ship, an African man who has been enslaved and transported in chains begins to pray, in desperation, to the god Anansi. The Old God appears before them in human form and tells of the terrible fate that awaits them in America. At Anansi's urging, the enslaved Africans riot, free themselves, and burn the ship to the waterline, killing everyone but Anansi, who escapes the ship in the form of a spider and arrives onshore amid the wreckage. In the present, Bilquis devours more lovers. Meanwhile, Shadow confronts Wednesday about the attack from Technical Boy, but Wednesday convinces him to continue working for him. While shopping in a big-box store, Shadow meets the New God Media, who takes the form of Lucy Ricardo to convince Shadow to align with her. After refusing, Shadow and Wednesday travel to Chicago. They go to an apartment belonging to three sisters and a slaughterhouse worker named Czernobog, who dislikes Wednesday. After dinner, Czernobog plays checkers with Shadow on a bet: if Shadow wins, Czernobog will go with them, but if Shadow loses, Czernobog will smash his head. Shadow loses.|
|3||"Head Full of Snow"||David Slade||Bryan Fuller & Michael Green||May 14, 2017||0.716|
|In Queens, New York, Anubis comes for the soul of an elderly Muslim woman. He removes her heart and weighs it against a feather to determine if she was a good or bad person. She is found worthy and Anubis sends her to the afterlife. Back in Chicago, Shadow dreams of Zorya Polunochnaya, youngest of the Zorya, who pulls the Moon from the sky and gives it to him in the form of a silver dollar. Waking, Shadow challenges Czernobog to another game of checkers and wins, forcing Czernobog to agree to go to Wisconsin. In New York City, an Omani businessman named Salim meets a taxi driver, who is revealed to be an Ifrit. The two have a sexual encounter, and the following morning, they have exchanged lives. Elsewhere, Shadow is confronted by Mad Sweeney, who demands that Shadow return the gold coin Sweeney mistakenly gave him. Shadow tells him he threw it on Laura's grave. Mad Sweeney exhumes Laura's coffin, finding her and the coin gone. Shadow assists Wednesday in conning a bank's business depositors and by "thinking of snow," which causes a snowstorm. When he returns to his hotel room, Laura is waiting for him.|
|4||"Git Gone"||Craig Zobel||Michael Green & Bryan Fuller||May 21, 2017||0.631|
|In a flashback, Laura's earlier life is revealed. She attempts suicide, but fails. She meets Shadow when she stops him from using card tricks to steal from the casino where she works. Shadow quickly falls in love with Laura and they marry, but Laura still finds life meaningless. She convinces Shadow to help her rob the casino, but Shadow is caught and sent to prison. Laura promises to wait for him, but has an affair with his boss and friend Robbie. On the eve of Shadow's release, Laura and Robbie die in a car accident. Laura awakens in the desert with Anubis, but before he can send her to the afterlife, she is whisked back to her body. Possessing superhuman strength, she sees a brilliant light in the distance, discovers it's Shadow, and rescues him without revealing herself. She later feels compelled to pursue him, even as her physical form begins to deteriorate. She is discovered by two Old Gods, Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel, who restore her damaged body. Jacquel reveals himself as Anubis and vows to reclaim Laura's soul when her mission is done. Laura continues toward Shadow, eventually meeting him in his hotel room.|
|5||"Lemon Scented You"||Vincenzo Natali||David Graziano||May 28, 2017||0.666|
|During the last ice age, a tribe of people travel across Beringia, with a symbol of their god, Nynyunnini. As in episode one, the Beringians encounter people and gods already indigenous to the North American landbase, who forcibly deny them entry. The Beringian tribe begins to lose faith. Nynyunnini dies and is forgotten. In the present, Media (in the form of David Bowie) confronts Technical Boy on behalf of Mr. World, the New God of Globalization, scolding him for his attempted lynching of Shadow. Shadow and Wednesday are arrested for bank robbery. Mad Sweeney tries to retrieve his coin from Laura but discovers that it is inside her, giving her life. He warns her not to trust Wednesday. In the jail, Media (now in the form of Marilyn Monroe) and Mr. World force Technical Boy to apologize. The New Gods offer an alliance with Wednesday, promising to help him "find his audience" by sending a missile named Odin to attack North Korea. They murder the police and allow Shadow and Wednesday to escape.|
