American Gods Recap and Review Episode 1: The Bone Orchard


American Gods has finally come to our TV screens. Wondering what happened during Episode 1: The Bone Orchard? Read on to find out.

I should start with a disclaimer: I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan, so I may be a little biased toward thinking this show is awesome.

I read American Gods when it first came out, and about four times again since. I’ve been ridiculously excited and nervous about this adaptation. They haven’t always gone well for Gaiman before, but I had hope, because he’s one of the executive producers. Also, Bryan Fuller, who produced and wrote the exquisitely horrific Hannibal  TV series (and many of my favorite Star Trek: Voyager episodes), is an executive producer and writer, along with Michael Green (of Smallville, another favorite).

After the first episode, I can say that American Gods is off to a good start. So far, the show is a lot like the book, but seeing it on-screen is just really cool. The casting is spot-on perfect. All I can think of to say at this point is “Squeeeeeeee!”

Judging by the first episode, we’re in for a Hel of a ride.

Coming to America

One hundred years before Leif Erikson, Vikings sailed to look for new lands and found America. They also found starvation and unwelcoming native people. But when they try to leave, there is no wind. They dedicated the shore to their god, and like him, each sacrificed one eye. But still no wind. So they went to war, with each other, because their god was a god of war. Blood was spilled and the wind returned. The Vikings sailed home, leaving no records. But when Leif and his crew arrived, there was their god, and so was war.

Meet Shadow

When we meet our protagonist Shadow Moon, he’s behind bars, but soon to be released. He’s due out in five days. Shadow talks to his wife on the prison phone and she says she’s meeting his best friend Robbie to plan his surprise birthday party.

Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon) (Official image c34998b0-17f3-4960-92c1-b5c6d1d9445b.jpeg via Starz)

That night Shadow can’t sleep. As he rolls a coin around his hand, he has a vision of Laura and falls into a dream of an orchard of bone trees littered with skulls. They scratch at his face. An empty noose falls from a tree.

He wakes to find he’ll be released that very day. The warden explains, with sympathy:

"“Your wife is dead. There was an automobile accident.”"


Shadow walks free. With a pre-paid plane ticket from the prison, he tries to fly home, but can’t change his prearranged flight. He’s stuck in the terminal, waiting. Getting ready to finally board, he sees a confused old man who somehow manages to get himself a first class seat despite the fact he didn’t buy one. But after Shadow boards, someone’s already in his seat, and they direct him to the only available seat: in first class, right next to the old man, who promptly sweet talks the flight attendant into letting him keep his drink for takeoff, and gets Shadow a Jack and Coke to boot. Shadow lets him know he’s nervous flying for the first time, and the man tells him, “Sit back, be a bird, and drink up.”

Shadow compliments the old man on his con job and asks his name.

"“What’s today?”“Wednesday.”“Today’s my day. Let’s go with that.”"

Wednesday mentions he’s hiring. Perfectly legal work for the most part, and he has no problem hiring an ex con. Shadow says he’s got a job at his friend’s gym, but Wednesday is skeptical.

Then Shadow sleeps. Lightning flashes. He walks through a cave toward a giant tree. From behind it, a white buffalo with flaming eyes approaches and proclaims “Believe.”

Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon (Official image 1778d04e-ab40-457f-bfb2-ce22229e4f4f via Starz)

Shadow wakes to discover they’ve landed and he’s the only one left on the plane. There was an emergency landing and he’s miles from home, so he rents a car for the drive. He needs to stop, and finds himself at Shakamak State Park. Shadow gets out and stands with his eyes closed, screaming at the void.

Somewhere in America

A middle-aged white man meets a beautiful black woman in a bright red dress. They’re in a bar for a date. His kids convinced him it was a good idea, and he’s glad he did it. She takes him back to her red, red room, with her red red bed. She says she isn’t what she used to be. He tells her she’s beautiful. They make love. He’s in absolute ecstasy. She asks:

"“Do one thing for me. Worship me. Stay here with your words, with your body. Worship me. Pray to me like I’m your god. Your goddesssssss… Say my name.“BILQUIS. Beloved.”"

Yetide Badaki (Bilquis) (Official Image fe96ec6a-ea7f-4e80-a8b0-7263069aea35.jpeg via Starz)

He wants to know how this feels so good. Poetry worthy of The Song of Songs bursts from his lips as she rides him. As he disappears into her up to the waist. He offers her everything. His blood. His life. All he has. He’s in up to his chest. He tells her he loves her. He’s in up to his head. And he’s gone.

Pit Stop

Still at the park, Shadow stops to get gas and go to the bathroom. And who strolls into the men’s room but Mr. Wednesday, who says he’s sorry about his wife. He promptly asks if Shadow still wants the job, what with the fact that he’s broke, and the situation with his best friend who had the gym. Wednesday tells him Robbie is dead. Robbie and Laura died together, in a car accident.

