The American Gods trailer was unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con, and just like the show’s casting, it was pitch-perfect. The eerie-folksy song (“Where Did You Sleep Last Night” most famously covered by Nirvana in their MTV Unplugged session) the lighting, the tone, everything about Ian McShane as Wednesday; Neil Gaiman’s beloved book came to life onscreen. But trailers go by quickly, and you might have been too busy making incomprehensible noises of enthusiasm to process everything. If that’s the case, don’t worry: We’ve got you covered with our deep-dive breakdown.
If you haven’t read the book, a brief overview: Mysterious protagonist Shadow is released from jail, only to find that his wife has died. On the plane home, he encounters the sinister and enigmatic Mr. Wednesday and the two end up taking a deeply strange cross-country road trip. That’s the simplified version, though there are all sorts of complications like Shadow’s dead wife still walking around, old gods clashing with new gods, Wednesday’s shadowy agenda, belligerent leprechauns, man-eating vaginas, and sphilosophy. It’s gloriously weird fantasy set in the current day, and it’s bound to take television fantasy in a more modern direction than Game of Thrones. Now, on with the trailer.
Shadow’s coin tricks
Although the casting is pitch-perfect for Mr. Wednesday (the excellently sinister Ian McShane), Media (Gillian Anderson), Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) Laura (Emily Browning), Czernobog (Coen Brothers frequenter Peter Stormare), and Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), Ricky Whittle as Shadow is the one wild card. He’s a little too pretty to match the description of a guy whose appearance says ‘Don’t Fuck With Me’ ). But as soon as we see that first shot of his coin tricks in his prison cell, we can breathe a sigh of relief. Not only will Ricky Whittle do; he’s got Shadow’s essence captured.
Mild spoiler alert, Shadow’s wife Laura does not stay completely dead. Only mostly dead. Like all American Gods characters, she’s a complex one, filled with contradictions. On one hand, she’s a great cook, calls Shadow “Puppy,” and he loves her enough to go to prison for her. On the other hand she — spoiler alert — dies in a car crash brought on by a sex-accident because she engaged in an affair with Shadows’s douchey friend Robbie (another deviously delightful cast choice, Dane Cook). Emily Browning is already bringing her to not-quite-life even before she opens her eyes.
The vibe of American Gods was perhaps always going to be the hardest aspect of the novel to capture onscreen. Even in the novel’s quiet moments, there’s a strangeness that hums within the mundane. Nothing is what it appears to be in Neil Gaiman’s imaginative look at America. Bryan Fuller, who made a name for himself mixing the beautiful and the grotesque in Hannibal, is the perfect guy for the job. Even in seemingly ordinary scenes like a funeral, the lighting and color-saturation adds a not-quite-of-this-world quality that makes you take a second look.
Mingle it with the requisite road-trip shots full of sprawling land and open skies…
Or shots of forests that dance between the realm of the mystical and the real…
or stretches of lonely and desolate open roads at night…
…and there’s an abundance of weirdness to be found. The aesthetic of the show matches the perfection of its casting.
Ian McShane is Mr. Wednesday. Of all the on-point casting choices, he is the most glorious. Even shown briefly, he crackles with Wednesday’s vaguely sinister aura, his unpredictable energy, his con-man glee.
Mad, Mad Sweeney
Mad Sweeney the leprechaun, played by Pablo Schreiber, is one character the show is clearly diverging from the books to cast in a more modern light. Gone is the trucker-trash aesthetic that applied to the early 2000s when the book was written, and instead we get an on-point modern parallel hipster trash. Schreiber appropriately walks the balance between intense and unhinged. This is one expanded role that’s looking very promising.
The orgasm of death scene
If you’re not familiar with the story, this is probably a big head-scratcher for you. If you are familiar, it’s one of the most memorable parts of the book for it’s sheer audacity and bizarreness, and the show is definitely going there. All cable shows like to push the envelope with some “because we can” sex; expect American Gods* to take that to the next level. It also won’t be pure shock value for the sake of it; with an expanded role, we can expect Bilquis to have fascination beyond this particularly memorable moment.
Crispin Glover as Mr. World
Looking appropriately sinister and smirking, the shadowy leader of the New Gods is a force to be reckoned with.
Atmospheric, stylized, yet full of enough substance to chew on until the show comes out, this trailer announces the impending arrival of the biggest new show the world isn’t going to be able to help worshiping. American Gods Season 1 will debut in 2017 on Starz.