setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

Sunday's new American Gods was like two episodes mixed together; one good and one disappointing. It all looked good, though.

Spoilers after the screenshot

In the disappointing plot, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Wednesday (Ian McShane) visit a town populated by gun-toting redneck stereotypes who worship Vulcan (Corbin Bernsen). In the good part, Laura (Emily Browning), Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and Salim (Omid Abtahi) go on a road trip, looking for a friend of Sweeney's who can resurrect Laura--properly this time.

I would assume the Laura plot was written by Bryan Fuller because it, again, felt more like Dead Like Me than American Gods. I liked the discussion of Laura's dwelling on aspects of her life, this mirrored by Wednesday pulling Shadow away from her so that he can move on. But one of the three writers on the episode is a fellow named Seamus Kevin Fahey, about whom there's little information on the internet, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest he's Irish. He may have been brought on to write dialogue for Mad Sweeney--whoever wrote those segments, they work really well. I love Laura and Sweeney's caustic rapport and the addition of Salim as the meek fellow in the middle is a perfect way to round out the trio.

Meanwhile, in Vulcanville, the story's a bit thinner. The idea that there's a segment of the U.S. population who worship guns is certainly a fair premise but since we don't meet a single one of these worshippers there's no chance to actually explore it. Vulcan himself, despite Corbin Bernsen ably matching Ian McShane in impressively weathered visage, is a thoroughly uninteresting character. His betraying Wednesday's location to the New Gods has absolutely no weight when the New Gods had found Wednesday in just the previous episode and let him go. Even if it did have weight, Vulcan looks like a moron when he forges a god-killing weapon and hands it to Wednesday before telling him he betrayed him. I guess the upside is that this plot won't be around next week.

Twitter Sonnet #1000

A comet black for sudden coal could close
No throat upon a highway neat as night
As fraught as dawn affirmed for soothing shows
And sleepy dram for watchful claims of sight
Of substance staunched of bloodless flow, belief
Encased and opened like a flower head
A deadly draught, a treadmill to relief
But gnawing paints present the only bed
A valley blanket sewn in stories late
To hold the ink, increase the yield in gold
In softened thorns to fetch and sometimes sate
Before the quicker eye can catch a cold.
In speeding shovels air transforms to stone.
In through a needle point it shines alone.

setsuled: (Frog Leaf)

It's a struggle to think about any other TV show after Twin Peaks but I guess the new episode of American Gods on Sunday was pretty good too. It's not its fault Twin Peaks casts such an enormous shadow over it. "Git Gone" (named for the Fiona Apple song?) felt much more like Bryan Fuller than Neil Gaiman, in fact it felt like an especially gory episode of Dead Like Me. Graded on a curve that omits Twin Peaks, I'd give it a 7 out of 10. On a curve that includes Twin Peaks, I'd give it a 1.5 out of 10.

Spoilers after the screenshot

So now Laura Moon (Emily Browning) is a more developed character than anyone else on the show. I didn't see that coming. It's a reflection of the difference between writing a novel and writing for television--this episode, which adds a great deal of material not found in the book, has the advantage of being conceived almost entirely for television while everything else is forced to adapt. Part of the inherent problem in this is that so much of a novel with a limited third person protagonist depends on you knowing what that protagonist is thinking, getting their thoughts explicitly, and so far American Gods has mostly avoided voice over narration. This problem is compounded by the fact that Gaiman intentionally created Shadow as a character who's difficult to pin down--it's hard to guess his heritage, his personality is very contained--he's mysterious. This serves the dual function of making the story more about what Shadow discovers than about Shadow himself and helps weave the mystery of his destiny. Shadow is his experiences.

Bryan Fuller has taken a detour to establish Laura as almost the polar opposite of this. And it's emphasised from the way Shadow (Ricky Whittle) expresses the fact that he's happy with her and seems completely unable to understand her discontent. Fuller has created her as a queer figure (as established in Queer theory), spending an entire episode explaining why she died with Dane Cook's cock in her mouth (and certainly, that is baffling). I usually don't have patience with fiction that expects me to sympathise with someone for cheating on their partner but Fuller made me kind of get it in this case. Laura is fundamentally dissatisfied with existence and she's addicted to the adrenaline of rough sex, danger, and transgression to compensate for an unfulfilled desire she can't even define.

I wonder why Emily Browning was unwilling to be naked on this show. Is the show not worthy or were the nude scenes she did in the past done because she felt coerced by the system? One thing's for sure, the fact that we don't actually see her with Cook's cock in her mouth really hurts her death scene. The tight close-up on her eyes was really awkward. I guess there is a limit to what you can show on Starz, or more likely to what Browning was willing to do.

