I really wanted to believe in American Gods. After reading raving reviews by The New York Times and IndieWire, I was stoked to watch a show that dealt (supposedly) with the topics of immigration, mythology, and "America's existential crises." Unfortunately, what I subjected myself to, was a sequence of wonderful images, beautiful cinematography, and equally striking production design, all desperately grasping to engage, while masking a bad story, where the main character(Shadow Moon) has zero motivation, or drive; and where all things happen to him, while he takes no real actions of his own. God-like characters with supernatural powers are introduced, gratuitous violence is indulged, and sporadic bits of mildly interesting dialogue is dispersed amidst painful exposition and bad story.
American Gods is so caught up in it's desire to impact viewers with bizarre metaphorical scenes, and visual pyrotechnics, that it misses the opportunity to create engaging characters with relatable conflict for audiences to identify and engage with.
Even in ancient mythology, stories of Gods still have universal human emotions, causes and consequences. For example, in Greek Mythology the story of Agamemnon, sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia in exchange for Artemis to change the winds so his men can travel to Troy, etc. ---- this is a story of sacrifice, which causes Agamemnon's wife (Clytemnestra) to then murder her husband Agamemnon, etc..... CAUSE-EFFECT, Action, Reaction. The reason I bring this up (without giving too much away) is because American Gods begins with a similar reference to mythology and the wind gods; however, rather than a captivating story, all we see are gratuitous violent scenes that lead to more unrelated violence.
While the production quality is high (great special effects, sensational vast exteriors and well designed interiors); it masks a weak structure, with a hero who wants nothing, pursues nothing, and reacts to nothing.
It is most definitely possible for films/television to deal with larger-than-life questions (for example The Seventh Seal, The Matrix, Melancholia, Werckmeister Harmonies, Solaris, almost all Roy Andersson films, and Charlie Kaufman films (just to name a few), all deal with existentialism in very human, captivating ways (while addressing much larger narrative questions). American Gods however, heavily relies on its superfluous violent, and sexual images, as a way to superficially lacquer an incomplete structure, and weak story.