Faith is the only commodity that counts in American Gods. If you’ve turned the pages—fast like the wind like the rest of us—of Neil Gaiman’s novel, you already know this. To the uninitiated, the scene in which Bilquis literally devoured a mortal using her vagina is, erm, a bonkers but accurate introduction to what’s yet to come.
The show is, deny it or don’t, about Gods. It’s in the title. To its core, the show is about the Gods that existed in the Promised Land way before any human has. Years ago, humans bowed before Odin and Anubis but wired with ADHD since time immemorial, people have an inherently short attention span. Therefore, new idols (technology, the media, etc.) were appointed as “New Gods”, making the “Old Gods” obviously not chill.
We all know what goes down in the end, but if the pilot promises something it’s that while it is able to stay faithful to its source material, it flexes some creative freedom, hence the last few moments of the episode where Shadow encounters Techno Boy and was almost murdered.
Here’s a proper guide to the host of deities you’ll encounter in the show.
Fuller’s iteration of Technical Boy is different from that on the page. While the book depicted this New God as a stout, pimply computer whiz, the show’s T-Boy wears trendy clothes and—for the love of frakks—vapes. He’s the God of the internet. He’s angsty, arrogant, and powerful.
The leader of the New Gods. Like all alphas, though, he’s challenged more by his betas—Mr. Town, Mr. Road, Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone—than his own nemeses.
Media is the new Goddess of television, film, and pop culture. Media’s power is her charm to get people to believe in her and to send her message across.
The show’s protagonist, an ex-convict named Shadow, chances upon Mr. Wednesday at an airport. Unbeknownst to him, he’s meeting Odin, who enlists his help as essentially a bodyguard. He’s the de facto leader of the Old Gods, whose existence is put in peril with the emergence and becoming more powerful of the New Gods.
Czernobog is a Slavic deity who is known as the god of darkness. If you’re wondering if there’s a less brooding twin brother, there is one named Bielebog who is known as the god of light. Obviously not a God whose bad side you don’t want to see.
The Zorya Sisters
Neil Gaiman’s novel mentioned two Zorya sisters—the Morning Star (Zorya Utrennyaya) and the Evening Star (Zorya Vechemyaya). In Fuller’s television adaptation, a third sister is added to the mix—the Midnight Star (Zorya Polunochnaya). Each sister represents a different portion of the day and has a different age. Together they hound-sit a doomsday hound named Simargl who, without proper supervision, is able to bring about the end of the world.
An actual spider-man, Mr. Nancy, whose name is derived from the word Anansi, meaning “spider”, weaves a web of stories truth and non-truth, well, like he’s the God of lies. Which is what he is, essentially.
There are a number of things you need to know about Mad Sweeney. He’s a self-proclaimed leprechaun. He’s tall. He knows coin tricks. He picks up fights. His first “date” with Shadow wasn’t so great, though. Otherwise a great guy. I mean, God.
I imagine Easter as the most frustrated Goddess in American Gods. Imagine being rooted on Pagan and then Christian traditions, then being so dazed when Suburban moms slowly turned the holiday into fun egg-hunting festivities for their kids. This sprightly deity might look soft on the outside but I’m certain these frustrations are being hoarded somewhere deep inside.
Bilquis feeds off of desire. She wants her lovers to worship her body using theirs. Mostly she feeds off of people’s desire to fill her own. Which makes her the least weird deity on this list.
Vulcan is a new character written specifically for the show. “Vulcan’s the god of the volcano and the forge, and what is the modern-day extrapolation of what that god could do?” Fuller told EW. “We started talking about America’s obsession with guns and gun control and, really, if you’re holding a gun in your hand, it’s a mini volcano, and perhaps, through this character, there’s a conversation to be had.” Riveting stuff.