The saga behind the scenes of “American godsWas almost more interesting than the show itself. After years of trying to adapt Neil GaimanAs a beloved novel, it seemed to fit perfectly into the visionary Bryan Fuller (“Hannibal”), The co-showrunner of the first season with Michael Green. During the first season it got strong reviews and an early renewal StarzThere were rumors that Gaiman disliked the Fuller & Green approach and that the dispute between the makers and producers over budgets had grown fierce. Whatever the reason, Fuller and Green jumped and stars during pre-production on season two (with four scripts that were then also thrown away) Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth joined them. While the fans were waiting for this second season Jesse Alexander (“Star Trek: Discovery”) Took over, but then everything derailed again with his removal by Starz, stories about the backlog and no script for the finale of the second season. Believe it or not, it got worse. There was a report that the season was $ 30 million above budget. Ian McShane didn’t like the new scripts and improvised and Orlando Jones was drunk.
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Unsurprisingly, the second season was some kind of chaos on screen too, clearly the result of a show with a turbulent production process and a program looking for a new tone and direction, and at the same time with the source and what had been done in the relay, one remained connected. It lacked the confidence and vision of season one – so much so that some kind of assumed it would be the last. And yet Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) will be back on Sunday January 10thth for a 10-episode season, this time creatively managed by Charles Eglee (“Murder one”), And there are reports already plans for a fourth year. It’s really hard to kill a god. The question is, could this TV deity regain power? The jury is not yet occupied.
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The third season of “American Gods” begins shortly before the end of the second season. Mr. Wednesday continues to try to build a team of old gods for the upcoming war against the new gods, led by Mr. World (Crispin Glover). By the end of season two, Shadow Moon basically got his freedom, became someone named Mike Ainsel, and this is where the show catches up with him in the season three premiere. He’s got a normal job, a normal life and wants to leave all the drama of the first two seasons behind, but Wednesday needs him and that has to do with a small town called Lakeside, Wisconsin. And this is where Shadow lands, hanging out with the locals and giving the show a unique dark folk humor that is almost like “Fargo”(Julia Sweeney Nails the Wisconsin accent so well that Noah Hawley should call her) and even incorporate an exciting subplot about a missing girl into the first episodes.
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Meanwhile – and there’s always a lot of “in between” in “American Gods” – Wednesday continues its mysterious plans to defeat the new gods. Similar to most parts of the second season, everyone feels a bit scattered in the first part of this season (four episodes were shown for the press). Despite his death at the end of season two, Laura Moon’s bow is (Emily Browning) remains tied to that of Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) as she tries to bring him back to life. Browning and Schreiber were the best part of season two, and she has a great episode this season where Laura has to rethink her whole life. The goddess of love Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) gets into trouble when she makes the memorable sacrifice she made all over again in season one. At the same time Salim (Omid Abtahi) suffers from the heartache of being separated from jinn (Mousa Kraish). Crispin Glover is only getting one early episode and, sadly, Orlando Jones is no longer on the show. The show really feels the loss of his energy and that of Schreiber.
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The “American gods” still too often lack the passion and vision they had in season one. You fluctuate between material that sounds relatively deep about the role of the gods over the centuries, and things that sound like drunken gibberish from a philosophy student who thinks he knows more about the material than he really does. It flies from wisdom to nonsense so wildly that it can be breathtaking. Increasingly this season, in fact, it is best when it is most relaxed and reliable, less when it is concerned with Gaiman’s greater vision. The material in Wisconsin is tight and clever in a way that makes one wish that Whittle would do some real mystery / noir after this show ended. McShane is always entertaining, able to improve on any writing, and Browning continues to impress.
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“American Gods” this season feels overall more confident and more entertaining from scene to scene, but it still slips through your fingers trying to see the full picture of what this show is trying to be. It seems too content to meander from episode to episode, which allows for the philosophical hocus-pocus mentioned above when it needs to build momentum. It’s a show with a lot of people talking about the importance of what they do and what they need, but one that often doesn’t convey their commitment or urgency in any way.
And yet, every episode of this season has something that gives a little hope to those who stayed with American Gods. While everyone misses people like Anderson and Jones, impressive guest stars are still popping up, including the wonderful ones Peter Stormare’s return in the second episode and the perfect casting of Blythe Danner in the third episode as Demeter. And everyone in Wisconsin is effective. Every time it’s tempting to write this show off entirely, something clicks that reveals its potential. Will it finally put all the pieces together in the back half of season three or maybe even the fourth? God only knows. [C+]