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Bryan Fuller (#110 of 23)

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 8, “Come to Jesus”

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Come to Jesus”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Come to Jesus”

“Come to Jesus” ends the first season of American Gods on an awkward and anticlimactic note. Creators and co-screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green seem to be aware of their own perversity, cracking a joke about it early in the episode. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) are at the office of Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), the present incarnation of the god Anansi, who’s tailoring suits for the next leg of their journey. For a moment, it seems that we’ve dodged the obligation of sitting through a deity origin tale that typically opens each episode, until Mr. Nancy announces that he has a story, which Wednesday greets with comic frustration while nursing a tall whiskey. Wednesday is clearly speaking for the audience here, who may be understandably weary of yet another damn flashback.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 7, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

Tonight’s episode of American Gods, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney,” pivots on another extended flashback, illustrating once again that the series is concerned less with tending to a singular narrative than with offering riffs on a theme. The show’s first season is nearly over, and we’re nowhere near the end of the story told by Neil Gaiman’s source novel, which also allowed for thematically intertwined tangents. The loose structure works better in the series than the book though, as the former has a decadent and melodramatic style that renders the plot nearly beside the point.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 6, “A Murder of Gods” 

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “A Murder of Gods”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 6, “A Murder of Gods”

Tonight’s episode of American Gods, “A Murder of Gods,” has a central image that’s particularly resonant when seen a few days after Donald Trump announced that the United States would be pulling out of the Paris Agreement, fueling bipartisan exasperation. The image is a master shot of a fictional Virginian town called Vulcan, which offers a parodic microcosm of the issues of pollution and gun lust that grip this country. White townspeople stroll the streets with rifles and red armbands, while a great plant operates in the background, dwarfing the foreground and pumping vast and supernaturally dark plumes of smoke into the sky.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 5, “Lemon Scented You”

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Lemon Scented You”
American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 5, “Lemon Scented You”

Whether we’re talking cinema, television, or theater, conventional drama is predominantly made up of exposition, which experimental art seeks to transcend or obliterate so as to theoretically tap into deeper meanings. For better or worse, deeper meaning often equates to obliqueness, which means less to most audiences than repetitive variations of common pop-art symbols. There’s another way to approach exposition, though, as American Gods and the new Twin Peaks illustrate: double down on it so transparently that it serves as an orienting device as well as a flourish of stylized abstraction. “Lemon Scented You” is entirely expositional on one level, but it’s so flamboyantly and decadently realized that it doesn’t matter, as it satirically equates exposition to sales as necessary binding agents of contemporary life.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 4, "Git Gone"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “Git Gone”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 4, “Git Gone”

“Git Gone” playfully refutes our expectations of American Gods, opening on Egyptian wall paintings and leading one to assume that the show’s traditional god-centric prologue will be set in Egypt, perhaps as a complement to the introduction of Anubis (Chris Obi) in “Head Full of Snow.” But these paintings are revealed to be fake, existing as part of a backdrop of a gaudy casino where Laura Moon (Emily Browning) once worked. There’s no supernatural prologue in this episode, which is concerned with sadder and more trivially human affairs, offering a series of flashbacks that recount the meeting of Laura and Shadow (Ricky Whittle). “Git Gone” recalibrates portions of the series, so far, from Laura’s point of view, telling a story of a relationship tragically governed by imbalance of power.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 3, "Head Full of Snow"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 3, “Head Full of Snow”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 3, “Head Full of Snow”

After the enraged and despairing racial-religious politics of “The Secret of Spoon,” “Head Full of Snow” serves as a tonal palette cleanser for American Gods, reveling in the solace of belief during times of loneliness and despair. The episode is appealingly scruffy around the edges, as television isn’t usually allowed to roam this freely. At times, “Head Full of Snow” suggests that creators and screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and director David Slade are getting high on the existentialist fumes of Mad Men. And this episode also once again recalls certain portions of Fuller’s Hannibal, notably the first half of the third season, in which the characters wandered the Italy of our opera- and horror-film-fed imaginations.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 2, "The Secret of Spoon"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “The Secret of Spoon”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “The Secret of Spoon”

Starz’s American Gods comes into its own with “The Secret of Spoon,” achieving a free-associative emotional ferocity that wasn’t fully present in last week’s “The Bone Orchard.” While the phrase “free-associative” feels right as a descriptor of this episode’s wandering, hallucinatory emotional texture, “The Secret of Spoon” is actually quite tightly structured and governed by rhyming symbols, in a manner that recalls co-creator Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal.

