So, last night I had an OMG moment.
And thank god I had that too.
For the love of god, it was good!
And I can’t wait to experience it again, godspeed!
Ok, enough with the un-godly horrible jokes…
Well, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am referring to the series premiere of American Gods, Starz network’s latest offering that is based on a book of the same name, written by the illustrious Neil Gaiman.
Under the premise of the show (and book), gods are real. They are real because we worship them, although their powers are declining because we have moved away from religion, and towards our modern “gods,” aka media, technology and the stock market.
The old gods are gearing up for a battle with th newe gods, so that the old gods may show the young whippersnappers who is really in charge.
And woe to any innocent bystander who gets caught up in this battle…
Especially if said bystander goes by the name Shadow Moon…
At its core, American Gods is a fantasy, somewhat similar to The Lord of the Rings, but set in modern times and familiar places, with a main character who symbolizes the melting pot that is America.
American Gods can also be seen as a sort of allegory for how immigration has shaped this country, as the immigrants not only brought their foods and languages to this country, but also their religion and beliefs.
In other words, their gods.
So, without further ado, here is the recap and review of the first episode of the first season of American Gods, titled The Bone Orchard.
Oh, as always:
The episode begins with a Viking ship arriving in North America in 813 C.E. Almost immediately, the Vikings are attacked upon arrival in the foreign land. They attempt to leave, but there is no wind, so the ships are unable to sail.
The men realize that their god, Odin, demands a blood sacrifice. So they spill their own blood, and the wind finally arrives, so that the Vikings may set sail for home.
The Vikings also leave behind a statue Odin. Their story is transcribed into a book, by an unknown man.
The story then flashes forward to the present day. We are introduced to a man named Shadow Moon. Shadow is serving the last of a prison sentence, and is looking forward to resuming his life with his wife Laura when he is released. Shadow’s cellmate, Low Key, advises him to be polite to the customer service agents at the airport, as the behaviors that are accepted in prison are not accepted in the outside world.
Despite his excitement, Shadow has a foreboding feeling that something is terribly wrong. He calls his wife Laura, who assures him that everything is fine, and that she is planning a party to celebrate his return home. Shadow feels somewhat reassured, but also begins to have odd dreams, where he encounters a flaming buffalo in an orchard which is carpeted with skulls.
Shadow is summoned the next day to the warden’s office. The warden tells him that he is being released early, as his wife has died in a car accident earlier that morning. Shadow is shocked, and gathers his few possessions, boarding the bus so that he may return to his home for his wife’s funeral.
At the airport, Shadow speaks to a customer service agent. The agent tells him he needs an official copy of Laura’s death certificate to change the date and time of his flight, or he will need to pay a fee. Finally, Shadow is able to book a flight for the next day and spends the night in the airport.
Shadow also notices what appears to be a doddering old man also negotiating with the ticket agent. The man tells the agent that he has lost his ticket, and he needs help from his son, who is his caretaker.
When Shadow boards the plane, he is unable to find a seat. The stewardess places him next to the old man. The old man buys Shadow a drink and strikes up a conversation with him. The man seems to know intimate details of Shadow’s life, including the fact that Shadow was recently released from prison, and that Shadow’s mother was a “hippie.”
The old man introduces himself as “Mr. Wednesday.” He offers Shadow employment, as he needs a driver and an errand boy, and someone with “muscle,” as he puts it. Shadow declines, telling the old man that he has a job lined up at home at his friend Robbie’s gym. The old man then mutters that Shadow may not have a job lined up after all.
Due to weather, the plane becomes somewhat unstable, making Shadow nervous. He is able to fall asleep, but is awakened by the stewardess, who tells him that the plane has landed early, due to inclement weather.
The story then flashes to a man who meets a woman at a bar. The man tells the woman that he is glad that he finally took the advice of his children and made use of an internet dating site. The woman timidly asks the man if he thinks that she is desirable, and he enthusiastically ensures her that she is.
The woman leads the man back to her apartment, which has a bed with crimson sheets. She seduces the man, who tries to resist, but ends up being a willing participant in their encounter.
