American Gods: The Bone Orchard   Books Included 
April 30, 2017 7:02 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.

TECH BOY VAPES.
posted by sparkletone (90 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Will this be the show-only or books-included thread?
posted by oh yeah! at 7:13 PM on April 30, 2017


Will this be the show-only or books-included thread?

GOOD QUESTION. Before posting bigger thoughts than "TECH BOY VAPES" some boring administrative type stuff on that very thing:

I didn't put a flag on this post for "show only" or "books included" spoilers because I figured we could talk amongst ourselves and figure out how we want to handle that and have mods retroactively tag the post and I'll do it for future ones.

I don't have strong feelings either way. I read the book a couple times back when it was new, and remember most of the major stuff and some random details so I'm already spoiled to hell. This seems like it intends to be a much more faithful adaptation of the story than Hannibal where part of the fun was the referential, transformative-fanwork nature of the show, but it's not clear to me that we'll feel a need for separate threads like GoT?

My intent at least for the purposes of this post is to just talk about what's in the show (and if they changed things, how it is in the book). But to not talk about future events in the story at all. However, I'm happy to go with whatever the consensus ends up being.
posted by sparkletone at 7:13 PM on April 30, 2017


There are some pretty big twistaroos, from what I remember, so it might make sense to split. I'm going to be participating mainly in the book thread, however, if it ends up splitting.

Immediate thoughts: some good, some bad, but a lot of potential since it's a pilot.
posted by codacorolla at 7:15 PM on April 30, 2017


I HAVE SO MANY THOUGHTS

That opening! It's Tobias! Apparently every episode is going to open with how each God came to America and holy hell - the sand wind guide, the Viking ship, the ARROWS

Remember how it took Hannibal a WHILE to get this deep into dream and freaky symbolism? NOPE, ZERO TO BURNING BISON AND BONE ORCHARD IN SIXTY SECONDS.

oh god the music in this it's like HyperAmerican, from jazz to folk country to blues - EVERYTHING IS SO MUCH, even the locations are like a cartoon version of America.

ADAPTATION NOTE:
Bilquis is no longer a sex worker! and i think the "I can sleep anywhere " is a ...reference to another version of that character.

Help man sweeny is super hot.

MAD MEN's FREDDY RUMSUM SCREAMING YOU, THE SECRET OWNER OF ALL GOLD!

The technical boy's face hugger VR and his Clockwork Orange "children" LAYERS ON LAYERS.

I WANT MORE
posted by The Whelk at 7:17 PM on April 30, 2017 [20 favorites]


Watched with my dude who had no prior knowledge other than the broad strokes of war between gods. He was fidgety through the opening sequences, chuckled at many of Wednesday's lines, creeped out by Bilquis, enjoyed Mad Sweeney, was ready to turn it off at Audrey's graveyard hysterics, and seemed nonplussed by Technical Boy.

I dunno, feels opaque to me so far. It hasn't lived up to the generally positive reviews that came out a few weeks back. Wednesday is great, Shadow is mostly the cipher he is in the book, and while that's fine as a perspective character in fiction I'm curious if it'll play out well on screen. Whittle was good but I'm just not sure how new audiences can invest in the character.

Fuller definitely did not leave the imagery (and blood!) on Hannibal, so he's definitely got my attention for this first run at least.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:17 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Audrey's graveyard hysterics where the best and most human part of the episode! The actress spun around on every take to simulate being spun out on kolonopin

Also I feel like I get Shadow's character instantly where in the book it took me like halfway in

But it's BIG tv, all ambitous and overstuffed and I am here for it. Let's go on this road trip.
posted by The Whelk at 7:19 PM on April 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


There are some pretty big twistaroos, from what I remember, so it might make sense to split. I'm going to be participating mainly in the book thread, however, if it ends up splitting.

There are definitely some twistaroos in this story. However, for this first episode I feel like we have a ton we can talk about without talking about future events at all, and I expect that to keep up given how heavily stylized the thing is. I wanted to get feedback from others before making two threads if the one or the other is just going to go unused.
posted by sparkletone at 7:19 PM on April 30, 2017


Also, I was thinking to myself "Hannibal was pretty graphic, even on NBC. What's moving to cable going to be like?" and uh, now I know.
posted by codacorolla at 7:20 PM on April 30, 2017 [10 favorites]


Can we just go ahead and get this thread changed to 'books-included' spoiler tagging now, since we're already making comparisons? (I'm a book reader, but I think it's better to choose the spoiler tagging from the get-go and post one thread for each, for series premieres)
posted by oh yeah! at 7:20 PM on April 30, 2017


Sure. Choosing spoiler tagging from the get go is the way to go but I realized when making the post I didn't know which one to pick or if we needed to split things. Figured I'd ask. I'll message mods about this thread in a sec.
posted by sparkletone at 7:22 PM on April 30, 2017


I think late season Hannibal rules for watching fit here, like nothing will make sense execpt in three episode chunks
posted by The Whelk at 7:22 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh, and neat trick of having a Viking sword break the letterbox in the opening sequence. That's the kind of stylistic detail that screams "this is going to be different," if maybe a little pleased with itself for saying so. So... Fuller basically.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:24 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


[book now included]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:25 PM on April 30, 2017


Also I am waiting for the end and every person who hasn't read the book freak out retroactively over the airplane scene.

Also oh god how perfect was McShane's introduction? With the heist music jazz?
posted by The Whelk at 7:27 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


OKAY GOOD so him totally falling asleep in an instant is a reference to Marvel's ODINSLEEP RIGHT RIGHT?
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 PM on April 30, 2017


Also apparently it takes too ep 3 before we know the basic conflict and world and also when he get Super Hot Gay Dijini Wex
posted by The Whelk at 7:30 PM on April 30, 2017


So, quick thoughts:

Not So Great:
- Some situations (esp. screaming into the ravine) and dialogue came off as a little stale. I think that also might be a symptom of being the first episode, and needing to establish a fair bit of a complex narrative.

