We are now 3 episodes—3 hours—into “American Gods”. That’s the equivalent of 4 episodes of a network TV show, one and a half feature movies, or 80% of the Fellowship of the Ring. And we have zero plot.
We have an Irish guy who does coin tricks and likes to fight. We have a weird guy with a dirty t-shirt and a hammer. We have some random “witches”. We have some random woman fucking people until... they shrink and get sucked into her vagina? We have random “tech people” showing up randomly and doing random things for no apparent reason. And we have a protagonist who is exactly as clueless as the viewers.
And we have “Mr. Wednesday”. He’s almost worth paying attention to. But, after 3 hours of this show whacking off on how mysterious it is... to hell with it all. They’ve given me zero reason to care about anybody in this show (I was going to write “this story”, but there isn’t a story, just a bunch of random vignettes).
It Ain’t the Weird
I’m certain that plenty of people will jump up and say “Oh.. you just don’t get it!” or “You’re afraid of weird shows” or some such.
Nope. I have a degree in theatre. Reading “weird shit” was a requirement for my graduation, and I enjoyed most of it. I designed sets for 2 Samuel Becket plays (“Waiting for Godot” and “The Catastrophe”) directed by a leading Becket scholar. I grok weird. I like weird. But “Godot” had more plot than the first three hours of this show. And considering that Godot was “absurdism bordering on dadaism”... that’s saying something.
“Legion” was incredibly weird and absurdist. But, in the first 45 minutes, it gave the viewers insight into the characters and, thereby, a reason for us to care about them.
“Twin Peaks” did it in the first 10 minutes.
This show is obviously targeted at those who have read the books. And it looks like they might be the only ones watching. The book has sold over 1 million copies (as of 2011, the latest number I could find in a quick search), and the first episode of the show had less than a million viewers.
If the purpose of the show is to get the eyeballs of those who read the books, they’re doing quite a good job. If, however, the purpose is to get a broad audience... 1 million viewers is a very low number.
I’m sure the show is “OMG so cool!” to people who have read the books and have learned enough about the characters to understand them. But for those of us coming in fresh... This is a giant pile of WTF? with no hope of explanation—much less payout—on the horizon.
Do we need three (long) scenes of Bilquis fucking? No. The point was made the first time.
The same goes for half the scenes so far. It’s like someone gave a Hollywood budget to a sophomore film student with an affinity for LSD. In 3 hours of screen time, there has been maybe 20 minutes of actual plot.
Theatre—be it live, in the cinema, or on television—is the art of telling stories. It involves sympathy, empathy, and catharsis; principles laid out and explained by Aristotle. Those principles haven’t changed. Even mindless blockbusters like Transformers understand these concepts—it’s about likable, relatable characters defeating evil.
After 3 hours of “American Gods”, not only do I not sympathize or empathize with the characters, I don’t have fucking clue who they are. I can’t guess at anything more than the very basic motivations of anyone.
It’s wonderful that mainstream entertainment companies are taking more chances and giving more artistic freedom to creators. This has lead to great shows such as “humans”, “Utopia”, “Luke Cage”, and “Legion”. But all of those shows still retain an important core aspect of storytelling: telling a story.
If “American Gods” had one of those, I might be interesting in actually watching it.