Each week, Uproxx will be hosting the American Gods Book Club. This is a safe space where readers of Neil Gaiman’s massive novel can come to dissect the changes to the series and debate what will happen next, all without fear they’ll accidentally spoil something for non-readers.
In last week’s episode of American Gods, ‘Lemon-Scented You’ proved that showrunner Bryan Fuller and his writers’ room (with some guidance from Neil Gaiman) can comfortable spool out the mileage from the source material. Just about zero things in that hour — from the moment Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) are arrested until the end credit roll — exist within the novel. But each new piece of lore wove a more intricate tapestry for the characters. I’ll be honest: reading American Gods again as I’ve been writing these reviews now feels more like browsing cliff notes. So much detail feels like it’s missing. Which just goes to show how well executed these detours are.
Again, with Starz taking viewers off the beaten path this week with ‘A Murder Of Gods’, the nature of my book club reviews has changed. Where applicable, I still discuss how Fuller and his team integrate the world in Gaiman’s head to a visual medium. But for the most part, fans of the novel on in the part of the map labeled ‘Here be monsters.’
#1: Meet Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen) and his unwitting minions
In the book: This never happened. Within the framework of the novel, Shadow is being pulled along by the tide of war. It is hinted around the edges that the gods of old are making due with what scraps they can get in the modern world, but there’s never time to fully explore what kinds of options the gods have found.
On the show: Building off the sales pitch from ‘Lemon-Scented You,’ the introduction of Vulcan shows the audience what kind of life Mr. Wednesday could have if he’d only take Mr. World (Crispin Glover) up on his deal. And honestly? It doesn’t seem like a bad deal…at least for the god. Sure the people of his town are slightly mindless. Sure they have to sacrifice one of their own unwittingly to slake the thirst of their master. But they seem happy enough, in their own Stepford way. But compared to the living Czernabog and his sisters were eking out, Vulcan is living like a king. Or at least a very wealthy vessel. The problem? Gods aren’t meant to be lackeys.
#2: Brown Jesus died for the sins of White Jesus’ followers.
In the book: None of this happens.
On the show: Whoo boy. Here we go. Combined with the commentary on America’s obsession with guns, ‘A Murder of Gods’ is leaning in on the putrid underpinnings that power our country. To have white men at the border, wrapped in the iconography of Jesus, gunning down the poor and downtrod is a damming visual on its own. To have Mexican Jesus sacrificed on the stigmata of semi-automatic gunfire is just the icing on top of this middle finger to conservative values cake.