American Gods is hot new Starz series based on the award-winning novel by fantasy icon Neil Gaiman — all through the lens of showrunner Bryan Fuller, creator of cult favorite TV shows like Hannibal and Pushing Daises. It depicts the eternal struggle between the old gods and the new — and we’re not speaking metaphorically. In American Gods, the gods are very much real, with characters like Easter and Mad Sweeney (a leprechaun) live among regular people, as do the new “gods” like technology and media, who now rule American life. Here’s a breakdown of the characters of American Gods:
Shadow Moon is serving three years in prison when he gets an unexpected early release (for reasons we won’t get into here). Shadow soon finds himself in the orbit of Mr. Wednesday, a charming con man who offers Shadow a job as his bodyguard. A normal enough job for an ex-con, until he finds out that Wednesday is making his way across the country recruiting all of the “old gods” of ancient mythology — it turns out they’re real and have settled among humankind. Wednesday’s goal is to confront the “new gods” who rule American life — gods like Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World. As a human, Shadow acts as our point of entry into this fantastical world where magic is real and the gods live among us.
Mr. Wednesday is a crafty and charismatic con man — at least that’s what he appears to be when we first meet him in the show. In truth, he’s the leader of the “old gods” of ancient mythology — a man full of perverse wisdom, curious magic, and a grand plan. He’s on a mission to unite these old gods, who have real, physical forms, but have gone incognito and made lives for themselves in America. His aim is to challenge the “new gods” — gods like Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World — who want to give the “old gods” the boot.
Laura Moon is Shadow Moon’s ethereal wife — you’ll see what that means when you start watching the show. Laura has been waiting for Shadow to be released from prison, but she doesn’t know that she’s about to go on an unexpected journey that will lead her to a revelation about her relationship. Because of this, Laura gets a second chance to get things right. Viewers can look for her to be the “foothold” into the world of gods.
Mad Sweeney is a down-on-his-luck leprechaun who is having a hard time figuring out how he lost his charm after thousands of years of acclimation to American life. He’s also the tallest leprechaun you’ll ever meet — even Shadow Moon looks up to him. Always up for a good fight, Sweeney is never deprived of one when he’s in the employ of Mr. Wednesday. So I wouldn’t recommend asking him about his pot of gold if you meet him in a bar.
Technical Boy is one of the “new gods” who have risen to power. He’s the personification of all things technological, like the internet. So whenever you stare at your phone instead of interacting with your family, you’re giving him power. Technical Boy is being challenged by Mr. Wednesday, leader of the “old gods.” And it’s safe to say he’s not happy about that. Desperate to prove himself, and hungry for respect and power, Technical Boy struggles to keep his impulsiveness and petulance in check — like a comments section brought to life. This makes him dangerously unpredictable.
Bilquis, one of the “old gods,” is an ancient goddess of love who craves the worship she inspired in eras long gone. She’s eager to find that same reverence in today’s world. Bilquis was a minor character in the book, but her role is being expanded for TV. And an aside for fans of the novel: Yes, they’re including THAT scene. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I won’t spoil it here…and it’s so unsafe for work I couldn’t tell you anyway. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Mr. World is the villain in the American Gods story. He’s the leader at the center of the “new gods” — the gods of media and technology who people now worship instead of the “old gods.” His motives are as mysterious as his knowledge is absolute — which means he’s often challenged more by his subordinates than his enemies. But Mr. World understands that the real threat comes from Mr. Wednesday and his plan to unite the old gods.
Easter is approached by Mr. Wednesday on his mission to unite the old gods for the coming war against the “new gods” — gods like Media, Technical Boy, and Mr. World. But she’s doing just fine — having settled into her life in Kentucky where she lives an extravagant life. Completely satisfied with the amount of worship she gets each year, Easter isn’t particularly moved at first by Mr. Wednesday’s attempts to persuade her to join his cause. Easter is portrayed by Kristin Chenoweth, who previously worked with creator Bryan Fuller on the cult TV show Pushing Daisies.
Czernobog, a brutal Eastern European man, is actually the embodiment of a Slavic deity who causes all the bad things to happen in the world. He’s one of the “old gods” approached by Mr. Wednesday while rallying support for the fight against the new and powerful gods — Technical Boy, Media, among others — who are on the rise in society. Czernobog wields a sledgehammer — one he saved from his last job at a slaughterhouse — and he isn’t afraid to use it. Mr. Wednesday views Czernobog, if he can be persuaded, as a crucial fighter in the war he’s preparing to wage. Even if it looks like he’s never taken a shower.
Mr. Nancy is from the West African pantheon, where he was known as a trickster spider god. He’s eager to share his prodigious gifts of knowledge and speech with anyone who will listen. While loyal to the cause of the “old gods,” his thirst for chaos at any cost makes him an unreliable member of Wednesday’s team. He also gains power and worship as stories are told about him…so I suppose this video just made him a little bit stronger.
American Gods premieres April 30 on Starz.