American Gods was already a little messy, let’s be clear about that up front. The first season of the Starz series, based on the book by Neil Gaiman, featured a twisting collection of characters with twisting motivations and various powers. So much happened. So much. I watched the whole first season and enjoyed it quite a bit but heaven help me if you had asked me what happened week-to-week. I would have stammered and panicked and told you how much I liked hearing Ian McShane talk. True, sure, but not entirely helpful.
The thing it had going for it was style. It was a beautiful show to look at, all bright colors and beautiful people and violent action. It was inventive and charming. My favorite moment came during an intense fight in a pounding storm. Laura Moon (Emily Browning), a slight undead woman who developed supernatural powers as her body parts fell off and were put back together, was doing battle with a swarm of goons. As one approached her, she reared back and kicked him square in the jimmies with enough force that his entire spine and skull launched out through the top of his head. I promise I am not making this up. Here, look. Feel free to save it and use it on your various social media platforms with a caption like “Monday mornings.” My gift to you.
And so, it is with great sadness that I inform you that the long-delayed second season is here and it is… not great. The messiness is still there, but now it’s not offset with the same amount of style and charm. It’s a shame. There are a bunch of explanations for this, which we’ll get to in a minute, but first, a quick primer.
Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is a former convict who was hired as a bodyguard by a man named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who quickly revealed himself to be a slick-talking version of the Norse god Odin. Mr. Wednesday runs around with Shadow, introducing him to other gods and running afoul of a few more, as he explains that the Old Gods and the New Gods are heading toward war. The first season bobbed and weaved through this story, with everyone from Crispin Glover to Gillian Anderson to Orlando Jones to Kristin Chenoweth popping up as deities. Dane Cook played Shadow Moon’s sleazy buddy. Peter Stormare was in there, too, which is important because Peter Stormare is awesome. And again, McShane as a flim-flamming ancient god. No complaints so far.