As Game Of Thrones has shown so beautifully, it’s entirely possible to adapt a sprawling novel (or series of novels, as the case may be) into an equally impressive television show. The same can now also be said of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 fantasy novel American Gods. Though what’s great about the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD is how its extras are almost as much about the original book as they are about the show.
In American Gods, Ricky Whittle (The 100) plays Shadow Moon, a criminal who gets out of jail just days after his wife (Sleeping Beauty‘s Emily Browning) is killed in a car accident. On his flight home, he meets a mysterious man who decides to call himself Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane from John Wick and John Wick 2), and ends up on a road trip that gets stranger and stranger.
What makes the episodes on the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD work so well, unto themselves and as adaptations of Gaiman’s novel, is that it not only boasts a first-rate cast — especially McShane, Browning, and The X-Files‘ Gillian Anderson — but that they’re supported by a smart script that is relatively faithful to Gaiman’s original text (though it has been smartly updated), and is thus unafraid to go as far out as he did in his novel.
The only downside of what you see on the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD is that, at times, the direction and visual aspects can lean a bit too much to the cheesy side. There are times when things get unnecessarily artsy — though there’s other times when this artsy vibe is effective — while some of the sets look like, well, sets, as opposed to real places. None of which derails American Gods, but it’s still a little disappointing.
Along with the seasons’ eight episodes, the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD also includes a number of cool extras, especially for fans of the original book.
To start, the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD has two audio commentaries on the first episode, “The Blood Orchard”: one with McShane and Whittle, and a second with director David Slade and co-creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. It also has a video one for the last episode, “Come To Jesus,” with Whittle, Browning, and their costars Yetide Badaki (who plays Bilquis), Bruce Langley (Technical Boy), and Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy), for those who’d like to watch them goof around a couch. Not surprisingly, while the one with Fuller, Green, and Slade is informative, and the video game is entertaining, it’s the one with McShane and Whittle that strikes the best balance of the two.
Next, the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD presents “American Gods: Origins,” in which Gaiman discusses how the original book came to be. There’s also “What Is American Gods,” in which Gaiman, the cast, and the crew detail what the book and the show are about, while “Book Vs. Show” discusses how aspects of the sixteen-year-old novel were expanded or updated for the show.
These are followed on the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD by some making-of featurettes. First, “The Road To American Gods” is an informative but also entertaining two-and-half-hour long, eight-part documentary that includes interviews with the cast, crew, and Gaiman. There’s even a separate feature called “Title Gods” about the show’s opening credits.
Closing out the extras on the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD are “Old Gods” and “New Gods,” two companion featurettes about those respective characters, and “Explore The Crocodile Bar In 360 Degrees With Commentary By Cast And Crew,” which oddly employs static images as opposed to a video tour for some reason.
As good as the extras on the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD may be, though, there are others that would’ve made it better. For starters, it would’ve been cool if they had included the original trailer for the show that got everyone excited for this show, the Comic-Con panel where they first showed it, and a trailer for the second season (though it may be too early for that).
The American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD would’ve benefitting from having commentaries on all eight episodes, doubly so if one had paired Gaiman with Anderson, since you just know those two would’ve gotten along like a house on wire.
Lastly, it would’ve made more sense if the extras “American Gods: Origins,” “Old Gods,” “New Gods,” “What Is American Gods,” “Book Vs. Show,” “Explore The Crocodile Bar In 360 Degrees With Commentary By Cast And Crew” were on the last disc, as opposed to the second, since you shouldn’t watch most of them before you watch the show.
Even with these shortcomings, though, the American Gods Season One Blu-ray and DVD is the best way to watch this intriguing adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic fantasy novel. Hopefully it will inspire other TV adaptations of books, and their inevitable take home editions.