- The dialogue always felt a bit... rushed? Once again, very likely a first episode problem.

Very Great:
- Holy shit, it looks beautiful. The moment I felt like I was back in a Fuller show was when the dude got filled with arrows Throne of Blood style. All of the art-gore from that point forward... well, it's good to be back.

- Everything looks very, very good. I loved the production design on Media and his droogs, especially. Like, the Bilquis scene is something that I would've called almost unfilmable, but they really pulled it off.

- Performances, even with some problems above, are on point.


I'm very psyched for the season, and feel like my minor quibbles are going to iron out within an episode or two.
posted by codacorolla at 7:33 PM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


I loved the look of "oh shit my hookup is gonna get freaky" fear on the guys face when he walks init Bilquis' bedroom and her bed is literally altar-like
posted by The Whelk at 7:36 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


So uh. I knew I really wanted to see what happens when you give Bryan Fuller a giant pile of money, a fantastic cast, and no network TV censorship restrictions and we sure as hell are getting that aren't we? (WOOOOOOO.)

And just in the first two minutes if you didn't know this was a Fuller/Slade joint, we get those gorgeous, slow mo, hilariously large splashes of blood. I dunno if the behind the scenes featurette that I got when watching on Amazon played after the show aired with it on cable, but in it Fuller says that on the day they filmed that stuff, the first thing that David Slade did when he saw the buckets of blood that they'd brought to the location was to tell them to go get more buckets of blood. And that last shot of Shadow in the rain with the corpses is just the most Fuller/Slade thing I think I've ever seen. At least as much as any single shot in Hannibal, damn.

I'm not the biggest fan of the book though I did enjoy it quite a bit ... 15 years ago was it? I'm kind of willing to accept that this will carry over some of the book's garbage in the interest of faithfulness if we get something that's wildly stylistically creative. It feels like I'll at least be getting that. The ravine scream was a bit cheesy. I remember Audrey's breakdown feeling a little awkward on page (and not in the intended way) but it felt super, super, super over the top here? The minor changes to Bilquis were nice though so we'll see what adjustments they make to later stuff.

Someone I was talking to a few months ago when there was some Entertainment Weekly or whatever preview image of the fight happening in the Crocodile Bar. It was lit like a magazine cover photo so the set looked ... not great to be honest. It didn't cause me any concern because I figured the show's actual lighting would make it look fine and sure enough it looked great in the finished product.

The entire sequence with Tech Boy was just a joy. Updating his limo to be a freaky VR thing is brilliant. And of course that motherfucker vapes. It felt like the actor was channeling quite a bit of Jesse Eisenburg's version of Mark Zuckerberg which ... Sure, fine, that's not a wrong way to go at all. The bit parts all got some great stuff too. Jonathan Tucker doing the airport monologue was a delight. Whittle is good, and surprising absolutely no one Ian McShane is a fucking delight. I particularly liked his Hunter S Thompson get up when he was driving the black caddy.

I feel like I should have some thoughts about the music? But I don't really exactly. I'm not sure what I expected. This story definitely shouldn't have Hannibal's weird sad clanging noises. It felt generally correct. Very firmly American.
posted by sparkletone at 7:37 PM on April 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


Like just first blush on the music, you have Hannibal's arty atonal experiment drone into darkness while this is more ...lurid? Pulp in broad colors and wailing guitar, because neither America nor Gods are subtle.
posted by The Whelk at 7:49 PM on April 30, 2017


Oh, my favorite bit of that behind the scenes thing I mentioned is not actually the Slade anecdote it's that among the things Green and Fuller say when talking about the Bilquis scene is: 1) It was always referred to in conversations about the show when they were talking about making it as That Scene and 2) Every time Fuller and Green were asked about how they were going to do it, they said, "As written."
posted by sparkletone at 7:49 PM on April 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


And yeah, since Mad Sweeny is unlikely to come back up, let me just say


Fucking hot.
posted by The Whelk at 7:55 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


It's been a while since I read the book and I don't have my copy handy: Is this line new?

Shadow: Sorry. You're just the first person I've talked to who wasn't an asshole.
Mr. Wednesday: Give it time.


Because, hoo boy.
posted by JDHarper at 7:58 PM on April 30, 2017 [14 favorites]


Bryan did do his livetweeting of behind the scenes stuff for this like he did for Hannibal. The first one is here, but unfortunately no one has taught Bryan in the time since his previous show how to thread his tweets so I can't link to them comprehensively.

Also AV Club review is up. I haven't read it yet, but they gave it an A-. Sepinwall's episode review isn't up yet, but his advance review of the first four episodes was generally positive. He had some similar complaints to some expressed above about Shadow being a bit too reserved even though Whittle is generally good as him.
posted by sparkletone at 7:58 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Orlando Jones also livetweeted the show. His are... a bit more colorful than Bryan's. Neither knows how to thread their tweets.
posted by sparkletone at 8:14 PM on April 30, 2017


One thing that didn't hit me when reading but does hit me now, Shadow is Cipher0y because he just got out of prison and they keep mentioning and underlining how easy it would be to get sent back, o he has to be as non responsible, as non threatening as possible

while being asked to be a bodyguard, where the job title is being threatening.

So he has to go to the literal middle of nowhere (A national park, named for a native american tribe for double Americana) to scream cause he has to keep extremely tight control on his emotions and reactions everywhere else.

