Friday, July 21, 2017

Cleaning the Slate: TV (American Gods)

Making a decision. As I watch too much TV, I have too much to comment on, some great, some good, and mostly only meh. As I always have a massive backlog of movies and TV, and even some video games, I am going to pare that down. Only four five remaindered TV shows will get posts, and after that, only things that leave a great impression will end up here. Well, maybe if I actually clean house on the Movies, I will do the occasional What I Am Watching post.

2017, Bryan Fuller (Wonderfalls), Starz -- download

While I am rather peeved Fuller left Star Trek: Discovery to focus on this show, I am also glad he did this show. But first, full disclosure. While, I am and will always be a mega-fan or Neil Gaiman, this book never left much of an impression on me. I keep on saying I need to re-read it, but I never pick it up. I am also not very fond of taking an entire season to set things up (I am glaring at you Preacher) but as I just said, sometimes it is the journey, not the destination. And oh my, what a journey this classic road story takes us on!  Fully engaged, full onboard!

Shadow Moon is in prison, or more accurately, just about to get out. With a name like that, you know something is going to happen to him. Rather horribly, a few days before he is due to be released, he gets a, "I've got some good news, and I've got some bad news." The good news is that they are letting him out early; the bad news is it's because his wife was killed, with his best friend's cock in her mouth. On the plane flight home, he bumps into con man Mr. Wednesday, who offers Shadow a job, one connected to Shadow's shadowy past. Mr. Wednesday is a jerk, a downright charming asshole, but Shadow is expectedly off kilter and ends up accepting the role.

And that is what the entire first season is about -- Shadow Moon tagging along with enigmatic Mr. Wednesday while we get introduced to a world a lot more broader than he ever suspects. All around Shadow, the old gods of mostly dead religions are playing their modern parts. Mr. Ibis and Anubis run a mortuary, Bilquis seduces men in night clubs, Vulcan runs a munitions factory, Czernobog works in a slaughter house. The gods are everywhere, but few take notice.

Fuller is a visual wonder. He builds these incredibly wonderful backdrops that just draw us into the world. He gives us vignettes of the world of the old gods, the most startling being African god Anansi in the hold of a slave ship, decked out in 21st century finery, telling each and every slave their lives are fucked. The dialogue is horrible, gut wrenching and utterly compelling. And it establishes the gods, and our place in their world. Or their place in our world? That is sort of the problem they face, that they have been shaped by us.

Other aspects of this show also make me mourn Star Trek: Discovery's loss of Fuller. He does a few episodes that completely knock down boundaries that even cable TV has up. The magical sex scene between a Muslim man and a Djinn is the most graphic, the most erotic sex scene I have ever seen  between two men. And especially since this is not demographically a gay TV show. On the other end of the spectrum, our female lead (Shadow's deadwife Laura Moon) is utterly sexless, a full alive zombie desperate to get back to Shadow, as death has proven even she could love. Her purging scene, after awakening from the embalming needle, is so revolting, I am not sure I can look at Emily Browning the same ever again. But damn, its a captivating episode.

As I have already said, I am not fond of the idea of taking an entire season to establish a premise, but damn just watching Fuller do it, makes it worth it. Every episode is lush, full and captivating. And of course, ever since Ian McShane was Swearengen in Deadwood, I can listen to him talk for days. Ricky Whittle, whom I know from The 100, is a powerful Moon. And we also get Gillian Anderson is Media portraying herself as David Bowie, Lucy Ricardo and Marilyn Monroe. And Orlando Jones is Mr. Nancy (Anansi) and Peter Stormare is Czernobog and Pablo Shreiber is the ever expanding character, a leprechaun tied to the deadwife via his lost magical coin. I cannot wait to see what he does next, even if the plot doesn't drag me in.