American Gods Season 1 Blu-ray Review
Preparing for battle
Season 1 Review
Despite it almost derailing the bloody success he had with Hannibal, showrunner Bryan Fuller doubles down on his exquisite carnage in the curiously compelling adaptation of American Gods.Taking its cues from the likes of Seth Rogen’s excellent TV series adaptation of Garth Ennis’s supposedly unfilmable Preacher, another Amazon-backed comic-book-style property, the TV adaptation of Neil ‘Sandman’ Gaiman’s American Gods, distils its frequently jarringly convoluted narrative (the main story may be linear, but the random “flashbacks” take a little getting used to) into a 10-part series which honestly doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s basically just all build-up to, presumably, some kind of epic conflict in the second season, with plenty of tense moments but actually – on reflection – nothing happening beyond character detailing. Somehow, though, Fuller manages to convert this arguably pointless narrative into a colourful, lurid tapestry of otherworldly happenings, Old Testament-style fables, and reflections on the misadventures that brought these characters to the place they’re in. And despite the head-scratchingly meandering plot, there’s enough oddity to these unusual souls to keep you tuned in from one episode to the next.The story follows convict Shadow Moon, who gets an early release due to the death of his young wife, and goes off the rails when he finds out the manner of her untimely demise, catching the eye of the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, who offers him a job as a personal bodyguard as he journeys the country visiting ‘old friends’. Shadow soon realises there are dark forces at work, finding a group of strange super-powered souls headhunting him to work for them, and realising that Wednesday isn’t just visiting friends, he’s recruiting an army. What American Gods has got going for it – in spades – is Fuller’s distinctive style dialed up to 11, a refusal to pander to exposition, and a game cast including the ageless Gillian Anderson and Pablo Schrieber's scene-stealing leprechaun (think: Preacher's Joseph Gilgun). Sure, the ex-Hollyoaks lead acts with but a single frown, but Ian McShane makes up for it, on tremendous Swearengen form, stoking the fire for that elusive Deadwood return. It’s worth watching for him alone.
Picture QualityAmerican Gods comes to UK shores on a Region B-locked Blu-ray set courtesy of Studiocanal, several months in advance of its impending US release, delivering a suitably impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the show's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen (notwithstanding the shift in episode 4), which laps up Fuller's visual opulence.
A stunning video presentation
Detail is often razor-sharp, absorbing the slo-mo carnage as blood splatters across the frame in gushes of crimson and ruby, or the Frankenstein-like stitching in a body brought back to life. Fuller's visions are heavily stylised, which makes for a visually striking experience, and it's near-perfect here. Well-textured, rich and deep, the colour scheme is stunning too, full of vibrant, vivid tones in the real-world environment, with only the pure extremes (the red room where the goddess swallows people, for example), testing the limits in respect to banding and crush. Black levels remain strong and deep too and, overall, it's a stunning video presentation.
Sound QualityThrumming with intensity
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also manages to boast Fuller's trademarks, getting right under your skin and thrumming with LFE intensity. Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the front and centre channels, coming across clearly and coherently throughout, whilst effects are distinct and imaginative, lapping up the unusual realms and dreamscapes, the mythological flashbacks and futuristic tech bubbles, and giving them each a separate aural identity. Fuller's attention to detail on the visual front only just edges out the audio, which comes across as almost as important, and is certainly given rightful presence here. The score too will be familiar in style to those who got to know and love his Hannibal series, and whilst it may not be as classically-based, the brooding tones and relentless LFE undercurrent give it the same signature. American Gods sounds great.
ExtrasThe UK set offers up a fairly decent selection of extra features, which are predominantly Featurette and Interview-based. Neil Gaiman himself hosts American Gods Origins, looking at the Norse God folklore, whilst the Book vs. Show Featurette looks at the differences between the two, and What is American Gods? takes an overview into the show. There are also separate segments on the New Gods and the Old Gods.
A fairly decent selection of extra features
A slew of Cast Interviews offer contributions from Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle and Emily Browning together, and Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle together, as well as Bruce Langley, and the selection is rounded off with a look at the San Diego Comic-Con Interview Panel.
Blu-ray VerdictIt's worth watching for Ian McShane alone
Studiocanal's UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release of the first season of American Gods delivers up excellent video and audio as well as a welcome selection of extra features. Fans shouldn't hesitate in picking it up. It's certainly strangely compelling, even if, come the end of it, you can't help feeling like it's just the prelude to the main course.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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