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American Gods season 1 review

American Gods
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Unholy acts of gods, ghoulies and a 6ft 5in leprechaun span the land of the free in Starz’s outré American Gods.

The eight-parter is artfully adapted from Neil Gaiman’s 2001 fantasy novel American Gods, where old and new deities mingle with humans on Earth.

Mid-week dip

Ricky Whittle – fully relinquishing a sapless Hollyoaks heritage in the process – plays the po-faced protagonist Shadow Moon, fresh out of jail. He meets the strange Wednesday (Ian McShane), unbeknownst to him the Norse god Odin.

Wednesday hires him as a bodyguard and takes them across the country for a mission never quite explained. He’s worried that humans are forgetting Old Gods, like himself. So he’s trying to gather a posse of oldies for war against the crowd-pleasing New Gods of media and technology. The scene where Gillian Anderson, as one of the latter, appears as David Bowie is surreal sublimity.

One of the major deviations from the novel is with Moon’s irritating wife, Laura (Emily Browning). Despite her character having the lure of fatberg, she has a more central role on screen than on paper. Early on she’s killed in a car crash while orally delighting his best friend. Her demise is more complicated than that, though. Which does give rise to a lot of needed light relief with Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) the oversized leprechaun.

American gods and immigrants

The permeating theme of US immigration couldn’t be better timed (nor as beautifully animated in episode five). That isn’t to say that American Gods should been viewed only as political allegory for today. But the Trump-era parallels are in plain sight. Likewise, erections, graphic gay sex and one well-choreographed orgy are an obvious shot at out-sexing the likes of Game of Thrones and Westworld that hits the target.

While the show is explicit in flesh and stylised blood, it’s implicit in plot. Unless you’ve read the book, you’re apt to often wondering what in Jove’s name it all means (man-munching vaginas?!) and where exactly this road-tripping saga is heading.

What we do know is, considering this season only covers the first third of the book, it’s got at least two more to go. For a series so restless and desecrating, the remainder cannot come soon enough. Amen.

American Gods is out now on digital platforms, Steelbook, Blu-ray and DVD.