Starz’s new series American Gods is bound to get compared to Game Of Thrones. The drama lives in Sunday night’s most illustrious premium cable time slot, is an adaptation of a beloved book, and features both the old gods and the new. Yet, American Gods is already out-doing our favorite Westerosi drama in one area: bloody violence.
The Ian McShane-starrer begins the premiere episode “The Bone Orchard” with a group of vikings who find themselves stranded on the 9th century shores of what would be America. They’re unable to sail back home because there’s no wind. So they begin making sacrifices to their god, Odin, who prefers war and murder over your run-of-the-mill prayers. That pushes the vikings to mutilating themselves in Odin's one-eyed image, burning a man alive, and finally going head-to-head in the most violent game of Shirts Vs. Skins in history.
The stranded men draw swords and fight to the death. The blood spurts aren’t spurts, they’re entire oceans of red. People’s hands get chopped off, their heads get bashed open, and they’re cut entirely in half with bloody extravagance. Director David Slade clearly said more is more when it comes to the red stuff.
The differences between this scene and a traditional Game Of Thrones battle scene couldn’t be bigger. When you think of a Thrones war it’s about the epic quality of the moment; the vast number of soldiers, the ballet-level fight choreography, and the countless cuts across the fray. Think about how quickly Jon Snow (Kit Harington) moves through an episode like “Battle Of The Bastards.” Where Thrones speeds though all the blood and gore, Gods slows down and takes a good hard look.
This is most evident in the closer of “Bone Orchard,” when lead character Shadow Moon is lynched by new god Technical Boy’s minions. Seeing a Black man hanging from a tree is already awful enough, but then Gods adds literal blood rain to the scene to drive how just how terrible this is. Shadow survives because his rope breaks and he’s subsequently drenched in gore. For an unexplained reason, Technical Boy’s henchmen then explode like blood bags, completely soaking the ground. It’s horrifying.
After seeing all of this sadism, let's hope it exists to show the brutal ends people are willing to go to for their religions and gods. Otherwise, it's basically just high-end blood porn.