Season 1 Episode 1 “The Bone Orchard”
As the narrator chronicles past events, we are transported to the ship of a disparate group of Vikings who struggle with dwindling food, no wind, no shelter and a hostile group of natives who have no desire for these invaders to move any closer. Their increasingly desperate attempts to curry favor with their God of the wind forces them to go to more and more extreme behaviors to impress him. Their solution is a blood-soaked orgy of violence that borders on the obscene. The aftermath leads us to the introduction of Shadow Moon and his life in prison. The visuals are stunning from the first few minutes of the premiere episode. There are scenes of dark beauty in the dream sequences, Ricky Whittle brings a quiet dignity to his scenes as Shadow Moon and can play those moments of tragedy very well.
Shadow’s introduction to Ian McShane’s Mr. Wednesday is well done and the two men seem to have a natural ebb and flow to their conversations. There is a natural rhythm to it that belies two men who know more than they are willing to admit about each other, the other person and the world.
As the two men depart (for now), we are introduced to Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) in a scene that deftly illustrates both the wages of sin, but the cost of belief. The scene itself was visceral and disturbingly beautiful. On another note, hats off to the production designer for this episode. Everything looked gorgeous. From the shades of crimson in Bilquis’ chambers to the bar that Shadow and Mr. Wednesday are reunited in, the details are stunning to look at.
As Shadow Moon and Wednesday start to come to an agreement about the terms of his employment, Shadow is confronted with his first challenge in his new position. One that culminates in a visually stunning fight sequence. As Shadow makes his way to his destination, the moments that he is allowed introspection carry themselves well. The direction of the episode as well as the D.P. really moved the camera in a way that every shot in the graveyard sequence looked needed. None of the moments in it seemed wasted and Shadow’s interactions with Audrey (Betty Gilpin) are well done and honest. The episode ends with the introduction of another new God who’s interaction with Shadow is an ominous look at events to come in a war that Shadow didn’t know he was now on the front lines of.
Everything about this premiere episode works for me. From the atmosphere, the visuals, the effects and the story, I was impressed with everything that I saw. The acting is top notch from everyone in the cast and both Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle deliver in every moment. This is a stunning premiere that left me wanting to see what comes next.