I'm not sure why she encounters Anubis (Chris Obi) if she believes in nothing. Because she worked at an Egyptian casino? Her dodging the test where her heart's weighed against the feather keeps the impression that her self-loathing based on her desires is irrational--really, most characters would become a lot less interesting once you cosmically establish them as definitely good or evil. But I don't quite buy her desire to stop the test or her ability to interfere with it, I think the subject ought to have been avoided entirely.

I'm also not sure why she gets super strength when she's resurrected but it was a cool action sequence. It makes the story feel a bit more like a conventional superhero tale--she's proven her worth in combat.

So that was a decent episode of Dead Like Me American Gods. I look forward to the next episode of Twin Peaks.
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

Last night's new American Gods was an improvement from last week's. It featured two vignettes unrelated to the main plot, both of which were better than the vignette from last week, and a less suspenseful but more satisfying development in the main plot.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Anubis (Chris Obi) taking the dead woman (Jacqueline Antaramian) up the endless fire escape was a cool image and concept. I wonder if they ran into David Niven on the way. And how like a cat to give its owner the last shove into the afterlife, though maybe it would've been more realistic for the cat constantly to remain on the threshold, forcing Anubis to keep the door open.

The vignette with the Ifrit (Mousa Kraish) and the down on his luck salesman (Omid Abtahi) was even better, following the cool Bilquis sex scenes to provide another fascinating visual mythology for orgasm. In this case, two beings seem to become one, literally.

Ian McShane and Cloris Leachman were nice together.

I guess I misremembered how the game with Czernobog (Peter Stormare) resolved--I thought it was the middle sister (Martha Kelly) who saved Shadow (Ricky Whittle) because he looked like the illustration on the cover of her romance novel. It's been too long since I read the book to remember if that was something that happened or not. I guess Shadow challenging him to another game was interesting. The scene on the rooftop where the youngest sister (Erika Kaar) demands a kiss from Shadow was pretty sweet.

Meanwhile, what a horrific episode of Kids in the Hall. What a shame Mad Sweeney's (Pablo Schrieber) bad luck rubbed off on guest star Scott Thompson.

Wednesday's (Ian McShane) grift was about as entertaining as it was in the book. Mainly the scene made me really want some hot cocoa.

Godly Roads

May. 1st, 2017 05:15 pm
setsuled: (Skull Tree)

Last night's première of the American Gods television series was one of the best première episodes of any series I've seen in years. The cast, the music, the editing, everything's well above average even in this day and age of great television.

Ricky Whittle as protagonist Shadow Moon is like no other protagonist on television--muscular and exuding a sense of barely repressed violence, at the same time he's deeply contemplative and sensitive, very much as he is in Neil Gaiman's novel. But the show does the brilliant thing of making him exactly what he's supposed to be but also surprising.

Both he and Low Key (Jonathan Tucker) have the attitudes and appearances of guys who've really been in prison a while and--really, like guys like that--they're also perfectly strange. I like how half Low Key's face seems dead and the other is constantly tugging up into a smirk.

Yetide Badaki as Bilquis is great in a fabulous sex scene, drenched in red with a keenly rendered connexion between orgasm and worship. Much of the show I'd describe as fabulous and dangerous--the scene with Bilquis strangely yet appropriately cuts to the jaws of a dinosaur bar.

And, of course, Ian McShane is perfect as Wednesday.

This is the best translation of a Neil Gaiman book I've seen to screen. His dialogue is superficially clever only to provide a layer to reveal fascinating and insightful undercurrents--like Low Key telling Shadow not to fuck with airport staff and Shadow misinterpreting the moral of the story so that Low Key can reduce it to something suggestively simple. This stuff is well paired with director David Slade who edits the episode with a keen sense of how long a line should linger on the ear and, even more nicely, he knows when to cut in which the throbbing beat of a recognisable tune. I thought this show would be good but it exceeded my expectations.

Twitter Sonnet #988

In croissant snacks the story slowly starts.
A second tea returns to take a fourth.
In compact calculations spring their hearts.
Antennae teeth in pink determine worth.
An amber sky obtains a message sent.
In shadows caught by passing cloud we dream.
The autumn leaves in spring too quickly spent.
The brittle coin confers the thread to seam.
In western times a sortie claimed a foot.
Advances 'long the spine accost the land.
Refrains reroute the desert where it's put.
And only space can cure the lanes of sand.
Burrito eggs are hatching sauce to-day.
Lemon's a lighting too yellow to now allay.


setsuled: (Default)

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