This need to be as nondescript as possible, combined with the noose/gallows. imagery and the main character being a black man in America like already sets up a heady thematic stew
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't mean to be an apostate here, I loved Hannibal and I think Ian McShane is amazing, but I thought this first episode was kind of ...bad? The CGI looked it was from a midrange video game from three years ago, I'm surprised that there was any scenery left in the graveyard after that one scene, the bar-fight with Nick O'Sobotka went on far too long, and I don't have any read on the main character or particularly care what happens to him. I have a lot of respect for Fuller and I liked the book OK, so I'll give this show more time, but I was not really impressed by this at all.
posted by whir at 8:26 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


As pointed out in the AV club - The beams of the church where Laura’s funeral is held echo the lines of a Viking ship, inverted.
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I liked it. The blood was unexpected for me as I didn't watch Hannibal as it's not my thing. I realized while watching I don't remember much beyond major details from the book. So I did a quick scan of the 10th anniversary version after watching to see how much it changed. The episode covered the first 2 chapters. A lot of book dialog shifted around especially in the prison; I thought it made the spoken dialog clearer. Audrey scenes were completely different and I thought worked better.

JDHarper: The asshole line wasn't in the book.
posted by bluesapphires at 8:41 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah I thought Audrey worked way better here as someone just spiraling out from grief (it's not a Fuller show without death!) and like screw me in a graveyard between the graves of our dead spouses is just so WUTHERING HEIGHTS you know?
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 PM on April 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I also loved shadow literally poking the super-advanced face hugger VR pod with a stick
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I for one am just curious if they'll be shooting The House on the Rock at the actual House on the Rock?
posted by sammyo at 9:37 PM on April 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think according to reports they did
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 PM on April 30, 2017


Apparently Sepinwall isn't reviewing the show week to week because there's too much stuff airing right now that he's already writing about but someone at uproxx is doing book/show comparison posts every week.
posted by sparkletone at 10:19 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's a minor thing, but if you look closely during the opening sequence, the severed arm/sword combo actually flys outside the letterboxing for a few frames. At least, it does when I watch it via the Starz app on my iPad.
posted by sideshow at 10:45 PM on April 30, 2017 [7 favorites]


it does and it was GREAT
posted by The Whelk at 10:56 PM on April 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Someone I know said that Jonathan Tucker is playing Lowkey as Riff Raff and I can't unsee/unhear it.
posted by sparkletone at 11:20 PM on April 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


And just in the first two minutes if you didn't know this was a Fuller/Slade joint, we get those gorgeous, slow mo, hilariously large splashes of blood. I dunno if the behind the scenes featurette that I got when watching on Amazon played after the show aired with it on cable, but in it Fuller says that on the day they filmed that stuff, the first thing that David Slade did when he saw the buckets of blood that they'd brought to the location was to tell them to go get more buckets of blood. And that last shot of Shadow in the rain with the corpses is just the most Fuller/Slade thing I think I've ever seen. At least as much as any single shot in Hannibal, damn.

Yeah, I was thinking "man, Hugh Dancy is somewhere feeling so very left out." Plus now we get to be haunted by a burning bison rather than a ravenstag!

I'm very psyched for the season, and feel like my minor quibbles are going to iron out within an episode or two.

I strongly suspect that some of my quibbles will either turn out to have been first-episode wobbles or "I am just not used to $actor in that role yet" or "I didn't imagine that scene that way" (e.g. the Crocodile Bar, the bar in my head was more of a generic dive bar) so I'm honestly just going to withhold judgment on most of them for now. But I'm cautiously very encouraged!
posted by ubersturm at 12:30 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Insomnia drunk and wine addled, but... I am disappointed.

Yes, it looks and sounds gorgeous.

The CGI is really subpar, oddly. Even the "Technical Boy" scene. It was distracting.

The Viking gods intro is way too "stylized" (although it does, post-retrospectively, Checkov's Gun the Norse Gods well). Jonathan Tucker is my unknown "best person to cast as Low Key Lyesmith." Ian McShane is motherjumping awesome as always. Really buying into Ricky Whittle.

The brief prison scene was very... unamerican, while paying lipservice? For that matter, Whittle comes across as very much British and very much not American - and that's pretty close to the book Shadow, which a lot of book detractors inadvertently bash on.

Am totally approve on casting Yetide Badaki as Bilquis and her showing her non-augmented breasts - as opposed to casting someone with implants/super-lucky-genetics/young - for this specific role.
posted by porpoise at 3:38 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


After sleeping on it, I did not like this episode. I'm going to keep watching because I like Fuller and the source material and hope next week is better.

I didn't like the overall tone. It didn't seem to know whether it wanted to be a gritty drama or a whimsical fantasy. It's OK to mix the two, of course, but I don't think there was a good balance. You get Mad Sweeney doing his coin tricks (which I loved) and Shadow being weirded out by it, but then all the other crazy shit that happens (the dreams, Wednesday following him) going completely unremarked. I recognize that tone is hard to nail on the first episode, so I'm confident it can improve.

I was put off by the writing in general. Way too many "fucks" that sounded clunky and out of place. It sounded to me like a fourteen year old's script who thought he was being edgy. Maybe that's a carry over from the book (it's been about ten years) but it didn't come off well on the screen.

The cast is mixed. I think Shadow, Wednesday, and Mad Sweeney were great (too bad this will probably be his only episode, right? I don't remember him doing anything else in the book), Bilquis was fine in her limited capacity (I wasn't sure how that scene would be filmed, but I thought it was actually pretty great), but the supporting cast came off flat. Audrey, I thought, was awful. Just fucking terrible. I wanted to skip the scenes with her. There's a world where someone acts life into that character but that performance did not carry it at all. It was so over the top, so bombastic, so grating ... if I ever watch this episode again I will skip right past the funeral. The trappings of Tech Boy with the VR limo was great, but he toed the line a little sharp on "love to hate" versus "hate." I'm interesting to see how that develops.

