The fact it's taken so long for us to get an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods is quite amazing. You'd think a magical realism premise that hinges on old deities being threatened by the supernatural manifestations of the modern world would be ripe for a TV audience. Magic hiding in plain sight is oft considered a modern audience's jam, so why has it taken so long for Neil Gaiman's story to hit our screens?
Put simply, American Gods is weird. There are lapses in geographical and temporal logic, and some characters, being gods and all, act with a strange performativity and even violence that the logic of serialized television isn't so partial to. Oh, and a man is literally eaten by a vagina at one point. But do you know who is partial to lapses in logic and bouts of violence?
The previous work of Bryan Fuller is practically a resumé to work on an American Gods adaptation. As someone who's headed up the peppy and colorful, yet ever so slightly morbid Pushing Daisies along with the nihilistic and deranged yet most beautiful show on television right now, Hannibal, this guy is made to take on American Gods! Hannibal in particular exhibits qualities that seem straight up aggressive to the audience, yet wins us over with gorgeous painterly frames. Fuller recently showed off some concept art for the upcoming adaptation of American Gods, winning fans over, as well as Neil Gaiman himself!
Just from looking at the depiction of the Bone Orchard, I could imagine that Fuller's interpretation of Gaiman's novel will have a gothic, perhaps even psychedelic quality to it. This adaptation will likely exhibit a reality that can bend to the whims of others. Given that Hannibal already feels like a show where you are only occasionally waking between deep inebriated trips, I could see how American Gods as a show would situate us firmly in the perspective of Shadow, with his understanding of the world invaded and infringed upon by visitations form Mr Wednesday and his divine peers.
Is this the American Gods we want?
Now I definitely don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, and I respect Bryan Fuller's work as much as the next person, but I have to question whether his style is really right for American Gods. The novel is a prime example of magical realism, and something could be lost if the story is adapted without any regard for the "realism" part of that. Expressive, colorful and perhaps even disturbing images are all well and good, but the thrust of the appeal in American Gods consists of magic hiding in the world we know.
American Gods as a property had a rocky courtship with HBO a few years back, with its edgy yet strangely nerdy tone seeming perfect for the network. Without going so far as to become an HBO hype man, I will say that the tone I could imagine working with an American Gods adaptation would be similar to True Detective. The world appears raw, unforgiving, yet normal. Everything operates within the realms of reality, yet there's still a sinister undercurrent to everything we see. It never explicitly happens, but the world of True Detective always feels ready to swallow the characters up into some cosmic horror.
It's of course unfair to judge American Gods primarily by very early concept art, and Bryan Fuller's style is an expressive and ambitious one that we should always be grateful to see on our screens. We can be sure, however, that American Gods will garner much commentary from fans of the book right up until its release.