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The Most WTF Moments of the AMERICAN GODS Premiere, Explained

The Most WTF Moments of the AMERICAN GODS Premiere, Explained

Massive spoilers for the premiere episode of American Gods follow!

It’s strange, watching a TV show adapted from a book and seeing the images you envisioned so clearly in your head coming to life just as you pictured them. It’s even stranger in the case of American Gods, because those images are of things like, say, a woman consuming a man with her vagina.

For newcomers to the series who’ve never encountered Neil Gaiman’s supernatural world before, that kind of thing is bound to be downright confusing. That’s why we’re here to break down the biggest, mind-trippiest scenes from tonight’s episode, “The Bone Orchard,” into digestible little pieces, so you can get the most out of those trippy, gorgeously weird visuals that showrunner Bryan Fuller loves so dang much.

Coming To America

via GIPHY

The first moments of the series begin not with our protagonist, Shadow Moon, but instead with an origin story for God we’ll later meet: Odin, who was brought here (and then promptly abandoned) by the first Norse explorers to set foot on American soil. It might seem like a complete non-sequitur, but these “Coming To America” segments will serve a useful purpose as the series goes on, introducing us to the people who once believed in the Old Gods. Plus, tonally they’re a near-perfect match to the world-building essays that make up much of American Gods’ 465 pages, even if they don’t contain exactly the same stories within.

Shadow’s Dreams

In any other show, Shadow would be a regular dude grieving the loss of his wife Laura, adapting to life outside prison, and screaming over Illinois state parks to cope. But this is not a regular show, so Shadow also has psychedelic dreams of saying goodbye to Laura, a forest floor littered with bones, a World Tree (which, given the company he keeps, might be Yggdrasil), and a giant fire-eyed buffalo. Anybody else shipping the Buffalo with the Nightmare Stag from Hannibal? No, just me?

Anyway, in the book the Buffalo is a physical representation of the land and isn’t tied to any particular religion, although the American Bison is sacred in several Native American cultures. Oh, and, fun fact! According to showrunner Bryan Fuller, it’s also voiced by Ian McShane.

Mr. Wednesday

Hey, did you know that the English names for the days of the week have their origins in the names of Norse gods? Also, did you notice how stormy it got outside the plane when Mr. Wednesday first proposed that Shadow work for him, and how he seems to know things about Shadow that not even he himself knows? And remember what I said earlier about Coming To America segments being important windows into how the Gods first came to this country? Cool, cool, I’ll trust you to work out the connection for yourself.

Regardless of who he is, Mr. Wednesday is now Shadow’s boss, which means that Shadow has officially agreed to these terms: “You drive me where I need driving to. You take care of things generally on my behalf. In an emergency and only in an emergency, you kick the asses of whose asses require kicking. And in the unlikely event of my death, you will hold my vigil.” Of course, the deal is sealed with mead, an alcoholic kind of honey-wine that was produced in ancient cultures all over the world, and has even made a recent comeback in popularity. Also, in my opinion it tastes way better than Shadow was acting like it did.

Bilquis

via GIPHY

By far the biggest shocker of the episode is the scene involving Bilquis, a gorgeous love goddess (and also the Queen of Sheba) who’s not what she “once was,” but who still manages to go on an online date that ends… well, pretty great for her, I guess? While the worship scene itself is lifted straight off the pages, her circumstances are a little different now — in the book she’s a roadside sex worker and the dude, um, worshipping her is an uncouth, unlikeable jerk. This guy, however (Mad Men‘s Freddy Rumsen!), is sweet to Bilquis even before she works her magic, which makes it even more upsetting to see him swallowed whole. Presumably she needs to do this to survive, so odds are that we’ll see her engage in this behavior again as the season goes on.

The Coin Trick

While sealing their compact at the Crocodile Bar, Wednesday and Shadow encounter an Irishman named Mad Sweeney who’s extremely adept at plucking coins out of thin air, literally. Despite what he tells Shadow, Sweeney’s not exactly a leprechaun: his name is borrowed from that of Suibhne mac Colmain, a warrior king in medieval Irish folklore who’s driven mad by a saint’s curse and made to wander the world. Which is why he shows up unexpectedly in a roadside tavern in Illinois, probably.

Oh, and yes, you didn’t imagine that — when Shadow dropped the coin that Mad Sweeney gave him onto Laura’s grave, it burrowed itself into the ground of its own accord. That’s definitely going to come into play in later episodes, so don’t forget about it!

Technical Boy

via GIPHY

Finally, the episode ends on a pretty intense note; Shadow is abducted by a VR helmet containing the vape-obsessed living Instagram account that is the Technical Boy. As you probably guessed from his entire vibe, he’s basically a living manifestation of the internet —and in a surprising departure from the book, his minions almost succeed in lynching Shadow before he’s rescued by a mysterious act of spontaneous violence. Damn. I figured the show wouldn’t ignore the fact that its leading man is black, but I didn’t they’d go that in on imagery lifted from the worst aspects of American history in its very first episode. Still, at the very least it’s highly effective in reminding you that this country isn’t a great place for everybody, whether you’re a god or not.

Is there anything else from “The Bone Orchard” that confused you? What are you looking forward to learning more about next episode? Drop us some knowledge in the comments below.

Images: Starz

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