SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s American Gods Season 1 finale.
“We can’t help but acknowledge that the world we’re going to be writing in is so much darker now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 2 got a lot angrier,” says American Gods executive producer Michael Green of what’s to come next on the small screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel as Season 1 had its finale Sunday.
American Gods, which is run by Green and Bryan Fuller, seems poised to explore those darker places after a debut season full of deaths, allegiances, and a whole lot of Jesus and the old gods striking back through the power of the goddess Easter.
The very aptly titled “Come To Jesus” episode that Green and Fuller co-wrote with Bekah Brunstetter also flexed some new faith as ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) finally found a route to belief and some explanations from the often inscrutable Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane).
The mythological fantasy drama based on Gaiman’s 2001 novel of the same name debuted on April 30 and has already been renewed for a second season. It focuses on the Deadwood star McShane and 100 vet Whittle’s characters traversing the American landscape, literally and culturally, as a war is brewing between the old gods and the new. In such a narrative, Green and Fuller have drawn on themes of faith, race, immigration, media and technology from the book and updated and added to them in translation.
The EPs chatted with me about how they planned on the eight-episode first season to end with tonight’s Floria Sigismondi-helmed ender, what’s next for Season 2 besides darkness and anger, and who might be back or introduced. Having made a big splash in San Diego last year, Logan co-writer Green and Hannibal alum Fuller also reveal their Comic-Con plans for 2017. They also discuss how last year’s Presidential election bled into tonight’s finale of American Gods, which has co-starred Emily Browning, Orlando Jones, Gillian Anderson, Pablo Schreiber, Yetide Badaki, Kristin Chenoweth, Jonathan Tucker, Omid Abtahi, Cloris Leachman, Corbin Bernsen, Bruce Langley and Crispin Glover.
DEADLINE: Where does the end of this season leave us, going into Season 2 and going into the rest of Neil’s book?
GREEN: Precariously. We always knew we wanted to end the season with our weight tilted towards House on the Rock. We talked a lot, early on about wanting to get there and even starting that story, then advancing the narrative that far. But we enjoyed our time with our characters so much and were doing so many things that took so much time and resources that we realized that we had a very interesting and satisfying ending with Wednesday taking his first real aggressive stance against the new gods. With him saying, ‘You were very, very unwise to count me out and to speak in those tones to me.’ So Wednesday has the upper hand in two ways, he is taking a shot across the bow that’s going to hurt the new gods and he has a believer in Shadow Moon. Those are two things that are not without significance.
DEADLINE: With where we are in terms of Neil’s book, will that play a big part in the consequences of Season 2?
FULLER: I think the bigger interpersonal dramas that are waiting for us in Season two that excites us greatly is the notion of Laura Moon versus Mr. Wednesday. We see, by the end of the season, that Laura understands that Wednesday had her assassinated, specifically, to put Shadow in this situation. We always talked about Laura becoming that metaphor for the last Catholic who can, you know, shake her fist at the sky, and say, “Fuck you, God.” But now she actually gets to say it to a real god and she’s a god that she can get her hands on so what is she going to do next?
DEADLINE: You strode into some sprawling themes in Season 1–faith, obviously, but also immigration, gun violence, race, sexism. From the reaction online and elsewhere, it felt like the audience was very receptive to those conversations and those discussions. Did that surprise you?
GREEN: I feel like the people who wouldn’t be receptive to those conversations aren’t watching the show.
DEADLINE: Are we going to see more of those kinds of themes evolving out of the book for a 2017 or 2018 America in Season 2, or was that a format specifically for Season 1?
GREEN: It was never a format or a deliberate decision, we were just telling the stories that were in the book or were inspired by the book and are going to keep telling them.
FULLER: It’s hard, you know, as we were laying out Season 2 and looking at the sprawl of Season 1, there feels to be a bit more cohesion in Season 2, now that we’ve set the table, in a way, for the audience. I mean in terms of understanding how the world works or getting an impression of how the world works with regard to manifesting your beliefs.
Now we get to dig deeper into characters that feel like we’ve just scratched the surface of, like Laura Moon. There’s so much more to tell and now that we’ve spent a season introducing the character and providing a couple of new facets that we’re allowed to take her in even more unexpected directions. The same with Shadow that there is a certain expectation of how the character evolves in the book that we want to subvert and challenge, in our own way, to have a protagonist that has as much agency in the story as the gods themselves.
