American Gods Season 1 Blu-ray | DVD
Developed by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for Starz Television
Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Peter Stormare, Crispin Glover, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Gillian Anderson
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release date: October 17, 2017
Much like Watchman, the highly regarded comic book miniseries from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Neil Gaiman’s 2001 fantasy novel American Gods was something fans figured would be too difficult to translate to the big screen. It’s definitely a story better left for television, where it could be told over many episodes and possibly even seasons, and it almost happened in 2011 when HBO snagged the rights. But the cable giant that gave us the masterpiece that is Game Of Thrones, a worthy adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, just couldn’t get an American Gods series off the ground. A few years later, Fremantle Media bought the rights with Starz jumping on to develop a show with Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan) as showrunners. Now that sounded promising! Even more promising — Gaiman himself was on board as an executive producer. What happened next was the creation of one of the best shows on television.
In the 8-episode Season 1, which debuted on Starz earlier this year, we’re introduced to Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) as he’s about to be released a few days early from prison so he can attend his wife Laura’s (Emily Browning) funeral. On his flight home, Shadow meets a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who wants to hire him as his bodyguard as he journeys across America to gather forces to his side for a coming war between the Old Gods and the New Gods. We eventually learn that when people began emigrating to America, they brought with them their gods from the old country, who, over time, became forgotten as people died off and New Gods, such as technology and media, were “worshipped” by the masses. Left with less power and influence in the New World, the Old Gods struggle to survive and must make due with meager existences. None of this, of course, makes any sense to Shadow, but he takes the job anyway, since he’s an ex-con with nowhere to go, who’s struggling to cope with his wife’s dead and the circumstances that led to it. But is Laura really dead? Turns out, she’s not quite dead, as she’s been reanimated and ends up embarking on a journey of her own.
Throughout the season, we’re introduced to a host of gods and learn more about the war between the Old and New. Also, each episode begins with a “Coming To America” vignette that’s separate from the main plot line that shows how a particular god came to America.
While the main plot follows Shadow and Mr. Wednesday on their mission, which includes hostile encounters with some New Gods, the side story of Laura with the leprechaun Mad Sweeney, definitely steals the show. The showrunners greatly expanded Laura’s role for the television series and Browning turns the character into much more than just the “dead wife.” Pablo Schreiber plays Mad Sweeney, someone who looks nothing like the stereotypical leprechaun, who spends a lot of time being angry and frustrated. Schreiber is best known for his role as the asshole prison guard Pornstache on Orange Is The New Black, and it’s hard to believe that these two characters are played by the same person. Schreiber is just fantastic here. Laura and Mad Sweeney’s contentious relationship and rapid-fire sarcasm with one another makes their road trip adventure a joy to watch.
There’s several other characters from the book that received expanded development and storylines in the television series, such as the all-consuming goddess Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), and even with that, the show manages to include a lot of details from Gaiman’s book, even some that might slip past you. But, you don’t have to know anything about the book to enjoy the television series – matter of fact, it’s the type of story you go into completely blind. You might wonder what the hell is going on at first, but it’s worth the eventual discovery. There’s still a lot more to come, and thankfully, Starz has greenlit a Season 2.
For now, you can catch up or rewatch Season 1 — because this is definitely a show that warrants repeat viewings, not only because it’s so good but because there’s so many things going on you could miss something — which is out now on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The home video release includes all 8 episodes of Season 1, some of which include episode audio commentary with the cast and crew, along with hours — yes, hours — of behind-the-scenes features, many of which feature Gaiman talking about his inspiration for the story and the journey to bringing it to the small screen. The documentary “The Road to ‘American Gods'” is 2 1/2 hours on its own. If you enjoyed the television series, you will definitely want to view the available audio commentary (for the premiere and finale), and dive into all these other extras, because there’s a lot that’s revealed. Any fan of Neil Gaiman will absolutely want to watch these bonus features to hear the master himself talk of his beautiful creation.
BLU-RAY/DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
· “The Road to ‘American Gods’” Documentary
· “Title Gods” Featurette
· “‘American Gods’ Origins” Featurette
· “Old Gods” Featurette
· “New Gods” Featurette
· “What Is ‘American Gods?’” Featurette
· “Book vs. Show” Featurette
· God Squad Video Documentary
· Explore the Crocodile Bar in 360 Degrees with Commentary by Cast and Crew
· Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew on the Premiere and Finale Episodes
o Episode 101 with Creators-Writers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and Director David Slade
o Episode 101 with Actors Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle
o Episode 108 God Squad Video with Actors Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, and Orlando Jones
When Shadow Moon is released from prison, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday and a storm begins to brew. Little does Shadow know, this storm will change the course of his entire life. Left adrift by the recent, tragic death of his wife, and suddenly hired as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard, Shadow finds himself in the center of a world that he struggles to understand. It’s a hidden world where magic is real, where the Old Gods fear both irrelevance and the growing power of the New Gods, like Technology and Media. Mr. Wednesday seeks to build a coalition of Old Gods to defend their existence in this new America, and reclaim some of the influence that they’ve lost. As Shadow travels across the country with Mr. Wednesday, he struggles to accept this new reality, and his place in it.