American Gods: The Bone Orchard   Show Only 
April 30, 2017 7:57 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

When Shadow Moon is released from prison early after the death of his wife, he meets Mr. Wednesday and is recruited as his bodyguard. Shadow discovers that this may be more than he bargained for.
posted by oh yeah! (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know if there will be any show-only viewers, but I wanted to get a thread up just in case, and because I'm curious to hear how the show plays for people who don't know the plot already. (I tried to find some non-spoiler reviews to include, but most of the ones I found up now are general reviews based on the first 4 episodes, or ones that include details/reveals from later in the book, in a hinting "aren't I clever" kind of way that seems kind of obnoxious. The Vulture reviewer seemed to mainly stick with the episode itself.)
posted by oh yeah! at 8:10 PM on April 30


I'm a show only viewer so thanks for making this thread. I fear I may be in the minority, so I may have to dive into the books included threads anyway going forward, but I'd like to avoid major future spoilers for now, so maybe more people will show up here.

I haven't read any of Neil Gaiman's works, and I've mostly avoided reading too much about the show beforehand, although I knew the very basic premise going into it (new gods vs old gods, etc).

Overall, I liked the first episode, and I felt like they did a good job of bringing the characters to life and introducing them in a way that made them seem compelling for someone who knows basically nothing about the future plot or character arcs. Ian McShane as Odin/Mr. Wednesday was a particular stand out.

I'll admit that initially the opening sequence went over my head a bit, just in the sense that "Oh yeah, the point here is that this is how Odin ends up in America" didn't sink in right away. I liked it, though, and look forward to them continuing this with the other episodes.

I loved the visuals of a lot of scenes, and I'm certainly curious to see where this goes. I'm also willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt just because I love Bryan Fuller and am so happy to have a show of his back on TV, and it's great to be able to see what he can do without the restraints of being on a regular network channel.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:19 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I loved the book (well, the premise and the writing; did think that the wind-up was better than the pitch). I subscribed to Starz specifically to watch this. And I... am not sure I'll watch the rest. Not a fan of explicit violence, and I think I hit my yearly allowance in that one episode.
posted by Sublimity at 3:12 AM on May 1


The stylized violence was... Very surreal yet also very visceral.

I've been looking forward to this but if this amount of gore keeps up aiight ha e to bail on future EPS.

Having said that this is pretty much Magical realism done right.

I mean Twin Peaks, BBC Gormonghast, Neverwhere. I'd add American Gods to that list right now.

The acting and production were so so spot on. Eeriely great.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:54 AM on May 1


I don't know what I just saw. I think I hated it, but I can't be sure. This needs much more thought.

From the Vulture article, I agree about the problems with race … makes me very nervous to watch and so far this has been a blunt and careless treatment. Or is it? I can't tell if its intentional because some of the comments and scenes are so on the nose that I have a hard time believing that it's not self aware. Which makes it ironic or too nuanced, which is problematic for a different reason. I think.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:33 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


So, for someone who loved loved loved Hannibal but is decidedly meh on Neil Gaiman, should I give this a go or nah?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:46 AM on May 1


I can't tell if its intentional because some of the comments and scenes are so on the nose that I have a hard time believing that it's not self aware.

So, I know this is Show Only, and I haven't seen the show yet, but there are no spoilers in what I'm about to say. Basically, I think that Gaiman means well and tried his best, but he's just not in a position to have a particularly good understanding of race in America. One would hope that the show would do better, but Bryan Fuller is, well, also not in a position to have a particularly good understanding of race in America.

Or, to quote John Ridley's cameo appearance in Lady Dynamite: "I don't think what you're doing is malicious, it's just recklessly ignorant."
posted by tobascodagama at 8:02 AM on May 1 [8 favorites]


So, for someone who loved loved loved Hannibal but is decidedly meh on Neil Gaiman, should I give this a go or nah?

I think it's worth giving it a shot. The gore probably won't put you off if you're a fan of Hannibal, and if you've been missing Fuller's Hannibal aesthetic, it delivers on that. Also, Brian Reitzell is apparently doing sound production for this show as well. It also has a lot of great actors. (Ian McShane is particularly brilliant.)

Of course, I don't know Gaiman's work, so I'm really only speaking as someone who absolutely loved Hannibal.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:08 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


[Comment removed, keep in mind that this is marked Show Only, so discussion of the books needs to stay out of the thread.]
posted by cortex at 1:31 PM on May 1


I also loved Hannibal (and Pushing Daisies!) but am generally lukewarm on Gaiman's work. This seemed like a lot of scattered scenes that were only vaguely connected, with less visual punch than Fuller's usual work. The entire tech god sequence seemed silly, and the post-funeral scene seemed... weirdly icky at best. Ian McShane was great as always, though, and I did appreciate the weird crocodile bar. I'll keep watching, but I'm hoping future episodes either have less focus on Shadow or give him more to do than wander around, look confused, and hit people occasionally.
posted by tautological at 1:58 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I think wandering around in a confused way, hitting people occasionally is basically his job description.

