In 2010, I read Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. I loved it! Also it is one of the only books I have read multiple times, it just had so much material and narrative that I had to read it again to get everything out of it. The first episode of the series titled ‘The Bone Orchard’ indeed delivers on keeping to the source and engaging you throughout its run time.
After the grand beginning scene where we see people bringing their Gods to America, we meet Shadow Moon when he is in prison. With just a few days left on his sentence, he begins to make his plans with his wife Laura upon his return home. But that wasn’t to be!
Shadow is released a few days early when he is told his wife has died. Making his way back home, Shadow comes into contact with the con-man known as Mr. Wednesday. Shadow just wants to continue his journey, but Mr. Wednesday seems to know a lot about Shadow and offers him a job being his personal bodyguard.
For anyone to be a con-man, you need to have a certain suave to your personality. Ian McShane is a dream casting for the role. McShane’s Wednesday is able to swindle with little effort and plays so much on luck that he comes across as likeable and a bit of a dick! Though you may not know how to feel about Wednesday, I have to say he is my favourite character in the book (and looks like this will be the same in the show).
The big draw for me immediately is the casting. We get to see the main cast throughout the episode and we can make our impressions immediately. I have already mentioned how good Ian McShane is, but the acting of Shadow’s Ricky Whittle must also be praised. His emotion is given such weight and you feel his screams and are brought down with the reveals that also pull him down further.
How about a tall leprechaun? Pablo Schreiber is fun as Mad Sweeney. Pablo’s scene with Ricky Whittle is brutal to watch, but you can’t take your eyes away. His inclusion does inject some humour into the later part of the episode. Then there is Yetide Badaki as Bilquis, who I am sure we will see more of later in the series (and you may wanna think twice about a date with her). Also, we get to see Technical Boy, who is concerned with what Mr. Wednesday is planning and Bruce Langley does bring the brat to life and you immediately want Shadow to punch the scrawny New God!
Yes, these are gods. We already get the tease of war from the beginning. The New Gods (Technical Boy and more to be revealed) and The Old Gods (Wednesday, Mad Sweeney, Bilquis) will be fighting it out. If you know the novel, then you know there is a lot more to come!
This is how an adaptation should be done. I always had my own idea of how this show would look, and it does fulfil that vision rather nicely. Being only the first of an eight-episode series, there is indeed a number of characters we are still to meet. We hardly see Laura Moon (Emily Browning), but her presence will be around for a long time. We also have so much to learn of these gods!
Overall, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green should be proud. They have taken Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel and have made a must-watch show with plenty of detail and smart casting. Please keep this up for the next 7 weeks!
Final Rating: 9/10
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove