This first episode of American Gods introduces us to Shadow Moon, whose world has figuratively and literally been torn asunder.
We start off with a story from the past, in which a crew of vikings land on the shores of the New World.
But they find that they our not welcomed and pray to their Norse gods for guidance and some sense of where the wind will take them.
The viking elder has his men make a series of sacrifices to their god, but even one of their eyes each does not satisfy the god of war.
In the end, they conclude that they must fight to appease their god.
They battle each other with visceral power and grit until the wind sock tells them they must leave.
Leave they do, for a destination uncharted and unknown.
The story then skips to the present day, where Shadow Moon only has a few days left to serve on his prison term.
He is very much looking forward to going home to his loving wife so he can become the best version of himself.
Sadly, it’s not to be. Shadow gets called into the governor’s office to receive terrible news.
His wife has died in a horrific car accident and he is being released early under compassionate grounds.
So it is that a grief-stricken Shadow Moon hits the road for home to attend the funeral of his significant other, but his journey is riddled with setbacks and strangeness.
Arriving at an airport, Shadow tries to book a flight home but the woman at the ticket office tells him that no flights are available until the next day.
After a brief flashback to a conversation he had in prison with one of the other prisoners, Shadow asks for the next flight.
While sleeping in the airport waiting area Shadow has a series of bizarre dreams in which he is walking through a forest of trees that seem to be reaching out to him.
Now awakened from his restless dream, Shadow observes an older man checking in at the ticket office.
The man is booked on the same flight as Shadow and manages to get himself upgraded to first class. Little does Shadow know that he’ll soon be working for this strange man.
As he boards the plane, Shadow finds that someone has taken his seat. The air stewardess tries to get him to sit down, but he tells her to direct him to an available seat and he’ll take it.
She looks around and sees that coach class is full. She upgrades him to first class.
In first class Shadow is seated next to the old man he saw earlier. The older gent has a very forward way about him, which makes Shadow feel a little uncomfortable, but the two strike up a conversation.
The man introduces himself as Wednesday and seems to know a little to much information about Shadow and his reasons for traveling.
Wednesday offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard, but tells him to think it over for the rest of his journey.
While Shadow and Wednesday talk there is a storm outside the plane. The two gentlemen cease their banter and sleep.
Shadow is awakened by a stewardess who informs him that the storm had forced the plane to land early. Wednesday has already left.
Shadow decides to hire a car for the rest of his journey home.
At this point the scene changes to a bar in Los Angeles. A man is meeting an exotic black lady for a date.
It is an internet date that his kids have encouraged him to pursue. He is obviously nervous, but very transfixed on the woman that stands before him.
The two retire to her room, which is painted a gothic red and adorned with candles and a bed dressed for some hot action.
The couple begin to get hot and heavy, with the woman ordering her man to worship her.
He does and as she is worshipped she becomes more and more wild, aroused and hungry.
She demands more and he gives freely. He feels great…despite the fact that the woman, the Goddess Bilquis, is literally swallowing her lover with her womb.
Once her man is eaten, she lies satisfied and seemingly younger and more vital than before.
We return to Shadow Moon. He has stopped off at a diner, which is very much adorned to resemble an alligator. He orders some food and takes a seat.
While trying to enjoy his food Shadow is joined by Wednesday. Again the two converse, with Shadow expressing his discomfort to Wednesday and telling him that he does not want to work for him.
Wednesday tells Shadow that the job he thought he might return to after leaving prison is no longer there — because the friend he worked with is dead.
After reading an article in the newspaper Shadow learns that his friend was killed in the same accident as his wife.
Wednesday returns and after some convincing he gets Shadow to agree to work for him. They seal the deal over drinks while being harassed by a leprechaun-esque man called Mad Sweeney who seems to be spoiling for a fight.
Mad Sweeney challenges Shadow, promising to teach him how to pluck gold coins from thin air.
The fight breaks out and Shadow becomes possessed with a battle rage that gets the better of the leprechaun.
The leprechaun is impressed and encourages Shadow, but Shadow backs off and walks away. To his mind the fight is done.
The Leprechaun has other ideas and the fight goes on throughout the night.
When morning comes, Shadow finds himself in the back seat of Wednesday’s Cadillac.
Wednesday is driving Shadow to his wife’s funeral and tells him to take as much time as he needs to say his goodbyes.
At the funeral Shadow learns from his sister-in-law that his wife was having an affair with her husband — his dead friend.
After the funeral Shadow is picked up by a geeky-looking guy known as Technical Boy, who interrogates him about the work he is doing for Wednesday.
Shadow tells him he has only started working for him and wouldn’t break Wednesday’s confidence anyway.
Technical Boy tells Shadow that he will be deleted from existence and has his faceless minions beat him up and lynch him.
Hanging from a tree, Shadow looks dead — but the noose snaps and he drops to the ground, covered by blood and goo.
Seemingly Shadow is dead no more, but somehow renewed and ready to rejoin Wednesday on a road trip through all of America’s backroads, as Wednesday sets out to for his war with the New Gods…
American Gods Episode 1: Questions we’re left asking
1. Who is Wednesday?
2. Why has he chosen Shadow to work for him?
3. How is it that Shadow seemed to have survived Technical Boy’s onslaught. Who saved him?
American Gods airs Sundays at 9/8c on Starz.More: American Gods, Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle