American Gods may be a highly stylized series based on an equally-artistic and intentional book, but in reality the creative team had but one choice when it came to introducing main character Mr. Wednesday: he must be drinking. So luckily, as if the gods themselves declared it, he sat tumbler in hand during his first appearance in the series premiere:
“I’m supposed to take your drink sir,” an unassuming stewardess says, following pre-takeoff protocol as kindly as she can.
“Yeah, but you’re not going to,” Mr. Wednesday butts in. “Because if you were, you would’ve said, ‘I need to take your drink, sir’ or ‘I’m gonna have to take that drink, sir’—neither of which happened. So don’t worry about it. I’ll hold it very tight while you pour my friend a Jack-and-Coke and get me another one. Thank you.”
This stands as the only correct way to introduce TV’s Mr. Wednesday simply because of who plays him: TV-drinking hall-of-famer Ian McShane. Likely most recognized as dastardly saloon owner Al Swearengen on the iconic Deadwood, McShane practically helped put Bulleit on the map with his ability to keep the early Gold Rush west lubricated for HBO. And ever since, it’s been difficult to see his distinguished, but worn face on screen—whether he’s tippling as a pirate or in Game of Thrones—without the urge to saddle up beside him with your own tumbler. In the most appropriate coincidence ever, in fact, McShane recently told Vulture that drama school “mainly for me, was about girls and how to drink.”
Luckily, American Gods indulges the world’s strongest McShane urges early and often. After his dark liquor introduction, Mr. Wednesday seals his future partnership with Shadow Moon over shots of mead, for instance. When recruiting partners for his still unfolding plans, McShane comes with gifts—vodka for an old Slavic, cattle-slaughtering pal, and homemade wine during a still-to-come trip to Everytown, USA—fitting of both cast and character. In an upcoming episode, Wednesday even shows he’s not above a slug of virtually any type of alcohol whether it’s typically consumable for us mortals or not.
Of course, there’s much more to McShane and American Gods. The show thus far has spoken to complex, heady topics like diversity in America, a collective obsession with tech and screens, and our complicated relationship with pasts both remembered and forgotten. But in between all of the other-worldly dissection unfolding, viewers needed at least a small bit of familiarity to ground them. Ian McShane is drinking on television once again, praise be to Wednesday.
See the review of the latest episode of American Gods here.