The woman commands the man to worship, and he utters his adoration, and refers to the woman as “Bilquis.” The man is then swallowed by the woman’s vagina. Afterwards, Bilquis appears to have rejuvenated, and admires her youthful appearance in the mirror.
Shadow decides to rent a car, so that he can drive back home, as he fears he will miss Laura’s funeral. Shadow stops at a bar named the Crocodile Bar, for rest and food.
At the bar, Shadow again encounters Mr. Wednesday. Wednesday again offers Shadow a job. Shadow declines, reminding Mr. Wednesday that he will be working for his friend Robbie. Wednesday then breaks the news to Shadow that Robbie was killed in the same car crash that killed Laura.
While Shadow is trying to process the fact that his friend is also dead, a man named Mad Sweeney arrives at the bar. Sweeney introduces himself as a leprechaun, much to Shadow’s skepticism. Shadow performs one of coin tricks, but Sweeney upstages Shadow, telling him that his trick is actually magic, as opposed to sleight of hand.
Sweeney challenges Shadow to a fight, telling Shadow that if he wins, he can have one of the special gold coins. Shadow is reluctant, but Sweeney goads him, and the two brawl. Shadow wins the duel, and pockets one of the gold coins.
Wednesday again presses Shadow to come work for him. Realizing that he has very few options, Shadow reluctantly agrees, but only if he can attend his wife’s funeral first. Shadow makes it clear that he does not like or trust Wednesday. Wednesday and Shadow seal the deal over three cups of mead.
The next day, Shadow awakens in an unfamiliar vehicle. Wednesday is driving. Shadow asks if Sweeney taught him any tricks. Wednesday smiles cryptically, and tells Shadow that from now on, he will be driving.
Shadow arrives in time for his wife’s funeral. He appears to have very few friends and family members, as no one consoles him, other than Audrey, Robbie’s wife and Laura’s best friend.
That evening, Shadow visits Laura’s grave, to say his final goodbye. He is interrupted by Audrey, who informs him that Laura and Robbie were having an affair, and were even intimate moments before their deaths. Audrey attempts to seduce Shadow, who refuses her advances, but still comforts her.
Shadow then makes his way back to his vehicle. He sees a peculiar sphere on the ground. The sphere leaps up and latches on to Shadow’s face, rendering him unconscious.
Shadow awakens in a limousine. A pixelated creature speaks to him, finally forming the face of a young man. The young man is Technical Boy, and he has abducted Shadow and has demanded to know what Mr. Wednesday’s plans are.
Of course, Shadow has very little information for Technical Boy. The creature tells Shadow that he has reprogrammed reality, and sets his goons upon Shadow.
The goons beat Shadow in unconsciousness. When Shadow awakens, he finds himself hanging from a noose, seemingly on the edge of death.
However, the blood begins to fly, as someone (or something) fights off the goons.
Yeah, I need to get the god-awful jokes out of the first, of course.
However, there is one thing here that is not god-awful.
And that would be this episode.
In fact, it is a long way from being god-awful. Far from it, in fact.
Seriously, is the Starz network issuing out blank checks?
Because it sure seems that way, from what I saw in this episode.
So where do I begin?
It ate me alive!
Well, actually, that was the case for that poor, poor man…
And it appears even fertility goddesses fall on hard times…
(See what I did there?)
So yes, that scene got my attention. I loved the re-interpretation of it as well.
Bilquis is a goddess of sexuality and fertility.
But since so many are choosing to either not have children, or delay having them, she has become irrelevant, and in danger of dying off, per her appearance before the encounter vs. her appearance after the encounter. She also needs love and devotion, in the era of no strings attached sex and the booty call.
So she does the next best thing: she lures men via internet dating (ha, I knew I couldn’t trust Grinder!) and obtains her nourishment from one night stands.
Hey, she needs something, and a one night stand may need be ideal for her (you could say those are empty calories), but the one night stand is the equivalent of a nutrient shake: she can live by ingesting them, but the…um…satisfaction part is lacking.
