The often troubled and many times delayed Neil Gaiman Starz series American Gods has finally been put out of its misery. The announcement came from Starz shortly after the season three finale, which now leaves fans with many unanswered questions, though it is possible what remaining fans the show may have could get their answers via a feature film.
SPOILERS AHEAD. While it may come as a surprise to those following American Gods, it is not an unexpected decision. What will be tough, though, is the fact that the Season 3 finale has left fans wondering. Shadow Moon (played by Ricky Whittle) was seemingly killed following a vigil at the mythical Tree of Life, sacrificing himself for his father Mr. Wednesday/Odin, played by Ian McShane, who himself was deceased. This was an important part of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods novel and this incident was to set up Season 4 and Mr. Wednesday’s return by taking advantage of his son’s sacrifice to help in his battle against the New Gods.
In typical Hollywood fashion, a never-say-never approach is often the best way to tackle these series cancellations. While a Season 4 for Neil Gaiman’s show definitely looks as if it’s off the table, don’t be surprised if a one big event series or possible movie is created to tie up all the loose ends.
Starz made their intentions known in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter saying, “American Gods will not return for a fourth season. Everyone at Starz is grateful to the dedicated cast and crew, and our partners at Fremantle who brought author and executive producer Neil Gaiman’s ever-relevant story to life that speaks to the cultural climate of our country.”
This decision by Starz was based on the Neil Gaiman show’s continued dramatic slide down the ratings board. Season 3 premiered after being off the air for more than a year and a half due to the COVID pandemic but saw a 65% drop in ratings from its first season. This comes off an early Season 3 renewal, which was given right after the season two premiere, even though ratings for season two were down 45% from the series’ first season.
Trouble has followed American Gods pretty much since Neil Gaiman brought it to Starz. Over the series’ three seasons, they have had four showrunners. Original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were sent packing after fights with series producers Freemantle which included arguments over the show’s rapidly rising budget costs. After those two were shown the door, series co-stars Gillian Anderson and Kristin Chenoweth both left.
Jesse Alexander was then brought in to right the ship as showrunner but that lasted through season two when he was shown the door because of conflicts between him, Starz, and Freemantle. It was also said that Neil Gaiman was trying to gain further control of the troubled series. All of this mess added to the fact that it was two years between the season one premiere and the season two premiere.
With Alexander officially gone, Freemantle brought in Charles Eglee to run the third season. During this time, Neil Gaiman possibly saw the writing on the wall, so he took his overall deal to Amazon as the third season was in production.
More behind the scenes issues troubled American Gods and Neil Gaiman as another of the series regulars Orlando Jones, who played the popular Mr. Nancy, and also wrote for the series’ second season, was let go by Eglee for, according to Jones, “sending the wrong message for Black America.” Jones told The Hollywood Reporter, [T]he new season three showrunner is Connecticut born and Yale-educated, so he’s very smart and he thinks that Mr. Nancy’s angry, get shit done is the wrong message for black America.” Reps for American Gods responded by saying that Jones’ Mr. Nancy character was not in that portion of Neil Gaiman’s novel, so they didn’t pick up Jones’s option.
Even more recent was the trouble the production had with Marilyn Manson’s abuse allegations. They decided enough was too much and dropped the star who had a recurring role as immortal Johan Wengren.
Not all is lost for the popular novelist Neil Gaiman. He currently has another of his novels, Good Omens, up and running over at Amazon and is also working on getting his comic book series The Sandman in front of the cameras for Netflix. This new series will star Tom Sturridge, Gwendoline Christie, Vivienne Acheampong, Boyd Holbrook, Charles Dance, Asim Chaudhry, and Sanjeev Bhaskar as Gaiman looks to have more control over this series than he has in others in the past. The series doesn’t have a premiere date with all the COVID issues but it’s a good guess that fans will see The Sandman in early 2022.