There were some great-looking scenes (anything in a car, basically) but it was distractedly over-saturated to me. It looked like every scene had their HDR turned up to "11." Everything looked way blown which, I'm guessing, might have been an attempt to bring out the dreamlike feeling of the book, but just made it look like TV shot through a bad Instagram account.

Damn, that's a lot of negativity.

Some good things:

- I liked Shadow and Wednesday quite a lot. The more screen time they have together, the better. McShane's scenery chewing goes well Ricky "fuck off" Whittle's steely gaze. Like others have said, I "get" Shadow's character much sooner than I did in the book thanks to Whittle's tactically-deployed expressiveness.

- The Bilquis scene was good! I genuinely had no idea how that would play out but I think I actually like it better than the book. It really underscores the gods and what they're about in a way that the rest of the episode didn't get across.

Yikes, that's actually about all I liked. I dislike being negative about this project because I like Gaiman, Fuller, McShane, and Whittles and just about everything about it. But I was left seriously unimpressed and my wife, who lives for this kind of show, was not into it at all. I really hope they get their feet under them and it gets a new direction because want it to be good.

Fingers crossed.
posted by Tevin at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


It was more "true blood" than I thought it would be. But also maybe not "true blood" enough. Like childishly 'mature' but not so much that it flips around to lite/funny?

I still liked it. McShane and Whittle are carrying everything they do together and were the source of most the laughs and feels I had during the episode.

I think a challenge the show is gonna have vs the book is that Shadow doesn't catch onto a lot, doesn't see things as he should. This works well in a book where we as the reader can be filtered through his understanding. But on screen we see and hear these actors and the choice has to be made; do we see the world as he does or do we see it as it is. Both have concrete drawbacks. They seem to be going with the later. So we know more than he does right off the bat. Like we can see who's cloying, evil, shitty, false or vengeful long before Shadow catches on. This takes away a lot of the impact of shadow learning "things" because his mind and our minds will not be blown at the same time.
posted by French Fry at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


An example of this is hearing someone "lie" in a book, they just say words that may not be true, when people "lie" on film they do a stage lie that telegraphs their dishonesty. Another one is written vs spoken words. You can read the name Low-Key and believe that's this dude's prison nickname, at least for awhile. But if a human has to say "my name is Low-Key" aloud... it's gonna be real real obvious what the sound alike is supposed to be.
posted by French Fry at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


But if a human has to say "my name is Low-Key" aloud... it's gonna be real real obvious what the sound alike is supposed to be.

You would think so...but I didn't catch on for a while, despite the fact that I listened to the audiobook.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:17 AM on May 1, 2017 [9 favorites]


I'm glad we have a books-included thread because I had a lot of thoughts on what they changed from the book. I love the book, even the Midwestern small town interlude everyone else hates, and I'm both excited and nervous about the show. Already too much gore for gore's sake - the technical boy takes a hands-off approach in the book, and I see absolutely no reason to replace Mad Sweeney getting drunken and soppy and talking about his plot-relevant backstory with yet another fight scene.

The opening scene/Odin backstory - again, just a gorefest for the sake of having a gorefest. I totally, 100% get why they want to not use the interracial violence backstory from the book. And I get why they want to much more strongly establish that Odin's a war god. But seriously?

Audrey - the actress is so good that I think they realized they'd be shooting themselves in the foot not to give her more content to work with. I glanced back at the book last night after watching. She and Shadow share about five lines of dialogue. She's a lot less unhinged, she's just grieving and bitterly angry at her beloved friend. I'm a little miffed that we're setting up a dynamic where all the female characters are highly sexualized, but the scene really worked for me. (I mean, also with him in that suit, I kind of don't blame her for throwing herself at him. So much equal opportunity eye candy in this episode, it's A++, and I hear it's only going to get better.)

Like everyone else, I was intensely, intensely curious how they would film the Bilquis scene and thought they nailed it. (And agreed that I like the touch of her not being a sex worker.)

Anyway, frustrated with some things, but very much here for the amazing acting and visuals and excited to see where it goes.
posted by capricorn at 10:25 AM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


They could have put the emphasis on the second syllable of Low Key, right? I feel like that's enough to make it not immediately obvious...
posted by capricorn at 10:26 AM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh and one last thing I'm disproportionately grumpy about! His name isn't Technical Boy! He's not a superhero! "The technical boy" is a description because he doesn't have a name or at least nobody knows what his name is. Grump grump.
posted by capricorn at 10:35 AM on May 1, 2017


"The technical boy" is a description because he doesn't have a name or at least nobody knows what his name is. Grump grump.

I'm curious to see if they refer to him as "Technical Boy" in dialogue at any point. I don't believe they did in the premiere. "Technical Boy" is just how he's listed in the credits.

I propose "Soylent Asshole" for his new epithet if the show sticks to not naming him directly.
posted by sparkletone at 12:32 PM on May 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


Wait... they haven't said Low Key's name yet, right? The "low key = Loki" pun works in the book because it's a verbal pun, and may not immediately connect to the reader. However, a filmic medium has the benefit that it never really has to name him until the reveal. A book has to have procedural dialogue that directly names characters, and describes their actions. Shadow's cellmate can walk around, talk, and do whatever for seven episodes before a name is necessary - especially if he's used sparingly in flashbacks.
posted by codacorolla at 2:00 PM on May 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


They did not say Low Key Lyesmith in the show but like the Technical Boy it was in the credits as such.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:12 PM on May 1, 2017


I don't mean to be an apostate here, I loved Hannibal and I think Ian McShane is amazing, but I thought this first episode was kind of ...bad?

everything I choose to believe is Brian Fuller's idea is terrific and everything else is kind of awful. and I didn't even hate the book! just have to remember how bad Hannibal was in the beginning, it's easy to forget that now.

