American Gods–A Subversive Riff on Religion
The dual theme of religion and government is an intriguing new exploration for television. Handmaid’s Tale (see my May 14th review) focuses on women’s debasement in the name of religion American Gods, on the other hand, focuses on immigrants (pre-travel ban), and the brewing and stewing of mythology in opposition to institutional religions. Both myth and established religions fight a new belief system of technology and money. This is experimental film-making and cinematography at its best.
Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is a convict who is released a few days early from prison, due to the death of his wife. Without income, he begrudgingly becomes a bodyguard and partner to the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (the magnetic Ian McShane). American Gods is first and foremost the story of Mr. Wednesday.
Based on the 2001 novel by the same name by children’s book author Neil Gaiman (of Coraline fame), American Gods is part stylized art, part time-travel, part political commentary and part science fiction/fantasy. With its intensity, stellar acting, stunning visuals, and diverse cast, this is a complex fantasy series. The plots involving con men and forgotten but vengeful deities combat each other in horrific scenes of violence. The series begins with a Vikings episode of blood and gore commanded by the Norse gods.
American Gods is not for the faint-of-heart. But for those who are unafraid of the darkness of the soul, or of the repressive effects of religion —American Gods tackles difficult subject matter: the human need for the spiritual., Not every viewer can watch this series without being offended. For those who can, they will experience a provocative tour of the divisions in spiritual versus material values. The divisions, coupled with the depredation of violence in the name of religion and egomania, are dazzling and impossible to forget. The series’ first season (on Starz) has not ended and the questions of division and unification remain to be answered.