‘American Gods’ season three review: a powerful parable for our times

An enthralling return for the mythical fantasy drama that asks: is there anything left worth believing in?

Look, we know you’re only reading this because you want to know if the new season of American Gods is any good or not, but it seems impossible to start telling you anything about a show that largely concerns the Norse God Odin trying to start a war in America without first acknowledging that a few days ago we all watched as a deluded man wearing Viking horns and covered in Odin tattoos stood inside the US Capitol screaming that a war is coming.

American Gods takes place in a world where mere belief is enough to think terrifying power into existence, which certainly makes it relatable. The arrival of the show’s third season couldn’t feel more timely, dealing as it does with an aging, once-powerful megalomaniac whose lust for control sets him on the path to violence. Ian McShane’s Mr Wednesday, Odin by another name, is such a charming man that it’s easy to lose sight of quite how hell bent on all out war he is. In the new season’s opening episode, he offers our hero Shadow Moon (Hollyoaks‘ Ricky Whittle) his side of the argument. “I’m just trying to save the human race from itself,” he claims, and he’s perfectly convincing – but then a trickster God would be, wouldn’t he?

As for Shadow himself, he’s trying to start a new life in the idyllic town of Lakeside, Wisconsin. This is Shadow’s first time with mortals in a while, having spent the first two seasons almost exclusively hanging around with Gods, a Leprechaun and his dead wife (who, this season, just keeps getting deader). The four episodes we were sent to review suggest that Lakeside’s humans could turn out to be just as full of mysteries as any of the Gods are, and it will be interesting to see how creator Neil Gaiman and newly appointed co-showrunner Charles Eglee tease out the beliefs of the townspeople over the rest of the season. For the mere mortals caught between the savagery of the old Gods of mythology and the moral emptiness of the new Gods of technology, is there anything left worth believing in?

If you’re a fan of the first two seasons you’ll be delighted to hear there’s more gratuitous boners to look forward to, although sadly no more of Pablo Schreiber’s charismatic Leprechaun Mad Sweeney or Orlando Jones’ razor-sharp Mr Nancy. It’s not all bad news on the casting front, though. The great Blythe Danner has no trouble playing a goddess, while Marilyn Manson really has to stretch his acting chops to play the obnoxious frontman of a metal band.

American Gods season 3
Ian McShane returns as Mr Wednesday, a con artist and the god Odin. Credit: Amazon Prime Video

From what we’ve seen so far, this season is shaping up to be a lot of fun, as well as having something interesting to say about the power of belief in this strange and disorientating moment in history. Stay tuned.

‘American Gods’ premieres on Amazon Prime Video tomorrow (January 10)

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