American Gods: Season 2 — a review and the reasons I’m not kicking this series to the curb yet

AmericanGodsS2

Let’s just lay everything out on the table here: Season 2 of the Starz’ series American Gods, based on the amazing novel of the same title by Neil Gaiman, is not very good.

I dislike writing reviews for things that disappoint me. It’s because I do this for fun, not because I’m a real critic, and I find little joy in rehashing things that brought me little joy to start with. For instance, you won’t find a review of the entire second season of the CW’s Black Lightning here because I didn’t finish watching it. It wouldn’t have been fair to the series, or, frankly, to me.

But, here I am, writing this review. I watched this entire season. I haven’t abandoned the show yet, even though I’m not currently happy with it. The first season blew me away. Then showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left the show due to creative differences. Incidentally, they apparently took the actresses Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth (both of whom have strong Fuller ties) with them. Jesse Alexander, of the shows Lost and Hannibal, became the Season 2 showrunner, but departed the series like his predecessors before Starz began airing the season. The Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good.” And it wasn’t.

If Starz had announced that the show wasn’t being picked up for a third season, this review would not have been written. I know how the novel ends, so this wouldn’t have bothered me like, say, the cancellation of Firefly or Colony did. I had never imagined Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, but, upon my next re-read of the novel in 20 years or so, I probably would have. Otherwise, the show would be just a footnote to the story. The show was renewed, however, and the new showrunner, Charles “Chic” Eglee, whose pedigree includes The Shield and Dexter, is already plotting ahead into Season 4 and planning how to end the narrative in the show. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

If Starz is committed to finishing the story on-screen, I’m going to try to watch it. Neil Gaiman is saying positive things about the new direction, but, as executive producer, Neil has a vested interest and I’m not certain he’s a reliable source of information at this point. Sorry, Mr. Gaiman. Without expending too much effort, I bet I could find positive things he said about the second season as well before it defecated on my television screen.

No, I’m going to watch next season because I am an eternal optimist who just wears a pessimistic mask at times as protective coloration. A new showrunner who used to work on two other quality, offbeat television shows inspires a bit of confidence. Maybe Eglee will be able to get this train back on the rails.

You’ll notice I haven’t given you a Season 2 synopsis. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what was going on most of the time I watched this season. Even more honestly, I found myself nodding off to sleep at times. Becoming boring is the worst offense this kind of modern fantasy could commit, especially when the source material was anything but boring. I remember some bits about Wednesday, who we now know is Odin the Allfather, having his spear repaired by dwarves in a dying shopping mall. The dwarf wants Lou Reed’s leather coat from some memorabilia shop as payment. That was funny, but I’m not sure it was important. There’s a lot of stuff set in the Cairo funeral home, and Anansi gives a couple of long-winded speeches about race relations, I think. Laura (Emily Browning) finally catches up to Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), her widowed husband. We find out that Shadow was in love with his wife when she was alive, but not so much with the dead wife. We also find out, through a long series of flashbacks, that Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) was once an Irish king, just in time for him to get killed by Shadow during a fight. As the season ends, Laura is taking Sweeney’s body with her, apparently to bury. I doubt we’ve seen the last of him. Death holds no sway on this show. Shadow, for his part of the finale, escapes capture and finds himself taking a bus ride to a town named Lakeside, and he has a new name—Mike Ainsel.

I remember Lakeside and Mike Ainsel from the novel. I look forward to seeing what the show does with this.

Here’s to blind faith and qualified optimism.

Firewater’s Season 2 Report Card: C-

Cminus

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