American Gods Recap Season 1, Episode 1, "The Bone Orchard"

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American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “The Bone Orchard”

Starz

American Gods Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “The Bone Orchard”

While reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I was often stopped in the street by people who saw it in my hands and wanted to have an impromptu pow-wow about its greatness. I often have a book in my hands, and I’ve never before encountered such reactions, which I enjoyed more than the novel. Gaiman’s narrative is imaginatively conceived, but it’s composed of hundreds of pages of exposition preceding a battle that never commences. Gaiman tells a long shaggy-dog joke, in which humankind’s various gods across the ages are revealed to be as gullible as their worshipers, subject to the manipulations of a rigged society that distracts us from our subservience with a trumped war between cultural factions that serve the same leader. It’s quite resonant politically, but the novel is all theme. There’s barely a plot, the characters are ciphers, and Gaiman’s prose is lean and studiously workmanlike. The notion of gods as scared and foolish projections of their scared and foolish creators (for we are their gods) is poignant though, and it’s this idea that’s ostensibly captured readers’ imaginations.

Every Episode of Hannibal Ranked

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Every Episode of Hannibal Ranked

NBC

Every Episode of Hannibal Ranked

NBC’s Hannibal ran for three seasons, but its concept called for at least twice as many. Undertaking a freeform adaptation of author Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter saga, producer Bryan Fuller crocheted 39 episodes out of Will Graham’s involvement with modern crime fiction’s most notable maneater without once mentioning the iconic Clarice Starling. In short, the result of the NBC severance was a bridge that reached not quite halfway across the river before being rudely interrupted by lack of funds. Happily, the unfinished symphony yielded great beauty.

In ranking all 39 episodes, the rich, once-in-a-lifetime series leads one down several paths. What’s the most fascinating aspect? Fuller’s fruitfully complex relationship with the source material, switching from solemnly pious to manically freestyle (even openly rebellious) at the drop of a hat? An equally complex study in the dynamic relationship between auteur (and not-so-auteur) directors and a showrunner who needs a stable of weirdly brilliant minds to realize his epic vision? The show’s evolution from vague Mentalist retread—possibly a canny bit of misdirection on Fuller’s part—to the grandest opera dedicated to the destructive infatuation shared by two men ever to air on network television?

Or is it simply about the story, meat and potatoes, and nothing more? Does the series rise and fall based on how tunefully a given episode renders the ballad of Will (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen)? In truth, all these concerns factor into a 39-episode ranking, to a degree that Hannibal makes for a solid, encyclopedic study of the different ways we experience pleasure (or displeasure) with episodic television drama. This ranking will endeavor to adhere to a rough calculus, weighing the complex pleasures from one episode to the next. In preparation, I revisited every episode, in its established order, but also checked in with a selection of isolated scenes, quiet and loud alike.

Hannibal Recap Season 3, Episode 13, "The Wrath of the Lamb"

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Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 13, “The Wrath of the Lamb”

NBC

Hannibal Recap: Season 3, Episode 13, “The Wrath of the Lamb”

Per the elaborate religious analogies offered up in “The Number of the Beast Is 666,” “The Wrath of the Lamb” finds Will (Hugh Dancy), the lamb to Hannibal’s (Mads Mikkelsen) Lucifer and Jack’s (Laurence Fishburne) God, attempting an elaborate bait and switch to nab Francis (Richard Armitage), a.k.a. the Great Red Dragon, after the latter fakes his own death. Theoretically, the episode is about the negotiations Will must orchestrate so as to cleanse himself (he’d like to think anyway) for a return to his life with Molly, as he navigates the powerful influences of his dueling authority figures. In actuality, every plot development is clearly planted in preparation for the show’s climax atop a bluff where Hannibal once hid Miriam and Abigail. As with Justified’s somewhat anticlimactic finale earlier this year, there’s a rushed, “off” quality to “The Wrath of the Lamb.” At times, one wonders if there’s a conductor sitting right outside the periphery of the camera, egging the actors to “move it along.”