Monday, May 08, 2017

The Secret of Spoons

More about the TV series American Gods seems quite clear after the second episode.

For fans of co-creator Bryan Fuller's previous series, Hannibal, it's clear that you've found the closest thing to a replacement here. Fuller has brought in key figures from that series, with the apparent intention of establishing a similar tone. This was the second episode directed by David Slade, a recurring director on Hannibal. And composer Briant Reitzell's music seems very rooted in the same sort of space as his music for the world of a cannibal killer.

The result of these three people working together again is a sort of "artistic horror." Like Hannibal, the show strives to be both beautiful and disturbing. Graphic visuals abound -- not always just violent images, but images carefully groomed for maximum impact. Equally common are images to make you recoil -- and these often are violent, like the split second cuts of Czernobog killing cattle, or even something as simple as Shadow getting too aggressive while scrubbing a tile floor. And whenever such an image comes along, count on music from Reitzell to amp the sense of discomfort just that little bit more.

For fans of Neil Gaiman's book, it's clear that the show is going to be a quite faithful adaptation. There might be a slight reordering of some elements, a slight resetting of location or reconfiguration of details -- but as best as I can remember (and I only read the book a short while ago), everything is unfolding just as it does in the book. In this respect, so far, American Gods is not like Hannibal, which used the source material as a springboard more than a bible.

That all being the case, it would seem that American Gods is going to be a show for watching good actors inhabit fun guest starring roles. Look at all we got this week: Gillian Anderson hamming it up as Media (as Lucy Ricardo), Cloris Leachman as world-weary Zorya, and Peter Stormare all menace as Czernobog (more threatening for not being less bombastic in key moments). My favorite of all this week was Orlando Jones in the opening scene, playing Anansi and delivering a delicious monologue, equal parts funny and bitter.

Episode two of American Gods continued the momentum of the premiere, delivering an A- episode both entertaining and aesthetic.

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