Earlier this week, Starz released the first full trailer for the upcoming “American Gods” TV series, produced by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and based on the novel by comics legend Neil Gaiman.
The trailer holds its cards close, revealing the basic idea that there are Old Gods and New, and that they are (or will soon be) at war, as well as brief glimpses of some of the major players. But, aside from viewpoint character Shadow Moon, the rest of the cast goes unnamed, a fact lampshaded by Ian McShane’s (unnamed) Mr. Wednesday telling Shadow “You wouldn’t believe in me if I told you” when asked his name.
What we do get, though, are some absolutely stellar visuals, alternately beautiful and horrifying: a bar built into the head of a giant crocodile, fields of bleached bones, the blood dripping from Czernobog’s hammer, the flaming eyes of the Buffalo, and the twisting branches of the tree, a central image in the novel. On top of that, we see some full-throttle action sequences, with copious amounts of blood splattered across the screen.
Mostly, though, we see the gods themselves. Who we see and don’t see, and how they act gives us something of a hint of what we can expect from the series. There are way too many characters for us to run through everyone, but here’s a rundown of those we can’t ignore.
Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle)
Shadow is the protagonist and viewpoint character of the novel, so of course he’s here. But for such a prominent role, we barely get a feel for who Shadow is. Instead, as with the novel, the focus is on the gods around him rather than on Shadow himself. It remains to be seen whether Shadow will be the cypher he was in the novel or if the TV series will flesh out his character and role in the gods’ war.
Ricky Wittle gets a decent amount of screen time during the trailer, but we don’t see much to predict how well he will embody Shadow. He does have one thing going for him, though: he absolutely looks the part. From appearances at least, this seems to be some excellent casting.
Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane)
Shadow might be the novel’s protagonist, but as the self-appointed leader of the old gods, Mr. Wednesday is at the heart of everything. So, of course he’s going to be featured prominently in the show, and with the incredible Ian McShane cast in the role, there’s no excuse not to use Mr. Wednesday to the fullest extent possible.
On this front, the trailer doesn’t disappoint. McShane rivals Wittle’s Shadow for the most screen time, but Mr. Wednesday has the most spoken lines by far, effectively narrating much of the trailer. This suggests Mr. Wednesday will continue to play a central role in the series, as he did in Gaiman’s novel.
Laura Moon (Emily Browning)
Shadow’s wife Laura is one of the few non-gods to play a significant role in the novel. We don’t see much of her here, which probably has more to do with keeping things ambiguous for viewers unfamiliar with Gaiman’s story, but the fact that we do see her suggests one of the most interesting subplots will be retained. Whether Emily Browning will be able to infuse Laura with life remains to be seen, but I’m hoping she’ll have some moments where she can step out of her husband’s shadow.
Czernobog (Peter Stormare)
Czernobog is one of the more intriguing characters of the novel — a Russian god of darkness and death who wants nothing so much as the joy of smashing the life out of things with his sledgehammer, but who sides with Wednesday because… well, because it seems like a good opportunity to smash the life out of things with his sledgehammer. (Ahh, the simple joys of life!)
Czernobog does not get to do much in the trailer besides look menacing with his sledgehammer as it’s dripping in blood, but Peter Stormare, most recently seen beside Steve Buscemi in “Fargo,” absolutely sells Czernobog’s terrifying demeanor.
Bilquis (Yetide Badaki)
One of the cooler aspects of the “American Gods” novel is the interstitial chapters that detail the lives of gods Gaiman didn’t have a chance to work into the main plot. In these chapters, Gaiman explores some truly incredible concepts of what it means to be a god, and what it means to worship.
Bilquis was the star of one of the more memorable of these stories, so it’s nice to see her get prominent placement in the trailer. It suggests that Bilquis, played by Yetide Badaki, and the other one-off gods like the Jinn (Mousa Kraish) are going to be integrated much more tightly into the TV series’ plot.
The Technical Boy (Bruce Langley)
Whoever it is that had the idea to show the Technical Boy vaping in the back of a limo is a genius. It immediately tells us practically everything we need to know about this upstart god. I don’t care that we don’t actually get to see Bruce Langley do anything in the trailer — the Technical Boy is already that villain I love to hate.
So… Who’s Missing?
We see a lot (and I mean a lot!) of characters in this trailer, and yet, a few are missing. The most conspicuous absence is no doubt Gillian Anderson’s Media, an especially odd absence since Anderson is a huge name and we’ve seen images of her channelling Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe. We probably shouldn’t read too much into Media’s absence, though it would have been fun to hear Anderson doing her best Lucy voice even if just for a second.
We can probably read more into the absence of Dane Cook’s Robbie. Robbie did not play a huge role in the novel, and it’s safe to assume his role in the series will also be limited. Sure, he used to be Shadow’s best friend, but that whole death thing tends to get in the way (with the notable exception of Laura).
Watching the trailer, I also found myself wondering where Sam Black Crow was. Shadow meets Sam while traveling to Cairo, Illinois, and she pops up again occasionally throughout the novel. There have been no casting announcements about the role, suggesting she may have been written out of the series (or, at least out of the first season). For a series that appears to be increasing the prominence of many female characters, it’s odd that one of the more prominent recurring women from the novel would be missing.
All in all, this trailer looks amazing. It appears at least that Bryan Fuller and his team have a genuinely good grasp on the material, and the cast is far better than could reasonably have been hoped. April 30 can’t come soon enough.
“American Gods” premieres on Starz on April 30, 2017. It is produced by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and stars Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, Emily Browning as Laura Moon, Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney, Bruce Langley as Technical Boy, Yetide Badaki as Bilquis and Jonathan Tucker as Low Key Lyesmith. The first issue of the “American Gods” comic adaptation is available now from Dark Horse Comics.