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Neil Gaiman (#110 of 14)

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.

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.