The second season of Starz’s adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel is finally here, warts and all.
Since we last left our cast of immortals, American Gods
Throughout the first season, we were introduced to the primary conflict of the series: with belief in traditional gods of mythology waning, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), the personification of Odin, is attempting to rally together a fighting force to attack the new gods, such as technology and media. With his bodyguard Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), Wednesday treks across the US pleading his case to various deities. As we enter season two, our heroes are about to converge at The House on the Rock, as Wednesday makes his plea to his fellow gods that the battle is one worth fighting.
While Neil Gaiman’s book (primarily focuses on Shadow’s story, the show expanded the narrative to follow other characters as well. It especially expanded the role Shadow’s wife Laura (Emily Browning) plays as a reanimated corpse, as well as making the djinn (Mousa Kraish) and Arab salesman Salim (Omid Abtahi) into recurring characters. Based on the first two episodes of the season – which feature an attack of the old gods by the new, and a rescue attempt of one of their own by Laura and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schrieber) – we can expect then that at least a good chunk of Season 2 will basically be various road trip stories. We also find out the new god Media has gone missing (which then gives the show a bit of time to find a replacement for Anderson), with the Technology Boy (Bruce Langley) tasked with luring Media out of hiding for Mr. World (Crispin Glover).
The romantic relationship between Salim and the Djinn, now reunited in this season, has the potential to either be poignant and touching, or completely hackneyed. In the book, their tryst is an aside, a simple self-contained story. Their meeting in season one was one of the best gay male love scenes in mainstream media, and it was surprising the characters were going to continue on as regulars. Salim traveled with Laura in season one in search of the
It’s hard to quantify, but something feels different about the second season so far.
Now that the two are reunited, we are in new territory from the books as to how their relationship will unfold. In the second episode of season two, the djinn watches Salim pray to Mecca, potentially setting up the conflict between traditional religious beliefs and homosexuality, and the reconciliation between the two. However, the way in which Salim has chased the djinn across the country, and the djinn acting like he doesn’t want anything serious, makes it seem this story arc could go the way of a rom-com.
Continuing on questions of faith, in another scene of episode two, Laura discusses her atheist beliefs, despite her being smack dab in the middle of a supernatural conflict. This raises the question: Did the gods create humans, or did humans create the gods? Both of these short scenes could raise potentially great storylines and character development in the new season, but will the show raise to these potentially controversial questions?
One prominent change in the format of the episodes is the lack of “Coming to America” stories as the opening scenes. In the first seasons, we were treated to short vignettes of gods interacting with Americans outside of our main storyline. This was referencing similar interludes in the book. While it’s not too surprising that if the show was to continue one this would have been unfeasible to continue, it still would have been nice to start the season with one, much like the series started with one. Besides this change, most of the episodes feel similar to the first season. The sets are still lush and layered, and the cinematography is top notch. Also, the violence and gore is ramped up, something which felt incongruous in the first season to the book, and still does. The sex in season one felt diegetic to the story, but the excessive violence has always felt like violence for the sake of violence since Starz is a premium channel.
The first two episodes of season two haven’t dashed the hopes that it can reach the heights of season one, but it doesn’t make the case that we can expect the same level of quality as before either. It’s hard to quantify, but something feels different about the second season so far. It seems more like normal television, as opposed to the mysterious atmosphere of season one. Fuller and Green were able to expand on the Gaiman’s world in the first season while still maintaining its charm. Let’s hope that this trend will continue in season two.