|6||"A Murder of Gods"||Adam Kane||Seamus Kevin Fahey and Michael Green & Bryan Fuller||June 4, 2017||0.607|
|A group of Mexican illegal immigrants attempting to illegally cross the border into the U.S. pray to Jesus, who comes and attempts to protect them. He is shot dead while doing so. Shadow questions what he saw at the police station and admits to Wednesday that Laura is back from the dead. Sweeney teams up with Laura, seeking her resurrection so he can reclaim his coin. They meet Salim, who agrees to drive them across state lines in his taxi in exchange for Sweeney helping him find the Jinn. In Virginia, Wednesday takes Shadow to meet the Old God Vulcan, who maintains control over a small town through their belief in the right to bear arms. Vulcan agrees to stand with Wednesday and forges him a sword, but he later betrays them by telling the New Gods where they are. In revenge, Wednesday kills him and curses his believers.|
|7||"A Prayer for Mad Sweeney"||Adam Kane||Maria Melnik||June 11, 2017||0.629|
|Ibis tells the story of Essie, an Irish girl sentenced to transportation who used to leave offerings to the leprechauns in exchange for good luck. On the ship to America, she seduces the ship captain and persuades him to take her to London. There she becomes a thief; but she is caught after forgetting an offering. Pregnant and transported to America again, she marries her master who, upon his death, leaves her in charge of his farm. She resumes making offerings to the leprechauns. Mad Sweeney visits Essie on her deathbed, thanking her, as her belief enabled him to start a new life in America. As Sweeney and Laura are driving, he tells her that he is taking part in Wednesday's war to atone for deserting as a soldier. The truck overturns and Sweeney's lucky coin falls out of Laura. He restores it to her instead of claiming it, revealing that he had something to do with her fatal car crash.|
|8||"Come to Jesus"||Floria Sigismondi||Bekah Brunstetter and Michael Green & Bryan Fuller||June 18, 2017||0.774|
|Mr. Nancy tells Shadow and Wednesday the story of Bilquis, a powerful but fallen Old Goddess, which convinces Wednesday to seek out a queen. He and Shadow visit Easter, an Old Goddess of spring and resurrection who has successfully adapted to the new era by capitalizing on the Christian celebration of Christ's resurrection. Laura and Mad Sweeney track Shadow to Easter's estate. Easter discovers that Laura can't be resurrected because she was killed by a god, forcing Sweeney to admit that Wednesday arranged both Laura's death and Shadow's imprisonment in order to isolate Shadow for his own purposes. Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World arrive to threaten Wednesday. Wednesday destroys their men with a lightning bolt and proclaims himself to be Odin, and convinces Easter to unleash her own powers and take back the spring, casting a drought over America. At last, Shadow admits belief in the gods, just before Laura arrives to talk with him.|
In 2011, American Gods author Neil Gaiman stated at the Edinburgh International Book Festival that HBO had expressed an interest in adapting the novel into a television series. In March 2013, Gaiman spoke of the project's progress at the Cambridge International Student Film Festival, and confirmed that the prospective series' opening episode would "contain new elements and details" while still remaining "a lot like the opening chapters of the book". He also commented that the book would only make up the first two seasons of the show and that he was still working on the pilot script, as his first script was not close enough to his book for HBO's satisfaction. In November 2013, Gaiman announced on Reddit that the TV series was still in the works but no longer at HBO.
In 2014, HBO's president of programming Michael Lombardo revealed that the project had been abandoned because they could not get the script right: "We tried three different writers, we put a lot of effort into it. Some things just don't happen".
In February 2014, Fremantle Media acquired the rights to adapt the novel as a fantasy drama series. In July 2014, it was announced that Starz would be developing the series with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.
Fuller stated that the series would be "[following] the events of the books but expanding those events, and expanding the point of view to go above and beyond Shadow and Wednesday". Permission has been given for the series to incorporate elements from the book's companion, Anansi Boys. Fuller also confirmed that Gaiman is "very involved" with the production and expressed his hope that Gaiman would write an episode himself.