(from a different comment):

as opposed to casting someone with implants/super-lucky-genetics/young - for this specific role.


after, what was it, the 'importing fat-breasted women' line and the "flabby as grandmother's teat" line both in the first ten minutes, just to set the proper Gaiman-esque tone, I am in no mood to praise the show for being progressive-minded enough to cast a beautiful woman with the very daring accessory of breasts she grew herself. what else should we expect?

Badaki must be older than she looks or her age would be reported in all the press for the show. if she doesn't have super-lucky genetics than nobody does.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:30 PM on May 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


Ricky Whittle's face acting was so damn good in the scene where he learns his wife died. I wouldn't be shocked if they asked people to do that in the auditions.

I am generally into this, but not gonna lie, some of those blood splashes went past the point for ridiculous for me. And there were a few lines of dialogue that felt sort of ridiculous too... I think someone upthread said it hadn't quite figured out its tone and I think that's right. But this is the kind of stuff that can be first episode jitters, so I'm not too concerned.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:04 PM on May 1, 2017


The mead in the bar scene - I had always envisioned it as (at least) a draw (8oz glass) rather than just a shot (1oz glass). Mead is typically around 8% abv.

I still stand by that Ricky Whittle is the perfect Shadow Moon, though. So far.

But/And damn, it's shot/post-prod-ed gorgeously.

Agreed - Audrey (Betty Gilpin) is damned good. Not happy the show changed the encounter, but it flows better and sets up Shadow as moreso Shadow. I hope that Emily Browning can pull off "Oh puppy" and see Shadow break.
posted by porpoise at 11:05 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am reserving judgement on Shadow for now. One thing that bugged me a bit in this episode was that, in the book, he was often mistaken for/insulted about seeming like a big dumb guy at first blush, and the Shadow of our series so far seems to carry more intentional menace in his body language.

The opening Viking intro, despite some cleverly done visual bits, dragged on too long and I can't imagine what folks who didn't read the book thought of it, didn't it seem totally out of nowhere? And the appearance of Mr. Ibis was so brief and without context that I assume it was confusing and immediately forgettable by anyone who hadn't read the book.

Despite some criticisms, I'm looking forward to seeing where they go.
posted by desuetude at 11:10 PM on May 1, 2017


I do not know if I don't like it yet.

I'm a huge fan of the book. Re-read it maybe six months ago and have been almost physically restraining myself from re-reading it again in preparation for this.

Some of the criticisms about the way race relations have been heavily handled thus are totally on point for me. So many nooses round the black man's neck, for a start. They added way too much to the encounter with the Technical Boy's goons for my liking, and to be honest with you I always liked the way the Vikings were dealt with in the book - that was a huge change for me. Tonally very different. In the book, the Vikings come, set up camp, are happy with America and celebrate by killing a native person for their god. In retaliation, they are forcibly and silently executed. It's a prelude for what happens with the gods, that they're all fighting for a foothold, as immigrants, in a land that is inherently trying to reject them, and it gives way more agency to the indigenous people than a fucking hedgehog archery practice on the beach did.

I don't know...it feels really rushed, cramped and overloaded, like they're trying to get too much in at once, and it's got a comic book lack of subtlety that I suppose I should have expected from any TV adaptation. I'm not familiar with Fuller's style, so I'm guessing that's going to be part and parcel of what's going on here, but the Viking fight on the beach was just....ugh. I could handle that sort of cinematography from the bar fight, because joy in violence is what Mad Sweeney is about, but it was totally superfluous for the opening, added for the sake of adding violence.

I don't know. I'll probably watch the whole series regardless of whether I eventually find I like or loathe the series. Hate watching is totally a thing. But I hope it finds its footing soon, because right now I can't say with much certainty that I liked it.
posted by Jilder at 6:53 AM on May 2, 2017 [7 favorites]


Was Shadow hung in the book? I read it but can't remember a lot of the details.

Generally, I liked it a lot. It looked great and the acting was great. Shadow Moon's passivity worked better here for me than in the book, where I found it baffling. As I recall, the book takes a lot of time world-building and doesn't tell you what's going on for large portions. If the show follows suit, which it seems to be, it will work better in chunks/binges than single episodes. The overall positive reviews were based on the first 4 episodes, so I have a good feeling the kinks will be worked out.

Fuller has said in interviews that they're beefing up the female characters from the book, which is something he also did in Hannibal (changing two male characters into female characters). It remains to be seen if he can handle race well, but he seems very conscious of misogyny in entertainment.
posted by Mavri at 7:23 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


No, he wasn't beat and hung -- the limo dropped him off near the motel unharmed
posted by bluesapphires at 7:35 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


yellowbinder: creeped out by Bilquis ... was ready to turn it off at Audrey's graveyard hysterics

Agreed on both counts, and annoyed after recently re-reading (and listening to) the book. I listened to much of the 10th anniversary full cast audiobook, and I thought the narration was great, which has actually spoiled the show for me, as I really enjoyed Wednesday's gravely voice, Shadow's distance, and I built other characters based on those voices and the descriptions in the book.

Bilquis as a prostitute in the book matches the idea of money being a tribute, which is mentioned at least once in the book. Also, I felt really sad for the old guy whose kids pushed him to try online dating, then even more as he wanted to build a relationship instead of getting straight to sex. The book has a sleezy Hollywood producer type dude paying for sex, then worshiping Bilquis, which all felt more fitting to me. Was the internet date an attempt to "update" the story? Blerg.

Oh, and the sex scene plus Audrey's hysterics made this feel even more like an Adventure For Boys than the book did (key characters are all dudes, all dudes get laid, especially the old gods who can charm any young lady they want, which then keeps them lively -- yes, I see that some of it is "fitting" for the story of these gods, and so many gods represent a patriarchy and the wishes of men in power to live like their gods ... still, unnecessary fanboy service). Maybe 15% suitable/ believable, 85% fanservice for dudes, IMO.

codacorolla: Some situations (esp. screaming into the ravine) and dialogue came off as a little stale

I really hope that particular location will be important, because that felt like a wholly unnecessary deviation from the book, and one that broke from Shadow's character. Remember he's supposed to be in a daze and distant since hearing about his wife's death? Double blerg.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:38 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


sparkletone: The entire sequence with Tech Boy was just a joy. Updating his limo to be a freaky VR thing is brilliant.

