American Gods' Ricky Whittle on Why Shadow Moon Is All of Us

Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon
Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon
Image: Starz

The latest episode of Starz’s American Gods shines a fair amount of light on Shadow Moon’s past which, up until this point, was basically as enshrouded in mystery on the show as it was in the original novel. Learning more about Shadow and where he comes from, Ricky Whittle recently explained to io9, was important for this part of the series because the understanding is that we as an audience are finally ready for the information.


“The Beguiling Man” sets into motion a number of events leading up to the great oncoming war of the gods and the show does so with an urgency that feels like a drastic deviation from the show’s first season. The reason for that, Whittle explained to us, is that following Wednesday’s revelation that he’s actually Odin and all of the people he’s introduced Shadow to are personified deities, Shadow...knows things. Whether he fully believes in the things that he’s seen is up for question, but he knows for a fact that he’s become part of something fantastical, as does the audience. Whittle told us:

The thing is, you’re kind of meant to learn how to watch the show by seeing so many things through Shadow’s eyes. Shadow is the audience, really. He’s our guide as to how the audience is supposed to feel, or is most likely to. We feel his sadness, his anger, and confusion, and that’s so much of who Shadow is in the first season because he didn’t understand the world he was being awoken into.

He didn’t believe in anything—especially gods and magic, because he was an intellect. He only wanted to find logical answers to things, and so up until this point, he’s been thinking that it’s much more likely he’s gone insane rather than there being actual magic in the world. For you, as someone watching this show, it’s the same kind of experience. This difference this season is that now you and Shadow are beginning to discover answers to questions.

But Shadow’s newfound knowledge isn’t exactly going to be something that makes his new position in Wednesday’s orbit easier to deal with. The more Shadow learns about his employer and his larger scheme to murder the new gods, the more at odds Wednesday’s going to become with him:

That’s going to cause a lot of friction with Mr. Wednesday, which is my favorite part of the season—their dynamic is beginning to shift. Everyone’s relationships are evolving now that we’ve established the world and the players, we begin to see how they interact and we really get a sense on who’s on whose side, which raises the stakes.

This is all the stuff that Shadow wants to know and is going to push for and because Mr. Wednesday has been very reluctant to give him answers before, he’s going to go out and find them for himself. We’re going to see a very proactive Shadow because again, he wants answers in the same way that we all do.

American Gods airs Sundays on Starz.

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Charles Pulliam-Moore is an NYC-based culture critic whose work centers on fandom, pop culture, politics, race, and sexuality. He still thinks Cyclops made a few valid points.



I’m liking the way things are playing out, and Shadow’s transition to a believer, of sorts, has been nice to watch. That was one knock I had on the book, tbh, was it felt like it took too long for Shadow to really come around to the realization that the world was WAY weirder than he’d ever given it credit.

Some of that is possibly that the more overtly supernatural aspects of the world he experienced in the book, at least for the first half or so, were all things he was able to kind of rationalize away, on a one-off basis, as fever dreams, stage magic of the type he was self-trained in, or hallucinations. It still took way too long for him to do the math and realize that all those things taken together added up to real magic.

Giving Laura a much larger role is helping Shadow’s development, I think. Seeing his clearly dead wife walking around, interacting with people and the world (rather than just with him alone) is forcing his hand a little better in the series.