When they announced that American Gods would be adapted for TV, my first thought was: “How in Odin’s name are they going to fit such an epic, meandering, complicated narrative into eight episodes?” And the answer was: they didn’t, so there’s plenty of material left for season two.
And I do mean plenty of material. The first season only takes us 129 pages into a 635-page book, so at this rate there could be four or five series before we reach the end of Neil Gaiman’s story.
So where does that leave us for the next season? It’s impossible to say for sure, especially considering the ways the TV version was different from the book – borrowing characters from further on in the story like Easter and Media and Mr Jacquel, and also taking diversions into stories about Mad Sweeney and Laura and Vulcan. But the next 129 pages can give us some clues.
It goes almost without saying (but we’ll say it anyway): SPOILER ALERT.
Here’s what could happen in season two of American Gods:
House on the Rock
Mr Wednesday and Shadow finally arrive at the House on the Rock at the end of season one. This huge roadside attraction features a giant mechanical orchestra, 6,000 model Santas, china dolls, music boxes and fortune telling machines. At the centre is the Carousel room, where the world’s biggest roundabout whirls around. Ignoring the signs, Mr Wednesday and Shadow (and, in the novel, Czeznobog and Mr Nancy) climb on to the exquisitely-painted animals and ride the carousel, spinning faster and faster. Gaiman writes: “Then the lights went out, and Shadow saw the gods.”
Shadow finds himself in the mind of Mr Wednesday, who he now knows is Odin. Wednesday has summoned all the Old Gods to his old hall, Valaskjalf. Here Mr Nancy warms up the crowd before Wednesday gives a speech trying to rally the gods to his cause. Not everyone is convinced, particularly the Hindu goddess Mama-ji or Kali.
Will Shadow be kidnapped?
In the novel, Shadow chauffeurs a bunch of gods over to a restaurant where Wednesday will host them for dinner. On his way to park he is kidnapped by a couple of Mr World’s spooks, Mr Wood and Mr Stone, who lock him in a tiny room and interrogate him about his boss. Luckily “dead wife” Laura saves the day and kills both of them, setting Shadow free (but in the middle of nowhere).
But all the different component parts of this storyline have already been used, so it’s possible showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green will steer the plot around this one.
In the TV series Shadow and Wednesday were arrested after the bank robbery and had an encounter with Mr Wood, who left an enchanted splinter in Shadow’s belly. Will we meet him again or was that his sole appearance? Laura has also already had her chance to beat up Shadow’s tormentors when she rescued him from being lynched by Technical Boy’s thugs.
Shadow meets Sam
Another new character who could arrive in season two is Sam, short for Samantha Black Crow. By this point Shadow has managed to buy a beaten-up old car and is sleeping on the side of the road, but Sam wakes him up to make sure he’s not dead and to demand a ride. She’s a hitchhiking college student who is intrigued by Shadow. For his part, Shadow enjoys her company (and possibly appreciates talking to a non-god after a weird few days).
He lets her out in El Paso, Illinois – but that’s not the last we’ll see of her.
Shadow arrives at the Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlour
In the series we have already met Mr Ibis and Mr Jacquel – they were the ones who patched Laura up and gave her dead body some TLC. But in the novel, our first encounter with this Ancient Egyptian duo comes when Shadow meets a talking dog in the road.
After escaping from his kidnappers, Shadow is visited by one of Mr Wednesday’s crows – either Huginn or Muninn – who orders him (swearily) to go to Cairo, Illinois. He does what the crow says, and when a black dog with pointy ears starts talking to him he’s well beyond the point of being surprised.
The dog is Mr Jacquel, who is accompanied by a main with gold-rimmed glasses: Mr Ibis. They take Shadow back to stay at their funeral parlour where he hangs around, watching autopsies and carrying dead bodies and listening to Egyptian mythology. He also has weird dream-sex with the cat goddess Bast.
Mad Sweeney dies
I am curious to see if the TV version actually kills off Mad Sweeney, who has so far been given a much bigger part than in the novel. But as the original story goes, Shadow bumps into the Irish leprechaun who is in a bad state – having given Shadow the lucky coin that brought his wife back from the grave. (In the novel, he’s not met Laura and doesn’t know what happened to his coin). Mad Sweeney is devastated when he realises that he can’t get his coin and begs Shadow for $20. With that money he buys some Irish Whisky and drinks himself to death.
Wednesday finally returns
If season two follows what happens in the book, we may only see Mr Wednesday in the first few episodes at the House on the Rock. After leaving Shadow to find his own way for a while, he finally arrives to pick him up from the funeral parlour.
But it’s only a temporary return: in the next section of the book he gives Shadow the persona of “Mike Ainsel” and drops him off in a small town so he can go off and do god-related things by himself. Mike Ainsel will presumably not appear until season three, if at all, depending how the show is paced.
What’s happening with Bilquis?
We already know that season two will contain plenty of drama that’s not in the book, because the season finale ends with Bilquis heading to the House on the Rock. She has been forced by Technical Boy to turn her sexual powers against this New God’s enemies – so what does this mean for Mr Wednesday and Shadow?
Season one of American Gods is available on Amazon Prime now