Director: Various, including Christopher J. Byrne
Script: Neil Gaiman & Jesse Alexander
Cast: Ricky Whattle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Orlando Jones, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Mousa Kraish, Omid Abtahi, Demore Barnes, Pablo Schreiber, Ian McShane
Running time: 480 minutes
Based on Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel of the same name, American Gods Season Two sees the same story continue on not long after the crazy events that concluded Season One.
The series, like the novel, is a bizarre blend of Americana, fantasy, horror and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centring on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow Moon played charismatically by Brit’ Ricky Whattle.
American Gods is basically about a war brewing between the Old Gods and the New Gods. Much to their frustration the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world are steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of new gods reflecting society’s more recent loves for money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs.
Heading up the Old Gods is Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane) who is the chief manipulator of events and spends much of this series trying to convince the other Old Gods of the case for a full-out war against the new upstart gods. Acting as his bodyguard, of sorts, ex-con Shadow Moon finds himself dragged into this weird underworld full of mythical creatures and gods hell-bent on returning to their former glory days. And, while Mr Wednesday is stoking the fires of war and trying to rebuild his old magical spear, Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One.
A council meeting of Old Gods at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities, both Old and New, on quests across America that will converge at a funeral parlour in Cairo, Illinois. Shadow is forced to carve out a place as a believer in this strange world of living gods – a dark world where change demands utmost commitment and having faith often requires terrible sacrifice.
And, if things aren’t complicated enough, this series also features a lot more of the living dead wife of Shadow, Laura (Emily Browning), with the giant leprechaun, Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), in tow!
I found the first series of American Gods really engaging on a number of different levels, but I have to say that, although I still liked the second season, I found it less enjoyable than the first and a harder watch. It starts off strongly, with the council meeting of gods and its chaotic fallout, and then seems to lose itself for a bit, perhaps becoming a bit too smug with its high levels of weirdness and culty, and sometimes pretentious, charms.
The photography, acting and set design are all still top-notch, and the characters are well realised, but I felt that some of the story arcs seem to be overly drawn-out and over-stayed their welcome. However, the series did get a ‘second wind’ towards the end of the eight episodes and I certainly would want to see a third series, although I’m kind of feeling now that they may need to draw things to a conclusion, sooner rather than later.
Studiocanal is distributing American Gods Season 2 on Blu-ray. There are some extras included as part of the boxed-set, these being:
New York Comic Con (52 mins) – A panel discussion and question and answer session recorded at the last New York Comic Con. Most of the principal cast are present (except for McShane who was busy having some kidney stones zapped at the time), plus writer Neil Gaiman, who reveals that the idea for the book originally came to him following him spending a long time on the road driving across America and encountering some weird cultural occurrences and even weirder characters.
Neil Gaiman’s United States (5 mins) – Gaiman talks about living in the States and about his roads trips. He sums American Gods up as being chiefly about immigration and what different cultures bring to a new country.