I've never read the book. A friend who has said that although there was nothing wrong with it, the fact that it could have been a different, deeper, better book spoiled it for him. I suspect that's going to be the case with the series. It sure is purty, though, especially if you like red. That, and the presence of McShane and the other star turns, will be at least enough to keep me entertained.
posted by Grangousier at 3:29 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I read the book ages ago so I don't really remember what happens, so I might lurk on both threads.

Oyyyyyy this was way more gore than I expected. Like people upthread said, I'm not sure if I can handle future episodes if they're similarly gorey.

I did like Technology being represented by a teenage dudebro who's all bluster and violence. Sorta like a human representation of 4chan.
posted by divabat at 6:52 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


So, for someone who loved loved loved Hannibal but is decidedly meh on Neil Gaiman, should I give this a go or nah?

yes, but it sucks.

I thought the violence was markedly less realistic and more silly than Hannibal, which is already not very realistic, and not very upsetting at all. apart from the final violent scene, which is unpleasant because of the meaning and symbolism of the violence, not because of the graphics.

The conception of and references to women are very much more Gaiman than Fuller, so far. not to say it won't get better, but keep your expectations low and maybe you will be pleasantly surprised at some point in the season. I hope I will be.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:06 PM on May 1


So this episode seemed to overload on everything, it just crammed too much into an episode. In the beginning there's a scene where a dude gets hit with arrows; of course, one or two isn't enough, they have to make him into an hedgehog or a needle cushion - whichever you prefer - to the point where there's no vacant space on his body not covered by an arrow. This was a nice metaphor for the episode, I thought: everything! now! take every shot in order to be certain! This attitude, however, turned the episode strangely boring, however. An overload of visuals, and of characters having nothing else to do but support those visuals which I thought were cool but no so cool than the creators no doubt thought they'd be. I've no problem with violence on screen, especially when it's that cartoonish, but again, it was way overloaded and had not (apparent) significance other than to say, hey look, it's fucking awesome! I hope they go for a more compact approach going forward. Otherwise it will get tedious very fast.
posted by sapagan at 11:51 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I liked it. And, yes, for people not familiar with Fuller's aesthetic, it can be a bit much.
posted by Pendragon at 4:58 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


Sublimity: Not a fan of explicit violence, and I think I hit my yearly allowance in that one episode.

No spoilers -- for those who haven't read the book, I think that the maximum violence in this show will be here at the very beginning, and at the end, with the potential for additional deaths scattered throughout. Then again, they've twisted and compacted some elements in such a way that they could add extra gore because it's an Adult Show For Adults, and that's what you do these days.


iamkimiam: I don't know what I just saw. I think I hated it, but I can't be sure. This needs much more thought.

Sadly, I'm of the same mind. I'll give ep 2 a chance, but I may bail after that. Nice visuals, shit story and acting in so many cases.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:24 AM on May 2


In the beginning there's a scene where a dude gets hit with arrows; of course, one or two isn't enough, they have to make him into an hedgehog or a needle cushion - whichever you prefer - to the point where there's no vacant space on his body not covered by an arrow.

The bit when he's been thoroughly porcupined but then one last arrow flies belatedly into his toe was pure slapstick, and probably the only bit in this that I found entertaining.

(The techno-Droog thug-bots were cool-looking too, I suppose.)
posted by sobarel at 8:38 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


I was definitely put off by the ultra stylized bloodbath in the first scene, if you're not going to do that thing as well as 300 then perhaps do it another way?
I enjoyed Shadow Moon and Wednesday, and the leprechaun, was too distracted by Audry's botox to know what was happening with her.
The Lynching was 'interesting', to put it politely, hopefully it comes in service of a major plot element, otherwise gratuitous depictions of that kind are not for me.

I have never read Gaiman, and the book, while praised in circles i travel, has never really intrigued me all that much.

I am hoping the show approaches Legion levels of awesome, but that's a high bar, granted.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:04 AM on May 2


OHenryPacey: The Lynching was 'interesting', to put it politely, hopefully it comes in service of a major plot element, otherwise gratuitous depictions of that kind are not for me.

I think death and dying will be a theme in this show, given the prominent feature of neon-lit crosses and such in the intro credits.

I am hoping the show approaches Legion levels of awesome, but that's a high bar, granted.

I think it's already missed that bar, but there's still time. Also, I think Legion was more subtle and delicate with its imagery, even in its violence - no broad splashes of translucent, glassy blood.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:40 AM on May 2


I find the strongly mixed opinion here fascinating. I read the book, but I share the common complaint about Gaiman (great ideas, poor delivery) and was "meh" about it, and I also have seen all of Fuller's work (including Dead Like Me) and I generally really like him, but sometimes he annoys me, and I was never much a fan of Hannibal, although I greatly admired what it was good at.

