The phrase “episode order cut” strikes fear in many a showrunner’s heart, but the executive producers behind Starz’s upcoming American Gods say that an early adjustment to the series’ Season 1 total was exactly what the fantasy drama needed.
Originally, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green‘s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel — which follows a man named Shadow Moon (played by The 100‘s Ricky Whittle) as he becomes embroiled in a war between new and old gods — was supposed to unfold over 10 episodes. But issues arose while creating the drama’s third and fourth installments.
“When we shot it, we didn’t like what we saw,” Fuller tells TVLine. “There were issues with the sets. There were some things that happened too early in Shadow’s journey that changed the perspective of the story.” So he and Green decided to eliminate what they didn’t like, instead cutting two episodes in half and stitching them together to make what would eventually become Episode 3.
“We went back to the concept that was the strongest,” he adds. “And in order to pay for it, we had to drop an episode.”
The idea arose from conversations the EPs had with Starz executives following the show’s successful panel and trailer premiere at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con.
“They sat us down, and they said, ‘That went better than we could have hoped. What can we do to make sure we deliver a show as good as that trailer?'” Green recalls. “They said, ‘We will put on the table something that you can take or leave’ — because they’d always cautioned us about our own appetites — ‘If you want to do less show and focus on making it better, we’re open to that. If that means fewer episodes, consider it.'”
Both EPs say they initially rejected the idea, but revisited it after viewing the aforementioned not-up-to-snuff footage. And after the studio and network signed off, the order went down to nine episodes. Then Green and Fuller reconsidered the story, and “We saw the opportunity to end our season at what was essentially the cliffhanger moment at the end of Episode 8, rather than one step further… which began a new chapter,” Green says.
An unfortunate side effect of the rejiggering: An hour directed by Guillermo Navarro (Hannibal) was carved into pieces that were redistributed among other episodes, and he therefore lost credit for helming the ep. “Those sequences he shot” — including Mr. Nancy’s introduction the Salim and the Jinn “Coming to America” segment — “were some of the best on the show,” Fuller says.
In the interest of not spoiling the series for those who haven’t read Gaiman’s book, we can’t say exactly what that cliffhanger — or the plot point that got pushed to a potential Season 2 — was. Suffice to say that, at Comic-Con in July, Fuller & Co. said that the season would end as Mr. Wednesday and his entourage reach a place called House on the Rock; the EPs now say Season 1 will wrap just before then.
Speaking of Gaiman, how did the author take this restructuring of his story? “He took the classic, long, 45-second Neil pause and went, ‘That’ll work,'” Green says, laughing.