After its first season, we have a lot to discuss regarding the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece of fantasy and horror fiction American Gods. The series certainly did not disappoint, as it served its faithful readers and viewers with a buffet of stylish visuals and frameworks, with a side order of blood, sex, and philosophy.
There is a lot to like, as the series follows recently-released inmate Shadow Moon as he navigates the free world alongside some gods-- both old and new. The first season of American Gods caters to obsessive television bingers with pizzaz — pizzaz blended with some pretty jaw-dropping moments that not many viewers expected to see on television.
Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green certainly did not refrain from holding back on any punches this first season and we would be safe in assuming that the second season will have its ante upped to double the amount when we return.
These shocking moments are not limited to one character, however. In fact, the scenes involve a whole slew of characters under all sorts of circumstances and duress, all doing what they do best — telling stories and wielding their way out with no regard for how much blood remains painted on the walls.
This is good for Gaiman’s fans, as American Gods is known for being quite unfilmable due to these very brutal moments, but rather than tone-down these scenes, Fuller and Greene decided to dive in headfirst.
Here are the 16 Most WTF Moments of American Gods.
16 A Viking’s Retreat (Episode One)
It is 813 A.D. and Vikings have arrived in the hostile New World. More is not revealed until the last episode of the season-- when Odin relates to this prologue-- but for the time being, we are subjected to some brutal and bloody sacrifices and fight scenes.
A Viking is turned into a porcupine as thousands arrows shot at him, they sacrifice one eye in prayer to Odin, and finally, in what is probably the best fight scene so far, they turn against each other in the name of Odin.
What ensues is a gore-fest of heads exploding like watermelons, bodies splitting in half, legs and limbs flying around — all against the backdrop of blood raining down from the sky.
15 Mad Sweeney Vs. Shadow Moon (Episode One)
If there was any doubt that Mad Sweeney, the seven-foot tall leprechaun, was a vile, profanity-laced masochist, then Fuller and Greene wasted no time in putting these notions to the test.
The last few minutes of Sweeney’s introduction has him pitted against Shadow Moon in a brutal game of wrist-a-cuffs. Mad Sweeney throws out any stereotypes of the physical features of leprechauns, but maintains the same drunken violent outbursts we have come to know and love about the Irish mythological being.
Bloody, battered, and still enjoying himself — we get more characterization of Sweeney in this one scene than we do in the dialogue just before it. It is a great introduction, and an amazing start to the television series.
14 Mr. Jacquel Takes Mrs. Fadil Out for a Walk (Episode Three)
Mrs. Fadil, an older Middle Eastern woman, is making some food for her relatives when she reaches up to the top of her cupboard to fulfill her recipe. She almost slips off her chair but makes it down when there is a knock on her door.
It is creepily monotonous Anubis, or Mr. Jacquel in Gaiman’s world. It turns out that Mrs. Fadil did fall off her chair and now she is being taken away by Mr. Jacquel with what appears to be the longest walk ever.
There’s a lot of philosophy at play here that truly challenges the minds of the series’ viewers. Anubis, an Egyptian god, takes the recently deceased’s heart and weighs it on a scale with a feather. If it balances then they are free to go into heaven, but if it doesn't then their souls are left in limbo.
13 One-Night Stand with a Jinn (Episode Three)
Down on his luck salesman, Salim is having a tough time living in the Big Apple. Who isn’t? The Omani salesman hails a cab with none other than Ifrit, an Islamic Jinn.
Jinns are supernatural creatures of the Islamic faith and have both good and evil powers. What follows is one of the most intimate sex sequences ever to premiere on television screens. The show has received high praise and acclaim for its depiction of both the Islamic faith and its relation to same-sex partners.
The episode beautifully constructs a moment that is far less about romance and sexuality, and much more about comparing themes of understanding your faith and identity, or lack thereof, in a very complicatedly judgmental world.