Honestly, parts of the Technical Boy scenes were my favorite bits of this episode. Weird face-hugger box in the field and the extended beating + failed hanging were dumb, especially when they tried to cram so much into other scenes.


whir: The CGI looked it was from a midrange video game from three years ago

Hah! Yes, lots of this episode felt like a direct-to-DVD/streaming action/ horror film, but everyone was pretending it was a serious production. Maybe if it had the same aesthetic but was on Syfy, where they joke at their own expense a lot, it would have worked.


sparkletone: Someone I know said that Jonathan Tucker is playing Lowkey as Riff Raff and I can't unsee/unhear it.

Low Key was a distraction - weird makeup, annoying voice. Honestly, Riff Raff would have been a better Low Key at this point. Or maybe I was already so annoyed by other details that I latched on to any minor annoyance and inflated it to be a major distraction.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:48 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


Another thing: Jack's Crocodile Bar (image via American Gods wikia entry) fit into the theme that sapagan pointed out in the Show-Only thread: "this episode seemed to overload on everything, it just crammed too much into an episode."

In the book, there were crocodiles around, but no mention of the bar itself being under the giant, glowing teeth of a crocodile head. "Jack says they add character," not that they define the bar.

Yes, I loved the glowing teeth as the source of illumination, but it seemed like, as The Whelk wrote upthread: EVERYTHING IS SO MUCH, even the locations are like a cartoon version of America.

Is Hannibal this over the top, or were they revelling in a larger budget and less restrictions? Because this felt like the US Action Film reboot of what was a more charming, quirky UK story.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2017


I mean you can't rightfully say Hannibal isn't over the top in every way, but it's not frenetic like this often was. Hannibal is slow and sumptuous, with every cut of flesh or food lingered over. It's a show where corpses end up transmogrified into angels or sabretooth tigers or anatomically correct hearts so you can't say it's down to earth but it only veers into hyper action movie territory in a few climactic scenes.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:59 PM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


HOLY CRAP THE BAR OWNER WAS BETH GRANT?? That's a different look for her.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:20 PM on May 2, 2017


Hannibal's first few episodes are sort of rough too. I started and then stopped watching the show once, because the first episode gave me an entirely different perception than what actually ended up being the case just a few episodes into the series (reviews, and positive comments here eventually got me back into it). That's why I'm not particularly put off by the uneven aspects of Sunday's ep, and I'm fully committed to the show.
posted by codacorolla at 3:40 PM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]




Low Key actually reminded me a lot of T Bird from The Crow, which is probably not a great thing.
posted by Jilder at 5:02 PM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


And they are like, ‘Yeah, but he’s just out of prison. Wouldn’t he want a blowjob?’

#vomit. I often hate learning about the people who make things, because they are often the fucking worst.
posted by French Fry at 6:01 AM on May 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know if I like this.

I have a fuzzy recollection of the book, but don't remember the ending or anything (I should probably not read these threads I guess if I don't want to be spoiled). I'd probably like the show more if I was either familiar with the book or hadn't read it instead of being in this in between sort of area.

But yeah, this episode mostly had me annoyed about all the wrong things instead of focusing on the cool ones. Oh, 300 arrows hit that guy, so this is some dumb BS, I guess. Shadow seems weirdly unconcerned about a creepy grifter stalking him and about his rental car being ditched (How the fuck do you just let this slide!? This will have lasting repercussions on your credit!). I know his wife just died and he's just out of prison, but it wasn't enough for me.

I guess maybe the solution is to just reread it before watching any more, but I fear that I might just find the same annoyances in the book and it's me that's changed.

I'm also in a pretty bad mood these past few days, so that doesn't help.
posted by ODiV at 8:10 AM on May 3, 2017


Am I the only one who thought the central tree in the bone orchard was Yggdrasil, and the nooses a reference to Odin hanging himself for nine days and nine nights?
posted by culfinglin at 12:18 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Nope.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:03 AM on May 4, 2017 [1 favorite]


Woah, I loved Audrey SO MUCH MORE than in the book. The book's scene (which I believe was in-doors?) like a Soap Opera funeral, and Audrey was flat out unsympathetic. In the show, her flipping out privately at the graveside with Shadow was very much in the spirit of the book, and felt more authentic to grief, too.

I'm glad we all agree that Pablo Schreiber is stupid hot as Mad Sweeney.

Actually, Whelk, I thought of you with both the dream sequence, then the ridiculous viking scene. I lol'd at the amount of blood. So very Fuller-een.

The nooses are NOT RACIST! The whole thing about hanging is directly from the book, and the goddamn myth.
posted by frecklefaerie at 12:52 PM on May 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


Two things can be true at the same time, frecklefaerie -- just because there's hanging in the book which is relating to the mythology of Odin & the World Tree doesn't mean that there isn't a whole lot of history and current events relating to lynching that filmmakers should be aware of.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:38 PM on May 4, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah it's not necessarily racist but art doesn't exist in a vacuum. Likewise, it could still be in the book and still be racist. Double likewise it can be from the myth, from the book, and in the show and STILL be racist.

I don't know whether it is or not, but when you re-contextualize it in this way, it is the duty of the creator (ie, Fuller) to know what he is doing in the act of re-contextualizing.

Showing a black man hanging from a noose has real world meanings that can't be ignored because similar imagery means something else.

