American Gods Keeps Getting Better

Orlando Jones as Mr. NancyEXPAND
Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy
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At times it doesn’t feel like American Gods is possible. Adaptations this good should just not exist. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

And yet it does. It might literally be the perfect adaptation. The first episode was almost orthodox in its adherence to the source material. The second, though, allows the show some breathing room to expand.

One big change is moving the appearance of Media (a new god of the television) way up in the narrative. She appears to Shadow as he is shopping for Mr. Wednesday, dropping in — more appropriately, I feel — in a sales aisle lined with HDTVs. Gillian Anderson, who takes the form of Lucille Ball, could not have been more perfectly cast. Her every movement, line and gesture evokes both the classic comedienne and the new deity at the same time. And she delivers Media’s most famous line exactly as it was always meant to be said.

Another standout was Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy, who makes a brief appearance in one of the flashback asides. He incites a slave revolt on a Dutch ship, and he is in no way messing around. In a speech that I am sure will have the alt-right howling at the moon about their precious feelings, Mr. Nancy lays out the bleak future of racism for black people in America. Jones plays his part to the hilt and offers a take on the character I really never considered. He is by far the best reinterpretation American Gods has put forth.

And then there’s Peter Stormare as Czernobog. He looks exactly how I always pictured the Slavic butcher, and he, more than any other character in the series thus far, truly feels like a strange, lost god. Don’t get me wrong — everyone else does his or her job marvelously, but Stormare is completely otherworldly and yet grounded at the same time. He chews every inch of scenery in the scenes he is in, even stealing the spotlight from Ian McShane.

If there was one complaint to be made about this week’s episode, it concerned the appearance of Bilquis. I get the impression the show is trying to build her up as a major character, despite her appearing in only two scenes in the original novel. That’s certainly fine, and more Yetide Badaki is never going to be a bad thing, but she remains unconnected to the plot and seems haphazardly thrown in. I also rather question the move to make her bisexual. We need more bisexual characters on television, but making one out of the sex goddess who sucks people up into her magical vagina feels very trope-y. I liked her better as the spirit of sexual vengeance against men, something that made her a nice mirror for Wednesday.

Mostly, though, American Gods just continues to amaze. Bryan Fuller is at his best, and every week brings another reason to fall in love with the show.

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