“How is this an upgrade?” – American Gods: Season 2 (Blu-Ray Review)

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The road to American Gods: Season 2 was a long and bumpy one. After the highly-ambitious Season 1 premiered back in 2017, original showrunners, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, were fired due to budgetary concerns and creative disagreements. Both were replaced by Jesse Alexander, who was reportedly sidelined constantly throughout the production. There were apparently many shooting delays, pushbacks, certain members of the original supporting cast dropping out and behind-the-scenes turmoil, and after all of the difficulties that were endured, this second season doesn’t really accomplish much in the grand scheme of things and is just fine in the end.

There is a clear lack of direction with each character just going through the motions and only progressing a tiny amount. Despite Mr. World declaring that the war between the Old Gods and the New Gods had begun back in the Season 1 finale, it doesn’t feel like it’s actually happening apart from a few tiny developments here and there, some of which will carry on through into the forthcoming Season 3. Plus, certain characters like Nancy, Ibis and Bilquis get the short end of the stick and just sort of hang around the Cairo funeral home for long dialogue sequences, making their roles in the season kind of superfluous.

Other supporting characters were simply dropped or altered altogether. After Fuller and Green left, both Kristin Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson decided not to reprise their roles in retaliation, so this led to the storyline of Chenoweth’s Easter destroying Spring being scrapped altogether. As for Anderson’s Media, the character had to be recast and reinvented completely as New Media, a manifestation of online culture now played by Kahyun Kim, who simply lacks the allure, enigma and presence that Anderson brought to the role, plus she too doesn’t add much to the proceedings other than her big move in the finale.

There are some delights to be found, however, and the cast still give it their all; Ian McShane is still a delight as Wednesday, Orlando Jones is fun as Nancy and both Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning still make a sparky duo as Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon. The flashbacks and stories detailing about the Gods coming to America were also major highlights, especially in both episodes 6 and 7 with the former exploring what happened to Wednesday/Odin’s son Thor/Donar and the later diving into the tragic history of Mad Sweeney before his big, epic exit at the end of the episode. Plus, it’s still visually arresting to behold, even if it may not quite have the intricate attention-to-detail that was once there in Season 1.

Whatever problems beset American Gods behind the scenes, there’s no denying that this season spent the majority of its time spinning its wheels as it went along. After the ambition that went into making Season 1 the unexpected hit that it was, this feels like something of a step backwards, which makes it all disappointing as a result. It’s not a terrible season by any stretch of the imagination and there are some enjoyable elements to be found, but it’s quite clear that the hype and enthusiasm has died down in the two-year wait between seasons. Frankly, it’s a miracle that Season 3 is getting made, and hopefully, new showrunner Charles Eglee will give the show the momentum it so desperately needs right now.

Dir: Christopher J. Byrne, Frederick E.O. Toye, Deborah Chow, Stacie Passon, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Rachel Talalay, Paco Cabezas

Scr: Jesse Alexander, Neil Gaiman, Tyler Dinucci, Andres Fischer-Centeno, Heather Bellson, Peter Calloway, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Rodney Barnes, Adria Lang, Jim Danger Gray

Starring: Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Orlando Jones, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Mousa Kraish, Omid Abtahi, Demore Barnes, Pablo Schreiber, Kahyun Kim, Peter Stormare, Sakina Jaffrey

Music: Brian Reitzell, Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans

Year: 2019

Country: USA

Number of Episodes: 8

Episode Run time: 52 mins

American Gods: Season 2 will be released on DVD & Blu-Ray on July 8th

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