Some post-Christianity images of Odin depict him stuck to Yggdrasil on a spear. This image, as far as I know, doesn't contain the same meaning as a black man on a noose and could have been used instead. That image would also be laden with Christian imagery and change the meaning of the story in different ways. Now Shadow is a savior, a salvific figure who perhaps is meant to depose Odin, etc etc. I am in no way saying that it SHOULD have been done this way, or that it would BETTER SERVE THE STORY to do it this way, just saying that the show isn't beholden to depicting what is in the book because it's in the myth.


Unrelated: I'm not going to keep watching the show week to week I decided. After sitting on it longer I realized that I didn't enjoy what I saw at all (except for Ian McShane, I confess). Maybe the whole season together will give this episode more meaning in context, but I'll wait for when it's all said and done to find out.
posted by Tevin at 12:18 PM on May 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


They totally added the attempted lynching of a black man by a bunch of faceless white droogs. The scene initially in the book is just Shadow being rolled out of the car after a beat-down, not a hanging and a bloodbath. There were no nooses in the book's prison scenes, and no nooses in his dreams until way, way later in the piece, and even then they weren't full of black necks. It's a really tone deaf addition. Furthermore, they got rid of the hangings that did happen in the book - Shadow's noose dreams featured white Norsemen, horses, dogs and other animals, and the Vikings on the beach did not cut their eyes out, they hung a First Nations scout instead. I'm personally pissed about it because it's going to water down a later moment from the book that's super significant for the sake of some gratuitous violence.

Like, yeah, I can see where you're coming from, but in the greater context of the show, and the source material, it's a noticeable change. It's possible that it's deliberate and provocative and trying to draw attention to how important race is going to be to how people view Shadow. The changes to Bilquis' story would suggest that they're trying, at least, to be more sensitive, to racial issues, but at this point I'm not sold and it just seems like a ham-fisted attempt at depth.
posted by Jilder at 9:40 PM on May 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Is Hannibal this over the top, or were they revelling in a larger budget and less restrictions?

I mean you can't rightfully say Hannibal isn't over the top in every way, but it's not frenetic like this often was. Hannibal is slow and sumptuous, with every cut of flesh or food lingered over. It's a show where corpses end up transmogrified into angels or sabretooth tigers or anatomically correct hearts so you can't say it's down to earth but it only veers into hyper action movie territory in a few climactic scenes.


Hannibal was over the top, but it's influences where different - mid-century arthouse fare, giallo horror, the whole thing matched the title title -this respectable veneer of high society and civilization over a howling bloodbath.

This feels yes, more *frenetic*. It's pulpier, bigger, louder, more ....well American in terms of the horror.

It'll be interesting to see how that theme plays out - Hannibal is ALL about smooth surfaces and civilized society hiding and abetting monsters and cycles of abuse. This feels more like the chaotic horror show is out in the open, and people tell you they're monsters (or leprechauns) and the trick is actually believing them.
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 PM on May 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I felt like the lynching scene was a deliberate call to being brutally harassed by Anonymous twitter users.
posted by KathrynT at 12:13 AM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


Um, well. I bought the book in 2001 and liked it well enough but couldn't get into it. I've read the book about up to this point but not much further.

I feel the same way about the pilot as I do about the book. I like it well enough. Though I am a bit irritated by all this extreme bloody violence. Regardless how true it is to the book.

Yeah, I want to love this but I don't yet.

In contrast, the cold open to Hannibal was, well, it was as Bilqis to me.

Still, I'll keep watching.
posted by tel3path at 11:20 AM on May 7, 2017


And they are like, ‘Yeah, but he’s just out of prison. Wouldn’t he want a blowjob?’

#vomit. I often hate learning about the people who make things, because they are often the fucking worst.


That detail in Gaiman's account surprised me, because the bro-ishness of "Hey, free blowjob!" doesn't sound much like Fuller's style at all, at least insofar as he's not that heteronormative, and prefers to sublimate his characters' sexuality into crazy death-magic games instead. Green I know less about, although his IMDB producing and writing credits have a lot of ups and downs. I'm really hoping that this is just some weird writers-room free-forming and not an indication of the creative team's overall narrative inclinations.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:23 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm really hoping that this is just some weird writers-room free-forming and not an indication of the creative team's overall narrative inclinations.

I got the impression that conversation happened pretty early while they were breaking the show and figuring out who Shadow was, with Gaiman's input. This version would definitely never do that, but Book Shadow is enough of a cipher that I can kinda imagine a version of his character who could. (They 100% made the right choice though!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:30 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah that blowjob comment surprised me too as on Hannibal Fuller was very cognizant of not sensationally using sexualized violence as he... uh... sexualized violence.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


Not that accepting an offered blowjob is violence, just that Fuller tends to have a good perspective about these things.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:46 AM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Right now, a friend and I are having a series of TV dates where we alternate episodes of Fargo Season 2 and Hannibal (neither of us has seen that season of Fargo and he hasn't seen Hannibal). On Saturday neither of us had anything else to do, so we wound up watching four episodes of each.

Watching them that way really puts the differences between them in sharp relief, especially considering how many similarities there are between them (ordinary people sliding into darkness, lots of blood and death, a general interest in envelope-pushing, hell even wives who are dying of cancer), and a lot of the things I've noticed about how Hannibal is constructed definitely also apply to American Gods.

Fargo is a much tighter and more consistent show than Hannibal. The whole thing is meticulously constructed and precise. I'd say that you could take any two random scenes from Fargo and it would be 100% obvious that they were from the same show, even if you took them from different seasons with none of the same characters, because the style and tone are so controlled. It's also extremely plotty and twisty and fast-paced - there were a couple of episodes we watched on Saturday that I couldn't believe were only an hour long because so much happened in them.