12 Mr. Nancy’s Inspirational Half-Time Speech (Episode Two)
Based in part on African and Caribbean folklore, Anansi is an evil spirit that takes on the form of a spider and is cunning with his power of persuasion. In fact, the power of his persuasion is so unique that he is able to convince an entire ship of chained slaves to overthrow their Dutch captors and burn their ship down to the bottom of the ocean.
Part social commentary and part satire — the introduction of Mr. Nancy is, by far, the best introduction of any of the characters. He is a master storyteller and wordsmith — uses that mastery to create total destruction.
The scene is so well-written by Fuller and Greene that one may not entirely blame the slavers for taking Mr. Nancy’s advise and committing a mass murder/suicide. We suppose this is what makes the scene all the more shocking.
11 I Am Odin (Episode Eight)
As probably the least surprising of any of the reveals, the great Ian McShane’s mysterious Mr. Wednesday is unveiled as the all-powerful Odin of Norse mythology.
He rains down upon those who threaten him with thunder and rage. He swiftly eliminates any small problem before him-- just look at how he decimates the faceless goons of Techno Boy.
Accompanying him are his two sparrows Thought and Mind: Mr. Wednesday knows everything and sees everything. He knows what you are thinking and knows what you will do before you even imagine doing it.
This makes him the most comical and nonchalant of any of the characters of American Gods. Hopefully the next season will show more of Mr. Wednesday’s shocking powers.
10 Sweeney Has a Secret (Episode Eight)
Mad Sweeney always has something up his sleeve — both metaphorically and literally — as he never seems to have any shortage of golden coins. However, along side those golden coins are secrets.
We soon discover that Shadow Moon was chosen for a reason, and Mr. Wednesday orchestrated the whole thing. He sent Shadow to jail and had Sweeney coordinate the death of Laura Moon right before Shadow’s prison release in order to offer him the job of being Mr. Wednesday's bodyguard.
It is a pretty brutal reveal, but definitely makes us all the more curious as to why Shadow is such a favorable candidate to Mr. Wednesday. We have plenty of theories at this point, but, for now, let us agree that Shadow’s life was forever ruined.
9 Double Jump Mr. Czernobog (Episode Two)
The most Slovic mythological figure makes an appearance, and he is as broody and unsubtle as we would expect. Czernobog can kill a cow in one swing and smokes like a chimney. He also truly dislikes Mr. Wednesday with a passion. However, who knew that his favorite game is checkers?
He persuades Shadow to play a one-on-one game of checkers with him, and wins with all the glory in the world. What does he win? Well, the honor of smashing Shadow’s head, of course.
It takes the team of a brilliant writers and directors to make a game of checkers as alluring and suspenseful as this. Reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, the scene is a battle of the wits among god and man. Everything is at stake and it is all very philosophical.
8 Laura And Robbie’s Joy Ride (Episode Four)
One might have found it cruel enough for Shadow to discover that his wife had been killed while riding shotgun with his friend. However, American Gods is not interested in the bare minimum, and brings the bar up, revealing that Laura was killed in an accident while cheating on Shadow. The entire town also eventually finds this out.
This was the final nail in the coffin, and Shadow's dignity and hopes immediately dropped. He had gone through the entirety of his prison sentence with the hope of one day seeing Laura on the other side.
While the accident scene, along with the implication of an affair, alone would have been enough, the showrunners decided to dive even further by showing of the the scene of Laura and Robbie's affair in episode four, with “The Weight” by The Band in the background.
7 God of Guns (Episode Six)
As a character introduced specifically for the television series, Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and volcanoes. In the series, he is the god of guns and all that results in destruction.
Episode six’s opening moments follow a dozen people from Mexico who are illegally crossing the U.S. border before they are shot down (along with the Hispanic Jesus). This type of scenario is pretty realistic and has probably been happening along the edge of the border for some time — making this opening moment far too controversial for some.
However, the biggest jaw-dropper has to be the God of Guns himself. Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World — these are the contemporary gods who are expected in this economy, but not many take into account America’s immense obsession with guns and bullets. This makes Vulcan both scarily relevant and accurate about the beliefs of many American citizens.
