American Gods
Fans have long awaited the arrival of Season 2, but after its release on March 10, many were disappointed. (Illustration by Erik Ojo, Northeastern University)
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American Gods

How does the sophomore season compare to its groundbreaking predecessor?

The first episodes of “American Gods,” Season 2, premiered March 10 on Starz and were available on March 11 on Amazon Prime. The premiere episode, although receiving mixed reviews, was filled with the same lush and visually stunning imagery now associated with the first season, but anxieties appear to be running high in terms of the quality of the current season. Will the second season pull something together resembling the first? Will the show survive?

Based on Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel of the same name, “American Gods” follows the journey of Shadow Moon, a man who is released from prison three days early due to his wife’s death in a car accident. He later finds out his wife was with his best friend, Robbie, who is also dead. To add injury to insult, the two were having an affair while Shadow was in prison.

A dejected Shadow, no longer having a clear objective in life, is picked up and hired as a bodyguard to a conman and drifter, Mr. Wednesday. Now, if any of you have an inkling of Norse mythology, you may have already guessed Mr. Wednesday is actually an incarnation of Odin. He needs Shadow’s help in waging a war on the new gods, such as media, technology and “Mr. World.”

The old gods that immigrated to America through the hearts and minds of thousands of immigrants have lost their worship and, thus, their own individual powers (at least the ones who have not been able to adapt). Wednesday wants to remind the world who they should really be believing in.

The two have a cross-country American road trip, mainly traversing the Midwest, recruiting other gods to their cause. Their ride is full of ups and downs … much like the journey of the television show in making a second season.

Season 1 of “American Gods” left with Easter taking back all fertility she had placed on the land and Odin finally revealing his identity to Shadow in an altercation with the new gods. They were counting on finding more recruits, as the war had clearly been initiated, but it’s been nearly two years since the 2017 premiere of “American Gods.”

The show’s original showrunners, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, left after the conclusion of the first season, which was surprising given the praise the show received at the time. Initially, the split was amicable — at least rumored to be amicable — but later, new information began to circulate. In December 2018, Fuller went to Twitter to confirm he had been fired from the show but quickly deleted the tweet.

Apparently, the show’s first season went $30 million over budget, a sum that would drive any sane person up the figurative wall. This could have only added tension to negotiations and put strain on the working relationship between showrunners and executives. Supposedly, the first season was also intended to be 10 episodes, but due to the over-expenditures and a touch of mess when organizing the season, it was shortened to eight episodes.

To makes matters worse, Gaiman was supposedly against some of the directions Fuller and Green wanted to take the show in for Season 2. It’s assumed that liberties would have to be taken in turning a standalone novel into a multi-season television show, but perhaps the showrunners were making too many interpretations.

I have to admit, some of those liberties were pretty amazing. Some characters who only survive through a couple pages in the book receive whole character arches, particularly Mad Sweeney, the 6 1/2-foot-tall leprechaun, and Laura Moon, Shadow’s dead wife reanimated. Arguably, Mad Sweeney is more present in the book than Laura, but both receive much larger amounts of character development through the show.

However, the specifics that worried Gaiman have not come to light, other than the concern that the show was veering too far away from the path of the novel. Consequently, he became much more involved in the second season, but the project could not possibly be his main focus, as he has already been promised to be a showrunner on Amazon Prime’s “Good Omens,” a series based off the novel of the same name he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett.

The troubles did not end with a worried author, though. With the exit of Fuller and Green came the exit of Gillian Anderson, who plays Media, and Kristin Chenoweth, who plays Easter.

The show also then sidelined its new showrunner, Jesse Alexander.

So, who really ran the second season of “American Gods”? The answer is that no one really knows or is willing to give a straight answer on the subject. And as previously said, the first episode of the second season has not received the kindest of reviews.

Some critics are claiming the show has fallen flat in its visuals and storyline; however, the story is now more closely aligned with the plot of the book. We have finally made it to the House on the Rock, and the set does not disappoint after two years of anticipation.

Bright colors emerge as absurdity hits the screen, as audiences are taken into a house large enough to contain a functioning carousel under its roof. Gods ride prancing lions and eagles and are transported into Wednesday’s mind to have a meeting regarding the next phase of his war, and all the old gods take on their chosen forms. Not 10 minutes later they are all together eating in an outdated diner reminiscent of the 1950s.

The first season left fans with cinematography akin to art, and the second season is appearing to do the same. Current political and moral problems of our society, especially in relation to race and immigration, were met head on in moments often painful to watch in the first season. The show definitely pushed the boundaries of what could be done on a network television show, which is something to say in the era of “Game of Thrones.”

A signature of “American Gods” is the lingering visuals, which surreally depict some of humanity’s
darkest moments and greatest triumphs, and those who seem to have a problem with the premiere
seem to rally their complaints around the idea that this season, after one episode, has not held up.
I disagree. But you will have to catch up to decide for yourself.

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