Hannibal is the exact opposite of all that. There are things that it takes an equal or greater amount of care with, but they're different things than Fargo is interested in. Hannibal is all about building a vibe - it wants to overwhelm you with sights and sounds rather than with complex plotting, and it cares much more about spending time with characters and delving into what makes them tick and how they relate to each other than on complex plotting. (When I watch shows with this friend, he usually asks me for a brief recap of what's going on because I'm good at summing it all up, and for Fargo I needed to remember the intricately intersecting actions of a dozen different people while for Hannibal it was 'yeah Hannibal framed Will and Will is in the slammer and is mad as hell.') Hannibal is also interested in experimentation in a way that Fargo absolutely isn't, in terms of visuals and tone and pacing and plotting and sound and pretty much everything else. The first few episodes of Season 1 and the first few episodes of Season 3 are practically unrecognizable as the same show. And this focus on experimentation also means that Hannibal has occasional issues with dud lines or subplots or characters or plot holes that Fargo almost completely avoids.

All of that stuff already clearly applies to American Gods as well, and it is definitely going to turn some people off. I've seen some reviewers and commenters saying that the show is too slow-paced or meandering for them, or that such-and-such really didn't work for them while the rest of it did, or that some of the shit it's doing is just too weird. And all those are perfectly valid complaints to have if you're just looking for a different type of show. But I love a visually interesting slow-paced weird vibey experimental show.

Also worth noting that Bryan Fuller and Noah Hawley are huge fans of each others' work. Fuller said Legion was his favorite show on TV this year and Hawley has said in interviews that the weirder stuff in Legion was inspired by the risks that Hannibal took. Which just kinda underscores for me that neither style of show is better or worse than the other. They're just going for fundamentally different things.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:19 AM on May 8, 2017 [5 favorites]


I know the book was just the same but I am kind of turned off by the amount of violence rained on Shadow, given that TV portrayals do influence people's perceptions of how to fight in real life.

I remember thinking while reading that Shadow would have been killed many times over by this point, being that he's only human with no supernatural powers to his name. I really don't enjoy all these fight scenes that go on forever.

And being that viewers didn't understand that the guy who said he was a leprechaun was a leprechaun and that his trick of pulling gold coins out of thin air involved pulling gold coins out of thin air, well.

At least on Hannibal you had the constant complaints that it was all completely silly and unbelievable (including the pedestrian stuff).

I'm not gonna be that person who starts complaining without waiting to get the full story. I am placing my bets however that if you atom-smash Fuller with a work of genius you get a work of n-dimensional genius and if you atom-smash him with a fairly amusing story you get a fairly amusing story.

IDK it feels like there's a lot riding on this one for me personally, which is weird. I need to be less codependent with my TV show.
posted by tel3path at 1:09 PM on May 8, 2017


yellowbinder, I think it is borderline violent to lunge at a guy like that such that he has to throw you off. Over his wife's grave, no less. Imagine if it had been the other way around.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2017


And being that viewers didn't understand that the guy who said he was a leprechaun was a leprechaun and that his trick of pulling gold coins out of thin air involved pulling gold coins out of thin air, well.

I haven't seen this (and I've seen several complaints or points of confusion about other stuff). Where'd you run across it?
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:16 PM on May 8, 2017


I felt like the lynching scene was a deliberate call to being brutally harassed by Anonymous twitter users.

It felt like that to me. And, I felt, totally wrong and tone deaf of the show to do that. A metaphorical 'lynching' by internet is in no way equivalent to the actual historical events that this scene referenced. If it was deliberate it was painfully insensitive.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:52 AM on May 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


I thought it was really odd that the technical boy said they were going to "unmake" Shadow and "delete" him but then what actually happened was just ... a mundane, physical, lynching. One of the running themes in this episode and the next is the continuous flow of history from the old to the new to the newer; and this scene underscores the continuity between old tools of racism and the new ones. The modern "technical boy" forces, it is true, are deeply intertwined with neo-nazis and the alt-right. The technical boy himself talked like 4chan and looked noticeably similar to the white supremacists in prison. So- new tools, new faces, but what they're actually doing is still racial terrorism, same as always.

Idunno, I've been doing a lot of thinking about all the lynching in this episode. It definitely felt overwhelming and I can see it making the show ... feel really hostile to black viewers. At the same time, with what happens at the end of the book, I do think they had to foreshadow it now. I think if they'd waited until the end to bring that imagery in, it would have been way worse.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:19 PM on May 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


also I think it was in this thread that people were describing it as excessive? I've been hearing this term, "Cinema of Excess," in relation to Wolf of Wall Street.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Cinema of Excess

New Cinema of Excess

The pacing of this show reminded me more of Penny Dreadful, oddly enough.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2017


Cinema of Excess is more about engaging with the excesses of capitalism as being fun or morally neutral rather then a source of parody via filmkaking that seems excessive.
posted by The Whelk at 5:02 PM on May 16, 2017


I thought the lynching was weird and too "analogue" as well. I am not sure how they could have succinctly, dramatically "deleted" Shadow, but...that is quite literally the creative exercise for the writers to conceptualize, and I wish they had done so. It introduces some concern that they don't quite get the, uh, entire point of the story?
posted by desuetude at 10:20 PM on May 16, 2017


Well, it kind of said to me that the technical boy is full of shit. He's not the dominant fucking paradigm; he's just the latest iteration of humans being humans. His VR schtick is just a fantasy, and if he wants to do anything real, he has to act on the physical world. Which makes a certain kind of sense. We don't have Tron-style cyberspace, in reality, we have the Internet of Things.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


By hanging Shadow, they make him the empty character at the end of the string, the null terminator.

Which is not deletion yes I know I know and I doubt the writers know anything about coding

If I take a hammer to my hard drive I guess you could say I didn't delete that file per se, but good luck restoring it.
posted by tel3path at 4:52 PM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


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