With its official premiere on Starz last night, it’s time to review the first episode of this much-anticipated series. For fans of the book and new worshippers at the boob tube, “The Bone Orchard” does NOT disappoint. I’ll be analyzing as someone who knew the book first, so some compare/contrast is inevitable. But I welcome comments from those who are experiencing this world through the show first.
Episode spoilers are a given. Best not to read if you haven’t watched!
April 30th is almost here – the premiere of American Gods on Starz. I’ve been following the progress of the American Gods TV series since the first announcements about it. When I learned Bryan Fuller was attached to the project, I was excited, but cautiously concerned. Fuller’s NBC series Hannibal felt the ire of fans for poor treatment of its female characters. I feared that complex ladies like Laura Moon, Sam Crow, and Bilquis would be slotted into shallow stereotypes.
Instead, it looks like American Gods has taken the exact opposite road!
“Oh my god, guys, there’s this show that we’re doing and the women are allowed to be actual human beings, can you believe it?” – Emily Browning
And it was eight hours of my life that I am never getting back. For those of you who didn’t see my mention of it earlier in the fall, or managed to carefully avoid any advertising for it, Flesh and Bone is a “limited series” on Starz (their fancy way of saying miniseries). It tells the story of wide-eyed Claire Robins’ arrival in New York City as she joins the fictional American Ballet Company, and prepares for her first professional season as a ballerina. The show was created by Moira Walley-Beckett, one of the writers of Breaking Bad, and Center Stage heartthrob Ethan Stiefel was both a consultant and choreographer. His Center Stage rival, Sascha Radetsky, is in the cast as Ross, one of the company’s principal dancers.
I’m actually not sure how I went this long without knowing about Starz’s pirate drama, Black Sails. I love pirates, and always have. If you’re looking for fiction about pirates, I could probably list about five great books off the top of my head, and I have every one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies saved on my computer. Despite all of this, somehow I had never heard of Black Sails until last week when I stumbled onto it in the Xfinity app. Black Sails serves as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and tells the story of Captain Flint’s quest for the Spanish treasure galleon Urca de Lima. If you need any more convincing to read on, just check out the gorgeous opening title sequence.
This article is a collaborative effort between Meg R. and Brianna. Meg provided the heavy insight to Mr. Fuller’s works, while Brianna weighed in as a reader of American Gods.
In the sphere of modern American television, few male television writers have achieved what Bryan Fuller has in his treatment of female characters. He is best known for the creation of four shows: Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and most recently, Hannibal. The protagonists of the first two series are women, and two-thirds of Pushing Daisies’ regular cast are female. The women in all four shows are different from each other while never falling into common stereotypes or tropes.
At times, PD‘s Chuck resembles the typical “protagonist’s girlfriend,” but maintains and asserts a great deal of agency in addition to befriending Olive, her rival for her boyfriend’s affections. Chuck’s aunts, Lily and Vivian, avoid the stereotype of crotchety old women defined by loneliness through their friendship with Olive, who visits them and cheers them up in a way that never feels condescending. Throughout the series, none of the women are ever dependent upon men for their happiness. Bonus: Chuck and Olive enjoy wearing revealing clothing, but their physical appearance is never commented upon by the men in the story, never mind in a degrading way. On Hannibal, Fuller was restricted by his source material in certain ways, yet still managed to create four interesting and compelling female characters in a male-driven story. He gender-bended the canon characters Alan(a) Bloom and Freddy Lounds, expanded the role of Beverly Katz, and made a character of his own creation, Abigail Hobbs, hugely important to the first season’s arc.
However, Fuller’s track record is far from perfect. Wonderfalls’ Heidi never developed beyond being a “slutty bitch,” and in the second season of Hannibal, Alana and Bedelia (another of Fuller’s creations) were wildly underused while Beverly was killed off four episodes in. With all this in mind, we at DG hope Mr. Fuller doesn’t fall prey to abusing or neglecting the women of American Gods. Previously HBO was attached to the series and developing a pilot script. However, as Gaiman related on his tumblr, the network “wanted more and more spelled out and explained for the people who weren’t following, and everything possible put into the first script”. As anyone who read the book would surely agree, such a feat is 1) pretty much impossible and 2) lazy writing. If you get too hung up explaining everything right out the gate, you lose the audience. So Gaiman was “relieved” when the HBO development stopped and has enjoyed speaking with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green about the project. He believes that they and Starz “seem to get it”.