Neil Gaiman (#110 of 11)

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.

Review: Wayward Manor

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Review: Wayward Manor
Review: Wayward Manor

As much as I fear death, if being a ghost is anything like the experience of playing one in Wayward Manor, bring on sweet, sweet oblivion instead. Even Neil Gaiman, who penned this cutesy yet underdeveloped spectral tale, sounds trapped as he takes on the role of the titular house and narrates his own weary words between levels, begging you to help him evict the tenants from his property. The caper is charming and comically creepy at first, as you attempt to startle a burglar named Benny, learning to drop bottles onto the ground in order to make him investigate, and then provocatively possessing nearby statues so that he might, in a rage, charge headfirst at them. But though you'll later have to prey on the maid's quivering around rodents, the mother's fear of grime, and the grandfather's terror of the dark, the novelty is done in by the repetition. Simply put, ghosts have no real freedom, and while the game pretends to offer you a variety of ways to get the perquisite number of scares in each level, all of your haunts are variations on the same theme.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 12, "Nightmare in Silver"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Nightmare in Silver”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Nightmare in Silver”

After the almost universal acclaim (and a clutch of awards) for “The Doctor's Wife” in 2011, the next episode to be written by Neil Gaiman had a lot to live up to. “Nightmare in Silver” makes good use of the Doctor's second-most famous enemies, the Cybermen, but it's a step down from Gaiman's previous outing, with gratuitous guest characters and a grab-bag of under-developed ideas. Revolving around the fate of two children, at times it feels like an episode from the late lamented Doctor Who spinoff series for kids, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

The No-Bullshit, Razor-Sharp Fun of Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey’s The Steel Seraglio

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The No-Bullshit, Razor-Sharp Fun of Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey’s The Steel Seraglio
The No-Bullshit, Razor-Sharp Fun of Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey’s The Steel Seraglio

The Steel Seraglio flirts with the danger of Western authors appropriating Middle Eastern culture to patronizing ends—a criticism levelled at Craig Thompson's beautiful but flawed Habibi. But Mike, Linda, and Louise Carey—husband, wife, and daughter—clarify their ideas in the rich tradition of Middle Eastern folklore like butter in a pan, scorching away any nascent orientalism. What's left is universal in its appeal and precise in its humanism. In this, the novel resembles the folktales it takes after, flavored with the timelessness of fantasy—a confident One Thousand and One Nights for our present.

This timelessness proves an intelligent way to engage with the dangers of dogmatism without falling into the trap of exclusionary politics. It allows the authors to avoid overt references to present-day ideologies and religions by establishing a prehistory that precedes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as we know it. Mike Carey has said that he and his coauthors wanted to play off “real world expectations of gender relations.” This is after all a story of Bessa, the “City of Women”—how it became so, and why it doesn't actually exist in this or any other time.

Bessa's transformation into the City of Women begins when moderate Sultan Bokhari Al-Bokhari is executed and replaced by fanatical zealot Hakkim Mehdad and his Ascetics, who “shunned the pleasures of the world, but hounded those who lived by them.” The dead Sultan's harem of 365 exiled concubines must find a way to escape across the desert and reclaim their city from his tyrannical rule. In doing so, they create a place that is a symbol of freedom, one “ahead of [its] time” and ahead of ours too.

Doctor Who Recap: Season 6, Episode 4, "The Doctor’s Wife"

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<em>Doctor Who</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”
<em>Doctor Who</em> Recap: Season 6, Episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”

Giving an episode a title like “The Doctor's Wife” is enough in itself to encourage feverish speculation all across the internet. Add to that the fact that it was written by Neil Gaiman—one of the highest-profile writers ever to contribute to the series—and the expectation level leading up to the broadcast was sky-high. It's wonderful to be able to report that those expectations were not disappointed: Despite not advancing the season arc plot any more than last week's pirate shenanigans did, this is a far superior episode—beautifully paced and plotted, with gorgeous dialogue, vividly drawn characters, some memorably creepy moments, and a thought-provoking examination of one of the show's central relationships in a way never seen before.