American Gods Season 2 Spent Too Much Time On Set-Up & Has No Real Direction
The departure of Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth further delayed the start of production on American Gods season 2, as the scripts had to be rewritten to explain the absence of the two goddesses. In the case of Anderson, this necessitated recasting her role completely, given that Media is one of the three most prominent members of the series' New Gods. The season 2 premiere revealed that Media had gone into hiding to heal herself, eventually "upgrading" into New Media - a goddess who drew power from Internet memes and apps as well as television and movies.
Explaining Chenoweth's absence proved somewhat more difficult, as the American Gods season 1 finale ended with Ostara siding with the Old Gods and showing her loyalty with a grand display in which she blighted the land after reclaiming her role as the goddess of spring. Unlike Media, there was no way to easily recast the character with a new actress and no way to smoothly claim she had been reborn in a new form in the script. In the end, Ostara's absence from the gathering of Old Gods in the season 2 premiere was hand-waved away, with Mr. Nancy telling Mr. Wednesday that she wasn't coming on account of Wednesday's mowing over her bunnies with his car when he visited her one episode earlier.
Establishing all of this took up valuable time from the early episodes of season 2, with New Media not making her first appearance until episode 3. This would have been problematic enough without the pacing of season 2 being far more leisurely than in season 1. All sense of urgency vanished after the death of Zorya Vechernyaya in the season 2 premiere, with most of the show's ensemble just hanging around a funeral parlor in Cairo, Illinois for nearly one-quarter of the season so far.
While individual characters are still working towards their personal goals, such as Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon's mutual mission to get Laura resurrected, the central story of the war between the gods seems to have been put on hold completely. While this does make for a wonderful ensemble program, allowing all of the core cast a little time to shine, it also makes it seem like American Gods season 2 is meandering to hide its lack of a strong central plot. Even the show's subplots have begun to seem like pointless shaggy dog stories, such as Laura and Mad Sweeney's trip to New Orleans in search of the death god Baron Samedi. The trip did nothing to expand upon the characters or their circumstances and seemingly served no purpose other than to provoke two gratuitous sex scenes.
American Gods Is Too Weird To Be Popular
One point worth considering in the wake of American Gods' declining ratings is that the show is too strange to ever find mainstream appeal. While Neil Gaiman is a best-selling author who is famous for reinterpreting classical mythology and legends in his work, that doesn't mean an adaptation of one of his novels will play in Peoria. Indeed, with controversial concepts such as every denomination of Christianity having their own version of Jesus, it's a wonder the show's first season didn't inspire widespread protest among evangelicals akin to the complaints over Lucifer - another show based on Gaiman's work.
At this point, it seems that American Gods' greatest chances of finding success lie in establishing itself as a cult classic among a devout few, rather than petitioning broad appeal. Amusingly, Mr. Wednesday seems to preach this viewpoint in "The Ways of the Dead," saying that he doesn't mind monotheists like the character of Salim, who is a devout Muslim, despite being the leader of a polytheistic pantheon. To Wednesday's way of thinking, it is better to encourage fervor in a few followers (even if they are not his own) than to accept the muted praises of many. Even so, it would be to the benefit of American Gods and its viewership for the show to start pushing forward with its central story.