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SYFY WIRE fantasy

Everything you need to know about American Gods (so far)

By Elizabeth Rayne
American Gods Orlando Jones

If you haven't gotten the chance to worship American Gods before Season 2 premieres on Starz this Sunday, you won't be facing any paranormal consequences. Yet. Thankfully, now is the perfect time to catch up.

Adapted from Neil Gaiman's iconic novel, American Gods breathes life into those pages in a way that makes you want to believe. The series, like the novel, tells the story of the epic battle between the primordial Old Gods — classic, often ancient deities — and the New Gods of media, materialism, and technology who are stealing worshippers and, therefore, power from the Old Gods. The mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and his fellow ancient deities must somehow displace the new in human consciousness before they die from being forgotten.

Consider this your guide for everything you must know about Season 1 before diving into American Gods Season 2.

At the beginning of Season 1, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), who might have the coolest name ever, is plagued by an almost-tangible nightmare that takes him through a forest littered with bones and has him facing a buffalo that breathes fire from its nostrils. A noose dangles ominously from one of the trees. This is significant; remember all that.

Shadow is released early from prison the next day after finding out his wife Laura (Emily Browning) was killed in a car accident — and that she died while cheating on him with his friend. At least he's spared from doing any more time with that greasy roommate of his, Low Key Lyesmith (Jonathan Tucker).

Then Shadow enters the realm of the gods.

While on the flight, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, a sleazy, whiskey-loving man with a glass eye who offers Shadow a job. From that moment on, Shadow meets all kinds of interesting characters, including an overgrown leprechaun named Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), who almost kills Shadow in a bar fight before Shadow manages to catch one of the gold coins that Sweeney can snatch out of thin air. Broke, desperate, and a little bloodied up, Shadow agrees to take on Wednesday's job.

A brief aside about that coin: Shadow makes the dire mistake of flipping it into Laura's grave after the funeral. Because of this magic coin, his dead wife ends up crawling out of the grave and trying to posthumously mend their relationship before wandering off to make her way in the world of the living. Parts of her keep rotting off. That doesn't go over very well with her new boss.

Emily Browning in American Gods

More weirdos materialize. Techno-punk New God Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) tries to recruit Shadow to his side. And let's not forget sex queen Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), who swallows men by spreading her legs. Shadow hasn't met her yet.

Let's go over all supernatural beings Shadow is fortunate or unfortunate enough to encounter in Season 1. Stick with us — this gets a little crazy.

Technical Boy is the sidekick to Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and Media (Gillian Anderson, who unfortunately won't be returning), New Gods who try to brainwash Shadow into ditching Wednesday and his oddball network. These are the gods who sit on the proverbial throne of the digital and material worlds.

So if those are the gods with smartphone hearts and electrical wires for veins, whoever associates with Wednesday is obviously on the opposite side of the spectrum. Besides Mad Sweeney, who always pops up (drunk) somewhere, there is Czernobog, who wields a monstrous hammer he swears he's going to bash Shadow's brains in with. His three strange female roommates, the Zoryas, only sleep and wake during designated hours. The Ifrit is the shapeshifting taxi driver you wish you had. Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) is a trickster with more than just an affinity for spiders. Ostara (Kristen Chenoweth) is Easter. Literally. Don't be fooled by all the pastels because the goddess celebrated on the vernal equinox can unleash a terrifying spring storm.

Vulcan is a sort of hybrid, an Old God who has evolved his fires and forges into the sort of thing Mr. World dreams of all the ancients morphing into. He can go ahead and burn.

Mr. Jacquel and Mr. Ibis run a funeral home with a cat that may or may not actually be a cat. Ibis is the scribe behind all those flashbacks you see throughout the season to different points in time, back when the power of the Old Gods ran strong and humans kept them alive through worship.

That's what this is all really about: worship. That's what Mr. World and his posse are draining from the Old Gods. Altars and superstitions are being replaced by gadgets and gizmos and virtual insanity. If the Old Gods are going to survive, they need an IV of worship stat.

What about those powers that arise in Shadow, who suddenly realizes he can make it snow? Or is that Wednesday? The truth might lie in Season 2.