REVIEWED: SEASON 2 (EPISODES 1 - 2) | WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO (FROM MARCH 10TH)
Considering the notoriously troubled production of American Gods’ second season, which saw original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green replaced by Jesse Alexander (Star Trek: Discovery), who was also subsequently ‘relegated’ before its completion, the first two episodes reveal the series to be just as potent, twisted and dazzling as its predecessor, with the potential to possibly better it.
After last year’s agriculturally devastating finale, Season 2 Episode 1 sees Ian McShane’s surly Mr Wednesday and his skulk of celestial reprobates set out to rage war against the New Gods; led by Crispin Glover’s pixel twitching, glitch-faced Mr World and the grating, vape toking Technical Boy (Bruce Langley). A casual re-introduction unfurls before action twists and characters flit while momentum flowers into a rowdy, vibrant and hyper-violent climax.
Ex-con/bodyguard Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), his decaying, perfidious wife Laura (Emily Browning), Wednesday (McShane) and leprechaun Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) travel from Kentucky to Wisconsin to meet “the biggest, baddest demon killer” Mama-ji and the Gods via a reality transcending carousel/dream portal in the back of a museum, to seek their permission to rage war against the New Gods. Meanwhile, Mr World requires Argus’ eyes to see through his enemy’s as Tech Boy attempts to re-connect with Media (played by Gillian Anderson in Season 1).
The script does away (to some extent) with the cryptic, flowery monologues which coloured the first season. Venomous téte-a-tétes are spiked with brusque, equally callous and hilarious comedy that’s mostly evident during altercations between Sweeney and the decomposing Laura Moon, who cusses back with equal acrimony while attracting flies and punching people into bloody pulps. Other comedy comes via Peter Stormare’s snarling, hammer happy Czenerborg who responds to Shadow Moon’s concern that he will get cancer from constant smoking, with; “I am cancer!”.
Other returning cast/characters include Cloris Leachman as the wintry, chic Zorya who swoons with the besotted (but curbing it) Wednesday, along with temptress Bliquis (Yetide Badaki), Salim (Omid Abtahi), The Jinn (Mousa Kraish), and Mr Nancy (Orlando Jones). Episode 1 concludes with a great, bloody gun battle which, when combined with preceding character/plot twists and high drama, makes for a high octane nail-biting finale and sufficient cliffhanger segue into Episode 2.
E2 starts with the team splitting up. A pensive air is established via flashbacks while hard sci-fi, tech aesthetics and a black, electric blue pallet, whip a portentous, part industrial tone. Teleportation, torture, train chases, a rescue mission and a slow head crushing under foot scene knock things up a notch in terms of the bone-crunching hyper-violence, suspense and action set pieces. The story then swerves to NYC decades earlier, to show one character’s childhood, interspersed with another looking set to join the opposition while deviating enough from the novel for Neil Gaiman fans to find something fresh.
The jolting between characters, conundrums, genres and tones can seem a little fractious as the plot pace sags a tad due to excessive exposition, but these first two episodes primarily boom as thrilling, entertaining, funny and fantastically original. The frenetic, kinetic punk/anarchic sci-fi fantasy aspects, accentuated during the industrial toxic neon (seen through a poisoned lava lamp) intro credits, combined with digital flies and spiders, is odd, redolent and alluring. Judging by the growing general quality during these first two episodes, things are shaping up perfectly for the new season. Fingers crossed for the rest of it.