Martin Carr reviews the second episode of American Gods…
American Gods is more of a mood than set of narrative ideas. It welcomes you in from the cold with thick blankets, a roaring fire and steaming cup of mulled wine. You let your guard down being wooed by the visual majesty of dandelion seeds being swept into the atmosphere. Charged with electricity before the first rains fall, or naked forms frozen in space observing distant galaxies before cutting back to a heated carnal exchange. Here is the conundrum which exists between our central journey with Shadow Moon and everything else.
Slave ship zoot suited demi-gods lecturing captives on a Danish sailing vessel on the things yet to come, whilst tenor saxophones play alluringly beneath is disconcerting. Wildly inventive and narratively challenging without doubt but this is the point. Repetitive sound effects, close quarters camera work, bloodletting which is sultry, dirty, dishevelled and hormonally charged await anyone who buys into American Gods. Ricky Whittle remains a measured presence amongst the subtle mayhem which follows Wednesday around. Rain drenched lynch mobs, staple gun sutures applied to sweat soaked wounds and a masterly portrayal weaved between the cracks delivered by Ian McShane are all on offer.
Sense is for those who like their stories linear and that method is not to be found here. Orlando Jones, Gillian Anderson and Peter Stormare add to the impressionistic extremely surreal nature on show in episode two. Forty plus minutes of television which is hard-hitting, understated, unique in ways it is almost impossible to describe accurately and yet enthralling. Earning its eighteen rating with mere suggestion rather than gross out close and personal violence, you get the impression that seediness exists just beyond the frame, just round that corner or moments after lights go out.
Every character thus far is well-rounded, fully evolved with a back history both murky and repellent, replete with redemptive qualities hidden somewhere in the past. Stormare’s Czernobog is comedic yet brazen, animalistic yet carved from hardship and perpetually on the edge of anger. Slavic heritage bleeds from both himself and Cloris Leachman’s Zorya Vechernyoya. History exists between everyone within this world and Shadow Moon is our only way in. His confusion mirrors our own as a plethora of imagery, ideas, visual bravado and subtle social commentary blends together amongst the blood, sweat, sex and chequers.
Whispered folk songs, suggestive backroom gin joint overtures and the smell of post-coital musk permeate the air from start to finish. Episode two is a sensory experience like no other taking the most mundane items and weaving magic from visual invention. We have in the first two episodes something altogether unique with moments of brilliance, grounded within a world we have never seen before.