GREEN: One other quick answer to that, we can’t help but acknowledge that the world we’re going to be writing in is so much darker now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Season 2 got a lot angrier.
DEADLINE: Speaking of anger, one of the new characters invented for the series was Corbin Bernsen’s god Vulcan. He appeared to meet a fiery end but are we going to see more newly created characters for Season 2?
FULLER: Yes but you know, there’s lots of new characters to come into this world that were part of this story in the book as well as some that weren’t that we want to include. We’re excited about Mama-Ji and we’re excited about Sam Black Crow. There were a lot of characters that we want to start weaving into the mythology of the television series, and we’re really excited about seeing characters from the first season, again, that you may not expect to see again.
DEADLINE: Obviously, a character we fully expect to see more of is Shadow Moon. Over Season 1, we’ve seen him go from a very closed, almost one-dimensional character, who is trying to find his way to someone or something, who now at the finale, has literally and figuratively seen the world open up in front of him and maybe some sense of who he really is becoming close to home now. How is that arc moving forward in Season 2?
FULLER: Well, it has to move forward in a proactive way for his character. So much of what we had in the first season was Shadow as passenger to the narrative He was in a situation where he had everything removed from him, so he didn’t know what he wanted as a character. He just knew that he had to fill his days. Now that he understands a little bit more about the world and the world of gods, we get to witness him as an apostle of sorts – and see what kind of apostle he could be.
DEADLINE: So, what kind of apostle will he be, in this world of now battling gods?
FULLER: He’s going to be a driven apostle. He’s gone from believing in nothing and not really being aware, in any way, of the realities of the world of magic, to having seen it, coming to believe in it. Coming to believe in it specifically by believing in Wednesday. There is strength in belief and there is drive in belief. So, he is going to be very motivated to, not just seeing through Wednesday’s goals, but to tilting the world in a direction that now seems brighter.
DEADLINE: Where things ended in the finale, with Easter’s bright display of power over the land and Wednesday’s stinging rebuke to the new gods, you are still only a portion of the way through the book proper. Translating it to the small screen, with changes and additions as we’ve seen so far, how long do you envision the series going as it stays within the realms of the first American Gods book?
FULLER: It’s funny because we have that conversation frequently and Michael keeps trying to nail it down and I keep trying to run from that answer. I want to see how the story tells us how long it wants to be. So, we’re definitely of two minds, one that wants to know and one that doesn’t.
GREEN: It’s probably the only thing we disagree on, strongly. Whether we can see versions of the show to go four, five, six seasons without cracking into the next book.
DEADLINE: And going beyond that, if Neil does write a sequel to Gods, are you pacing yourselves so you don’t fall into a Game Of Thrones situation, where the show is now ahead of George R.R. Martin’s book?
FULLER: We don’t worry about that because we went into this to adapt American Gods, the novel, which we believe can make many years of great television, in and of itself. If Neil does fulfill his threat to write another book that could add another dimension, another volume, to this, but right now we have our hands full adapting the several hundred pages that lay before us.
DEADLINE: More immediately before us, are we going to see all of you down in San Diego at Comic-con next month?
FULLER: Alas, the American Gods are not doing anything in Comic-Con this year because we’re going to take some time to make the show rather than talk about it.
DEADLINE: You know, after the big splash you guys made last year, that’s going to be a disappoint to the fans of both of yours, of Neil and especially now that the show has actually been on …
FULLER: Yeah, we’re disappointed, too. We love Comic-Con and we love going down there and sharing the show with the audience. We feel like we make the show, for that crowd, so to meet them and get to say thank you is always fun and meaningful because they’ll let you know when you’re not doing it right.
DEADLINE: Looking at doing it right, to quote you Bryan, now we’ve reached the Season 1 finale, did you feel you did American Gods right this first season ultimately in the America of 2017, in the world of 2017?
FULLER: Let me say this, we first saw the season finale, or we saw a cut of the season finale after the election in November. We were painfully aware, at the time, that we were watching a story where the narration was exploring how far men go to take down a woman of power and how threatening that can be. The episode, itself, is very celebratory of our queens and the women that we worship and the women that we fantasize into women that we love and adore.
There’s something about this story whereas as male as it has been in many regards outside of the introduction of Laura, that the finale really brings home a lot of great female characters with something to say on the subject of belief. That was something that stood out to us in November. The finale is a salute, in many ways, to the powerful women who are still out there swinging.
GREEN: That was too well said for me to try to top.