On June 16, 2015, Starz officially announced that it had greenlit the series. Showrunner Bryan Fuller estimated in May 2015 that the show would likely air in "late 2016"; however, it premiered in April 2017, and the first season consisted of eight episodes. Production began in March 2016, with filming primarily occurring in Toronto, as well as Brantford, Cambridge, Guelph, and Hamilton, Ontario, and Oklahoma.
During an interview with Neil Gaiman on June 24, 2016, he discussed plans for future seasons of the show beyond the first, should it be continued, and noting that the first season only covers the first third of the novel. The second season is intended to cover the Lakeside section of the novel, and "a big pivotal thing that happens to Mr. Wednesday" will likely be a season finale for either the second or third season.
Regarding the sexual content on the show, Green stated that while the book contains sexual content, "our sexual content, when it was portrayed, was artful. By that, we mean that it was essential to character, or essential to story. That it was as beautiful [as] anything else we were gonna try to portray in the show. Which is to say, if you're going to define gratuitous sexuality as sexuality that can be cut out and not diminish the final episode in any way, we weren't gonna do that. We wanted it to be something that was essential." He also added that Starz wasn't "shy about nudity".
The third episode features a gay scene between a businessman named Salim and a Djinn. Fuller admitted he wasn't concerned with the explicit sexual content that was featured in the scene, stating: "We wanted to tell a very graphic story with the sex and sexuality. And also tell a tale where a man comes from a country where homosexuality is punishable by death. For him most sexual experiences [would be] back-alley blowjobs, so the Jinn is making love to him probably for the first time in his life so he can experience sexual love. It's an amazing, beautiful experience for a human being to have particularly when you consider how many men, women and genders in-between, don't, or can't, because of where they come from." Omid Abtahi, who portrays Salim, commented on the relationship, "I think love in any form, man/man, woman/man, woman/woman, whatever, is a beautiful thing. I would love to live in a world where people are not thrown off by that. So the way you do it is by exposing them to it, and normalizing it. Yes, it might be a little graphic for some people but it's natural. There's no hate. We're not trying to offend anybody. It's love." Fuller also demanded a reshoot of the scene, claiming the original sex positions weren't physiologically possible for anal intercourse.
The fifth episode's prologue showed a five-minute animation sequence that revolves around characters in the Ice Age. The sequence was created by Tendril, a design and animation studio that was based near Toronto, where the series is filmed. According to Tendril's director Chris Bahry, the sequence was difficult to make and it took six months to complete. According to Bahry, "The challenge was in finding the most powerful way to communicate the central theme of the sequence: faith vs survival and adaptation." He also added, "We wanted it to feel very tangible and real, like a stop motion film that could have been made by these ancient people, using whatever materials and tools they would have had access to."
On May 10, 2017, the series was renewed for a second season. On November 29, 2017, it was announced that Fuller and Green were departing the show and were to be replaced as showrunners for season two after having completed writing roughly half of the season's scripts. On January 12, 2018, Starz President and CEO Chris Albrecht clarified the ongoing struggle with mounting a second season, including Gillian Anderson's and Kristin Chenoweth's involvement, Fuller and Green's continued involvement – stressing that they were never fired, nor did they quit – given their schedules, and showrunner and budget concerns, while stressing the difficulty of adaptation and the network and Fremantle Media's continued commitment to the series. On February 2, 2018, Jesse Alexander, writer for Fuller's Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, was announced as co-showrunner for the second season alongside Gaiman. Production began on the second season in April 2018, and with the season scheduled to premiere in 2019.
In September 2018, it was reported that Alexander had been removed as showrunner from the series by Starz and Fremantle. The series was also six weeks behind schedule and was forced to go on hiatus due to having an unfinished script for the season finale; Alexander submitted multiple drafts for the finale, but they were all rejected. Fuller and Green had scripted the first six episodes of season two, but they were thrown out once Alexander was hired to rewrite them. The season two episode order was trimmed from 10 to 8 episodes (similar to season one), in an attempt to trim the budget. The first season was $30 million over budget. Cast members were unhappy with the new scripts and they were often rewritten on set, including Ian McShane improvising dialogue. Starz was unhappy with Alexander's direction of the material, which was more "conventional", different from Fuller and Green's more "atmospheric, hypnotic" tone. With no showrunner, producing director Chris Byrne and line producer Lisa Kussner have been left in charge. It was also confirmed that Kristin Chenoweth would not be making an appearance in the season due to scheduling conflicts.
