Martin Carr reviews the first episode of American Gods season 3…
Literary adaptations which strike the same chord as American Gods are rare. In the opening season it redefined the standard and dramatically challenged anyone within spitting distance to a fist fight. Daring in its disregard and dangerous to a fault it redrafted the lines of engagement. It felt sexy, oozed decadence and defied others to come out after curfew. Season one was brazen, brash and bold as brass, while season two revelled in visual audacity. Metaphysical character beats and pitch-black pay offs were rife. Unfortunately, season three hit a pandemic sized roadblock forcing the entertainment industry to adapt or die.
Thankfully this opener has lost none of the trademark sleaze which made it such a revelation initially. Rock concerts, dimensional shifts and an effortlessly cool seep from every pore, as this show continues asking awkward questions. Gold coins, dead leprechauns and gender fluid omnipotence run riot in a road trip reunion kind of way. Meanwhile, Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle slip so easily back into this malignant multiverse, that within minutes it feels like a homecoming.
Odin is a charismatically craggy uncle, perpetually rumpled and randy. Masterful at manipulation and paternal to a point he dominates throughout. Shadow Moon may be the protagonist in this mission to gather Gods but his all father shapes proceedings. Their chemistry is undeniable while Ian McShane seems to be having a ball. Scenery chewing on that level can only ever leave casualties, which is why Shadow Moon gets downgraded to accomplice, companion and calming influence.
Elsewhere Bruce Langley and Yetide Badaki trade philosophical barbs, languid insults and hollow promises. There is an old-world opulence to their encounter despite the opposing ideologies and struggle for relevance. Bilquis is borne of experience and knowledge, while Technical Boy epitomises omnipotence in a constant desire to evolve. Advancement, speed and increased efficiency are the new hallmarks of success, while religion and scripture are archaic by comparison. Resolution in this war of words and actions will only be met through compromise. Beyond the whistles and bells, visual trickery and narrative sleight of hand that is where a middle ground remains for all concerned.
‘A Winter’s Tale’ keeps the tone and texture of previous seasons, yet broadens its narrative to encompass a richer canvas. Muddled in places but grounded by committed performances, season three gets off to a promising start. With pixelated symbolism, an Untouchables homage and F W. Murnau in that the first hour, American Gods is still looking to prove a point. Whether it still manages to enlighten and educate in between theological digressions remains to be seen.
American Gods season 3 premieres on Amazon Prime Video on January 11th.