AUSTIN, Texas—TV pilots ain't what they used to be, as the Netflix model takes much of the weight off a first episode's shoulders. Series can take their time revealing characters, unfolding plots, or even having much plot take place in a single episode.
Weirdly, the first hour-long episode of Starz' new American Gods series feels like a relic of that older era—in all of the best ways. This is TV built to stun, with equal parts momentum and cautious pauses, and it won't embarrass fans of its source material. The Neil Gaiman novel of the same name has no shortage of mystery, intrigue, and surprise in its first few dozen pages. Starz' take on the book manages to follow its every major plot thread to a satisfying degree, all while setting into motion a solid framework for how we should expect the modern-fantasy epic to unravel.
Vikings soaked in corn-syrup blood