6 The Police Station Massacre (Episode Five)
In the attempt to let Shadow and Mr. Wednesday out of prison, Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World massacre an entire police station. It also helps that Mad Sweeney was going to join them, and was thus able to escape as a result as well.
However, this type of massacre is common for Mr. World, the god of globalization, and this kind of bloodshed is relevant if you consider how justices and rights are often stricken away from many citizens in society.
The series does not do much to hide the brutality of the New Gods and their willingness to take full control of the world. This makes the massacre all the more difficult to bear, as we are now fully aware that they have no qualms with murdering however many it takes.
5 Mrs. Moon Returns (Episode Three)
With not much to do in the first half of the season, Laura Moon returns to the land of the living with a surprise visit to Shadow in his hotel room. The golden coin that Mad Sweeney is so obsessed with has helped bring her back to life, and has changed her into something much more powerful.
Laura didn't have an easy life before her untimely death-- her husband was in prison, she was having an affair, she had a hard job at a casino, and she contemplated suicide with bug spray on more than one occasion.
However, after her death, she now has meaning and a second chance to re-evaluate her life. Hopefully she can mend things with Shadow and understand what is truly happening to her.
4 The Lynching (Episode One)
Technical Boy's “talk” with Shadow involves Shadow being bloodied and battered by Technical Boy's faceless goons and then lynched from a tree on a stormy night.
Technical Boy represents every internet troll that has ever existed. He is unapologetic, narcissistic, aggressive, and far too powerful. He is a bit like Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, except far more sinister.
For all the social and political implications, this proves to be one of the most controversial moments of the series thus far. Technical Boy also trolls Shadow more in episode five by acknowledging the country’s current racial tensions.
Shadow does receive half of an apology for this, but the scene is still a shockingly brutal one.
3 Lovely Easter (Episode Eight)
Most knew that Easter would have an inevitably high-spirited personality. It is the kind of frenetic persona that can only match her gracefully colored and luminous attire.
Easter, or Ēostre in Germanic parables, is the goddess of dawn and rebirth, and the holiday of Easter is equipped with gatherings and festivities in her name. That is until the Jesus Christ(s) of the world stole her thunder and transformed the holiday to focus on themselves.
Kristin Chenoweth is perfectly cast as Easter. Her performance holds a perfect balance between being exuberantly polite and cunningly cynical. She wants to help Mr. Wednesday and Laura, but she holds a grudge and knows her place in the food chain of gods.
Her presence is felt throughout the episode, and she is portrayed as being extremely powerful, particularly when she strips the land of its health until her powers are acknowledged by non-believers.
2 Bilquis the Romantic (Episode One)
Bilquis is an Old goddess of many religions that range from Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. She is often characterized by her merciless seducing powers. Need more evidence? One of her first scenes has her picking up an unsuspecting bar patron.
What follows is one of the creepiest sex scenes of television history, which involves a lot of shrinking, moaning, worshipping, and some good, clean soul stealing.
Bilquis has been doing this for sometime now with several innocent one-night standers — feeding off their souls and gaining more and more power as a result. What makes these scenes shocking is just how well orchestrated they are. Shot brilliantly in red hot pallets, the scenes are incredibly sensual, but edited in a way that we do not see the full danger until long after it is over.
1 The Many Faces of Media (Episodes Two, Five, Eight)
As Media, Gillian Anderson portrays real-life celebrities who have long been a part of media as we know it today. She also has to portray them true to their personalities, while including a new spin to each character since Media is merely temporarily embodying them.
We see her as Lucille Ball in a brilliantly written scene which involves Shadow having a conversation with her on department of a store TV screens. We also see her as Ziggy Stardust, the iconically beautiful Marilyn Monroe, and eventually as Judy Garland in the movie Easter Parade (pretty fittingly named, as she is at Easter’s party).
The scenes are visually stimulating, but are also shocking in their relevance to our celebrity-obsessed society.
Can you think of any other WTF moments in American Gods? Let us know in the comments