And Yetide Badaki.
She is perfect for the role: seductive, powerful and charismatic. Just as I imagined Bilquis to be.
In fact, it appears that the casting for this show is divine.
(Yeah, I know. Can’t help myself.)
First of all, Shadow Moon.
Hey producers, I am gonna need to see more shirtless Ricky Whittle! That is vital story line, so don’t mess this up, okay!
Ricky Whittle brings a lone wolf, kind of Bruce Wayne vibe to the character. And that is exactly what Shadow is: a lone wolf. And come to think of it, I have never seen Shadow Moon and Batman in the same room together…
Ian McShane is also perfect as Mr. Wednesday. One minute, he is a doddering old man who lost his plane ticket and needs his son to help him…
The next minute, he is a hustler. And I am with Shadow: I don’t trust him!
Those two are going to be one of the greatest duos in history.
Kind of like Batman and Robin.
Or maybe macaroni and cheese.
Perhaps peanut butter and jelly…
Well, you get my point.
I also loved the fight between Mad Sweeney and Shadow. It was epic in the book, and epic on the show.
And no, do not take gold coins from strangers, kiddies!
And of course, Technical Boy.
The fact that he wears a man bun and vapes is the primary reason why I have classified this story as horror.
Nope, has nothing at all to do with the fact that this creep had his goons issue a bit of the old ultra-violence, and beat up Shadow A Clockwork Orange style.
(Which must be every internet troll’s go to movie. Or The Fast and the Furious. Pick your poison.)
Oh, and then he tried to lynch Shadow…loved the blood that came flying from those guys when the mystery rescuer showed up. Took me right back to 1998, when I sat in my dorm room and wiled away the hours playing Quake, when I should have been doing homework…
(More on the lynching in a minute.)
Seriously, every word out of this motherfucker’s pimple crusted mouth is douchebag gold, and I love it.
Now, as I stated before, we could argue that American Gods touches on a lot of social issues, and is particularly relevant in the current political climate.
Many Americans will say that racism is no longer an issue. That we have moved passed all that.
They are color-blind, they tell us. We all come from the same race, aka the human race.
However, The Idiot in Chief achieves his dream of becoming leader of the free world (yeah, this post will definitely end up in the horror section now that we are going here) and walla!
We have racially motivated violence.
Anti immigration sentiment is at all time high, although I think that sentiment has always been there. It’s when a country elects a dried up Cheeto as its leader that it becomes okay to express that sentiment.
American Gods, even in the first episode, drives home the importance of immigration, race and violence.
The opening scene with the Vikings, while comedic, drives home the violence part.
(Somewhere out there, the Black Knight is out there taking notes. I mean, someone’s arm flying off and still managing to kill someone? Who does that? Oh, right…sorry Mr. Gaiman!)
This country is founded on violence.
And violence is still part of our culture.
How many references to lynching were there in the first 10 minutes of the episode, towards Shadow, an African American man?
Shadow even dreams of a noose. Lynching, and other types of racially motivated violence, are not so far removed from our culture as some of may think.
After all, we have witnesses to actual lynchings who are still alive and able to recount those horrible events.
Lynching still happens to this day.
Sure, maybe people don’t use a noose and hanging tree so much (although I don’t think that is entirely true), but African Americans are killed by an alarming rate by police officers. Modern day lynching, in other words.
The racial violence is driven home in American Gods when nameless, faceless goons try to lynch Shadow.
There is a lot of symbolism there, as violence is something that is nameless and faceless to us as a society. And again, lynching is the chosen form of violence, as opposed to a knife, gun or many other ways to kill someone.
So it is apparent that this show has not shied away from topics that may be somewhat “taboo” to some, even in the first episode.
And I have never been so anxious for Sunday to hurry up and get here, so I can watch another episode.
Well, that ‘s it for the Bone Orchard.
Join me next week, when we review and dissect episode 2, titled The Secret of the Spoons.
Tune in next week…
Same bat time, same bat channel!