The meet in the park’s bar, where Shadow tells him he is broke, and he does need a job, but he doesn’t want to work for anyone with worse luck than him. He places a coin on the table and says he’ll flip for it, and Wednesday calls heads. Shadow flips, but doesn’t show the coin.

"“Tails. I rigged the toss.”“Rigged games are the easiest to beat.”“It is always gonna be tails because I don’t wanna work for you. You’re creepy and forward and familiar, and I don’t like it. I don’t like you.”“It’s not always gonna be tails.”"

Shadow looks at the coin, and it’s heads. Wednesday tells him they will discuss the terms of his employment over a drink. A tall bearded ginger man comes over to let Shadow know they now have the same boss. And he says he’s a leprechaun. He does have a very Irish accent. When Shadow asks why he isn’t short, he responds, “That’s a stereotype. Represents a very narrow view of the world.”

Makes you wonder how much of the world’s mythology is just a pile of stereotypes.

The Deal

Wednesday comes over with drinks and greets him as Mad Sweeney. He’s brought Shadow mead. I’ve never had mead, but most people I know who have tell me it tastes awful. Shadow agrees, but Wednesday insists it’s a tradition that seals their bargain. He explains the job. Shadow will take care of things on his behalf and in emergencies, kick those that require kicking. And in the event of his death, Shadow will hold his vigil. Mad Sweeney warns he’s being hustled, but Shadow already figured that. The guy’s a con man.

After Wednesday agrees to let him go to Laura’s funeral, and Shadow says he’s in, but although he’s up for hurting people, he’ll only do it if Wednesday’s threatened, not for fun and profit. They seal the deal with two more drinks.

After telling Shadow “You’re my man now,” Wednesday flips the coin back at him and calls heads. Which it is. Not to be outdone on the coin tricks front, Mad Sweeney comes over and starts pulling thick gold coins out of thin air, dropping them into Shadow’s empty glass. For the finale, he spits one into the glass from nowhere.

"“Now that’s a coin trick for ya.”“How’d you do it?”“With panache.”“So you’re rolling coins up your sleeves?”“Sounds like a lot of work to me. Easier just to pluck ’em out of the air. Simplest trick in the world.”“How’d you do it?”“Tell you what. I’ll fight you for it.”"

Shadow refuses. Sweeney starts talking smack about the recently departed Laura Moon and Shadow punches him in the face. The fight is on. Mad Sweeney is finally having fun.

Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney) (Official image e532fee4-cfe5-472a-8abb-f58826ced973.jpeg via Starz)

Next thing Shadow knows, he’s waking in the back of a black Cadillac. He’s got the gold coin in his hand. Wednesday. who’s driving claims he did learn the trick, but he can’t remember a thing because of all the mead.


Shadow drops Wednesday at a motel and drives to the funeral, where he walks straight to the front of the church to view Laura’s body. Robbie’s wife Audrey is there too, crying, and realizes Shadow doesn’t know what happened, which is that Laura and Robbie were having an affair.

After the funeral, speaking to Laura’s grave, Shadow asks her why. He wants her to know he wanted to be better when he came out than when he went in, for her. And he flips Mad Sweeney’s gold coin onto the loose dirt of her grave.


He walks back to town at night, alone. The streetlights go dark all at once. To the side of the road in a field he sees moths flying around a glow. He finds a strange metal polygon and as he reaches down to touch it, it opens up and encases his entire head. He’s in a vision, a white limo, with a skinny young man in a red and white jacket who questions him threateningly about Wednesday.

Bruce Langley (Technical Boy) (Official image 6160ccf2-2869-493b-b734-b6e37b90af0a.jpeg via Starz)

"“Wednesday is history… forgotten and old.  He should just let it happen. We are the future and we don’t give a f*** about him or anyone else like him anymore. They are consigned to the dumpster. We have reprogrammed reality. Language is a virus, religion an operating system, prayers are just so much f***ing spam.“We’re not just going to kill you, Shadow. We’re going to delete you. One click and you are overwritten. Undelete, that is not an option.”"

Then Shadow’s falling through pelting rain as a blank-faced figures kick him bloody and hang him by a noose from a tree. But he looks up, and the rain turns red like we’re in an episode of Hannibal. As Shadow falls to the ground, the assailants explode into a field of blood.

Related Story: Gorgeous New Folio Edition Of American Gods, Illustrated By Dave McKean

Next week on Hannibal… I mean American Gods, meet me back at Culturess to find out if Shadow lived through episode 1. Let’s hope so, because I hear undelete is not an option.