So I went into this expecting that I might really like it, or might be deeply disappointed with it. Maybe the lowered expectations helped? I never can tell how much that alters my critical opinion, it's annoying. But I mostly don't agree with all the things that other people have criticized about the episode. I mean, I can see how those scenes (and the episode as a whole) could just be wrong in the way described, but for me it actually worked. Like the scene at the cemetery. I believed her behavior as explained by just going bonkers due to the sordid horror of what happened, and she was obviously intoxicated or otherwise drugged to the gills. So while it easily could have been, as it was for others, just over-the-top and unbelievable, I found myself believing it and being impressed for the audacity of it. I actually commented out loud at the end of the scene, "well, I've never seen a scene quite like that before".

I guess the proof will be in the pudding. If my take on it was idiosyncratic and particular to my mindset when I watched it, then I won't be able to tolerate the show going forward. We'll see. For now, though, I felt that it was surprisingly deft in what it's doing, and impressive in its audacity.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:40 PM on May 2 [11 favorites]


I don't know that your reactions are all that idiosyncratic, Ivan Fyodorovich...the critical consensus has been strongly positive and most of the discussions I've seen online have been significantly happier with the first episode than the discussion here would lead one to expect.

I'm excited to see where the show goes. The cinematography is ridiculously beautiful, and while that by itself wouldn't be enough to carry the show for me, the performances are pretty compelling as well...and a lot of the ringers in the cast haven't even put in an appearance yet.

I sort of thought that the bit where Shadow is trying to get Mad Sweeny to tell him how his coin "trick" works, not understanding that Sweeny wasn't kidding when he claimed to be leprechaun, and that he's literally conjuring the coins out of thin air, was mildly amusing. Then I came across a review somewhere that made it pretty clear that the critic hadn't understood the scene any better than Shadow did, and really thought that it was just slight-of-hand as well.

I'd have thought that the scene with a woman pulling a full-grown man into herself would've been sufficient to signal that supernatural elements are in play. but apparently that clue was too subtle.
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:57 AM on May 3 [4 favorites]


The cinematography is ridiculously beautiful, and while that by itself wouldn't be enough to carry the show for me, the performances are pretty compelling as well...

Was this American Gods we were both watching? Because the camerawork seemed downright clumsy, the CG was slapdash, on the level of 'Spartacus' or something, and the dialogue was eyecrossingly bad. Watching this back to back with 'Fargo' was like the time I watched 2001 and then 2010 immediately after - AG just comes across as astoundingly... artless.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:57 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


The opening scene was essentially a cartoon. Think how it would have come across as cute line drawing vikings, the arrow scene would have been quite funny.

They need to leave on a rowable boat asap, but can't due to no wind so they poke out an eye!? If the rest of the project follows with that profound logic I'd suggest turning the sound off as it's quite beautifully shot.
posted by sammyo at 9:41 AM on May 4


My son wants to know why the bison's hair didn't catch fire.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:45 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Rather than why its eyes did?
posted by Grangousier at 10:24 AM on May 4 [5 favorites]


Watched this for McShane as on the whole I am not particularly enamoured of Gaiman or his work, and haven't read the book. It was fairly interesting and visually striking, and the performances quite good, with some good lines, and the gore OTT and quite funny. But I have had enough of ten minute bar fights being used as character thumbnails (to determine who is the most badass, a la Banshee) and on the whole it actually felt like a Garth Ennis comic from Avatar Press, rather than a Neil Gaiman book from I guess Old Goths LLC.

I think the kid in the limo was meant to be god and the Trons were angels and Ian McShane is the devil (though, of course, "much worse" than the devil, even though the devil is literally by definition the most evil thing to ever exist)? I don't know. There was too much stuff in the first episode and none of it tied together and Shadow Moon (seriously?) has been given nothing to motivate or compel him to do anything ever. I guess I am just too old for this kind of neurotic, frightened storytelling.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:25 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I'm not a Gaiman fan so was surprised how much I enjoyed this, except for the final scene. It was so shocking to me, like I was literally being punched in the humanity - and not in a good, consciousness-raising way, more of a 'how f*cking dare you appropriate this story' - manner. It made me angry, not least because of the fine line between the terms 'Bone Orchard' and 'Strange Fruit'. That is not a connection to make in so shallow and context-less a fashion. The rest of the piece was so brilliantly self-knowingly fake, the gorgeous meaningless magic realism of it just bewitched me - despite the narrative being pretty much absent, that the final sequence stood out for all the wrong reasons.

Only comment on the Bilquist scene is - well, pretty much what I'd expect from Gaiman-as-source (interesting ideas but somewhat blunt and adolescent in execution, tone-deaf on cultural and sexual realities).

It's interesting reading the Vulture piece, the commentary chimes with my experience of watching. I'm interested enough in what the producers are trying to do to see where it goes next, and Ian McShane is enough incentive to bear with the nonsense for now.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:50 AM on May 10


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