selenak: (Illyria by Kathyh)
[personal profile] selenak
The long awaited Fuller/Gaiman offspring just debuted, and thanks to Amazon Prime, I can watch it without having to wait.

It's impossible for me to review sans spoilers for the book, though. I just tried, and it's stumping me in every other sentence, so I won't. Show only viewers, beware! There be book spoilers beneath the cut.

The first episode follows the beginning of the book pretty faithfully, plot wise, though there are some tiny departures and/or twists already. Partly due to updating: post 9/11, Shadow can't so easily get his plane ticket and switch it to another day, for example. Partly due to show-not-tell: Wednesday's introduction is slightly altered, in that Shadow observes him pulling a befuddled old man act on the air port woman and thus scoring a First Class seat before meeting him on the air plane proper. It immediately makes it clear to both the audience and Shadow that Wednesday is a (very good) con artist. But partly also because of the difference in media (and some updating). In the novel, I felt that Technological Boy was more annoying than a menace. Not least because Shadow had trouble taking him seriously, but also because the threat of his minions killing Shadow didn't stay on page long enough for it to feel real before it was Undead Laura to the rescue, at which point Laura's state of being and what that means for her and Shadow are all readers (at least this reader) focus on. Whereas in the tv show, the Internet God still has the same text and Shadow also has trouble taking him seriously, but the encounter itself feels dangerous with its Matrix-esque tricks, and the aftermath truly frightening as Fuller deliberately uses lynching imagery and current day associations - a group of uniformed men kicking a black man and nearly succeeding in killing him. (I was a bit surprised that he keeps the Laura reveal from his cliffhanger ending, i.e. we see SOMEONE tore all the minions apart, but not who yet. I hope that doesn't mean he'll postpone it for much longer. Laura was one of the most interesting characters to me.)

The visual artistry throughout is amazing and very Bryan Fuller. Shadows' dreams are a golden opportunity for him to revel in the beautifully bizarre. (He even pulls off the infamous Bilquis scene without it coming across as ridiculous, though mind you, I thought when reading the book and I still thought when watching the scene: This is such guy thing. I.e. a very male nightmare.) It also feels at times deliberately emulating comics panels - Mr. Iblis writing his chronicle with the writing overlapping the images - which feels right for a Gaiman story.

Actors: Because Shadow in the first part of the book is such an observer, not an active character, and numb from shock to boot, I was glad to see Ricky Whittle can convey a lot with his face and voice, and makes you feel for Shadow. (Oh, and he's gorgeous, too.) Ian McShane of course was born to play Wednesday. I expected him to revel in the speeches, aphorisms and dialogue, but that new introduction threw me (in a good way), because he (and Wednesday) did that helpless befuddled old man act perfectly. (Speaking of acts, I note that Fuller lets Low Key Liesmith wear a moustache in prison and never lets Shadow address him by name; only when you check the credits you know that the character is called. Considering saying it out loud already gives the game away, I don't blame Fuller, but re: moustache, you know, I think a scarred lip wouldn't be THAT much of a giveway because Kids These Days.) Wednesday being compelling, untrustworthy and charming all at once was just how I'd imagined, but the rapport between him and Shadow in terms of chemistry surprised me - not that Shadow isn't distrustful just like in the novel, but when he can't help but replying, there's an immediate push and pull.

Audrey gets a slightly different scene from the novel: far more openly mad with grief and hurt, instead of just the one gesture and then the controlled sentences. It humanizes her somewhat while the scene still ends revealing she has resentments predating the deaths/betrayals.

Mad Sweeney, by contrast, comes across as less desperate and more joyful than in the novel, but then the episode only has the bar scene, and the desparation doesn't come into play until his second appearance.

Trivia: okay, the dialogue hints here re: a certain secret in Shadow's ancestry are way heavier than in the book. Which makes me wonder whether he'll find out earlier on the tv show?
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