The first season of American Gods was pretty solid. Stylish, visually striking, and with plenty of memorable characters, the show did a good job of communicating the essence of Neil Gaiman’s original novel, while also expanding and changing elements of the mythos as necessary to work for a serialized television format.
As talk of a follow-up season begins to circulate, the question that needs to be asked is just how much the next batch of episodes is going to stick to the novel, and where we might start getting new, original ideas, gods, and locales.
To a certain extent, Gaiman’s novel lends itself pretty well to having new chapters inserted into the mythos. His original idea for American Gods came from a road trip vacation where he travelled across the country, soaking up Americana, and it’s no big deal to add new pitstops on the journey taken by Mr Wednesday and Shadow Moon.
As a matter of fact, this has already happened with the first season of the show – the character of Vulcan, who appears in season one, doesn’t appear in the books; he’s a creation that Gaiman came up with after the fact who slots in nicely.
Similarly, Jesus is only ever referred to in the book, but appears prominently in the show.
Naturally, because American Gods is written as a series of stops along the road, adding in new characters and locales to the story shouldn’t be a big deal, and should allow the story of the book to be spread out over far more seasons of the show.
The problem in doing this, though, is that eventually, spreading source material too thin could end up with a weak, unfulfilling character journey for the main players in the show.
It’s the same issue as faced The Walking Dead last season – the show was building towards the big, bombastic end of season battle between Negan’s forces and those loyal to Rick Grimes, but the show too so long to get to that point that audiences stopped caring. There was, ultimately, too much filler.
Thankfully, American Gods is not a lengthy show – the first season was just eight episodes long, and it seems that, in the interest of keeping things tight, we won’t get much more in the next season either.
What’s more, as Neil Gaiman himself is so heavily involved in the show, and so experienced at writing for television, it’s worth assuming that any detours or delays to the progress of the show’s central narrative will be designed in such a way that they don’t feel like pointless extra content.
Gaiman has said that the first two seasons of the show should cover the entirety of the first book, and that after that the show may tackle all new material, but there’s still room for elements to be delayed in order to keep the big finale of the original story for a point where audiences are growing more tired of the show and it needs a ratings boost.
It remains to be seen exactly how the show will play out in practice, and whether Starz will attempt to spin their big success into multiple, never-ending seasons of the show.
Here’s hoping, though, that things don’t get too derailed from tackling the actual plot of American Gods going forward.