American Gods was so promising when it started. But then things went sour when the original showrunners, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, were fired right before production on the second season was supposed to start. Since then the show has gone through various showrunners, including Jesse Alexander. Eventually the show’s second unit director and line producer were left in charge. Some key cast members left as well, including Gillian Anderson. For the third season, they got veteran executive producer Charles H. Eglee in to be the show’s final showrunner. Eglee has had success with The Shield, The Walking Dead, Dexter and various collaborations with his friend James Cameron, including their underrated sci-fi show Dark Angel. Neil Gaiman was hands-off/hands-on throughout the series, and one reason Season 2 was so terrible was that he was off being the showrunner for the excellent Good Omens series.
The third season has a tighter focus than the first. The second season, however, was such a confusing mess of a show that I lost all real interest in the storyline or the characters. Season 3 is especially bizarre, because it comes at a point in the story where your main protagonist, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), finds himself with a new identity and a new location. So they are essentially scrapping the second season, while still acknowledging everything that came before. Unfortunately, the third season also shifts the focus away from Shadow Moon to focus on secondary characters, losing the point of the story as well as any narrative through-point to engage the audience with.
The performances are all fine. Ian McShane is always a pleasure to watch on the screen. The show did quite hilariously have to remove Marilyn Manson from the cast immediately after Evan Rachel Wood officially named him as her abuser (other women soon came forward with similar stories—everybody knew this already, and I mean everybody) and rejuggle the episodes. Manson appeared as the lead singer of a Viking Death Metal band, not typecasting at all! Crispin Glover also appeared early on, but presumably left the show at some point in the production, because Danny Trejo ends up being an incarnation of Mr. World later on in the show. Luckily for the show-makers, when you have characters who are gods and shapeshifters, you can recast freely! It’s a shame, though, because it was nice to see Crispin get a meaty role and not be stuck in low-rent indie fare, as he usually is when he isn’t making his own wacky films (which are screened only in cinemas.)
In years to come, American Gods will be used as a textbook example of what can go wrong on a TV show. What happened to it despite starting life as this prestige piece of fantastical television is a perfect example of the fragility of television as a medium.
Finally, and most controversially, Orlando Jones was fired by Charles H. Eglee, who claims he writes from a “Black perspective” (Eglee is a rich white man who is nearly 70!). Of course, this also meant the disappearance of Jones’ character Mr. Nancy, whose “’angry gets shit done’ is the wrong message for black America,” according to Eglee. The production company obviously denied that’s what happened, but clearly something dumb went down. Jones actually wrote a lot of the script around the secondary Black and brown characters during the second season.
The extras here are a series of featurettes, one of which is called Describe Season 3 with Emojis. I wish I was joking. I think that’s an easy task… 💩.