Fuller stated that he wanted the Old Gods to be portrayed as gritty and rustic to "demonstrate the well-worn aspects of their religion and the consequences of going without faith for so long", while the New Gods are portrayed as slick and updated with their technology to illuminate "how valuable and pertinent they are, in their own religions."
On January 28, 2016, Ricky Whittle was cast as the lead character, Shadow Moon. On March 2, 2016, it was announced that Ian McShane had been cast as Mr. Wednesday. It was later announced on March 17, 2016, that Emily Browning would play Laura Moon, Shadow's wife. On March 23, 2016, it was announced that Sean Harris, Yetide Badaki and Bruce Langley would play the respective roles of Mad Sweeney, Bilquis and Technical Boy. On April 14, 2016, Jonathan Tucker and Crispin Glover were cast as Low Key Lyesmith and Mr. World. On April 21, 2016, Cloris Leachman was cast as Zorya Vechernyaya, Peter Stormare as Czernobog, Chris Obi as Mr. Jaquel, and Mousa Kraish as the Jinn.
On May 6, 2016, it was announced that Sean Harris had departed the series due to personal reasons and the role of Mad Sweeney was being recast. On May 11, 2016, it was announced that Pablo Schreiber would take over the role of Mad Sweeney. In June 2016, it was announced that Gillian Anderson would portray Media. On June 15, 2016, it was announced that Omid Abtahi, Orlando Jones and Demore Barnes would join the cast as Salim, Mr. Nancy and Mr. Ibis, respectively.
On June 4, 2018, it was announced that Dean Winters, Devery Jacobs and Kahyun Kim would join the cast in season 2 as Mr. Town, Sam Black Crow and Media; with the latter now known as New Media after the departure of Anderson in the role.
American Gods premiered on Sunday each week in the U.S. on the Starz app, before airing the same day on Starz at 9:00 pm Eastern. Each episode became available internationally on Amazon Video the day after the U.S. broadcast.
The first season of American Gods has received largely positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 92% rating with an average score of 8.11 out of 10 based on 78 reviews with the consensus stating: "American Gods opens with a series of wildly ambitious gambits – and rewards viewers' faith with a promising first season whose visual riches are matched by its narrative impact." On Metacritic, it has a score of 77 out of 100 based on 36 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
|1||"The Bone Orchard"||April 30, 2017||0.4||0.975||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|2||"The Secret of Spoons"||May 7, 2017||0.3||0.710||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|3||"Head Full of Snow"||May 14, 2017||0.3||0.716||N/A||0.585||N/A||1.301|
|4||"Git Gone"||May 21, 2017||0.3||0.631||N/A||0.621||N/A||1.252|
|5||"Lemon Scented You"||May 28, 2017||0.3||0.666||0.3||0.733||0.6||1.400|
|6||"A Murder of Gods"||June 4, 2017||0.2||0.607||0.3||0.671||0.5||1.278|
|7||"A Prayer for Mad Sweeney"||June 11, 2017||0.3||0.629||N/A||0.588||N/A||1.218|
|8||"Come to Jesus"||June 18, 2017||0.3||0.774||N/A||0.622||N/A||1.396|
|2017||Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Main Title Design||Patrick Clair, Raoul Marks, Devin Maurer and Jeff Han||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Special Visual Effects||Kevin Tod Haug, David Stump, Jeremy Ball, Bernice Charlotte Howes, Jessica Smith, Josh Carlton, Pierre Buffin, James Cooper and Aymeric Perceval (for "The Bone Orchard")||Nominated|||
|Black Reel Awards||Outstanding Guest Performer: Drama Series||Orlando Jones||Pending|||
|2018||Critics' Choice Awards||Best Drama Series||American Gods||Nominated|||
|Best Actor in a Drama Series||Ian McShane||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series||Gillian Anderson||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Television Series – Genre||American Gods||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||Best Fantasy Television Series||American Gods||Nominated|||
|Best Actor on Television||Ricky Whittle||Nominated|
|Best DVD or Blu-ray Television Release||American Gods: Season One||Won|
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