The story of American Gods reflects the clash of the old with the new, specifically the old beliefs and Gods that used to live off of the worship of others with the new ways of living in American culture. Despite being a series drenched in Americana, the shows' opening sequence kicks the series off far from the U.S.A., showing a collection of Vikings speaking of The All-Father. Even in a show about Gods, a name like The All-Father still carries a great deal of weight to it, but who is The All-Father in American Gods and what can fans of Starz's latest series expect from this seemingly powerful figure?
American Gods borrows liberally from the mythology of many different cultures — just in the first few episodes, audiences are introduced to the biblical Queen of Sheba, an African trickster spider-man (not that Spider-Man), and a self-proclaimed Leprechaun. And the All-Father comes from Norse mythology, often related to the Viking Era, which has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity thanks to the Thor series of films as well as the self-explanatory book Norse Mythology by American Gods author Neil Gaiman. The All-Father, as presented in the mythology of many different cultures, is known by over 170 names with the most recognizable name being Odin.
Like many of mythology's most prominent figures, Odin has been portrayed in a variety of ways and has inspired works of art, literature, and music reaching as far back as the Roman Era and as recently as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the God is portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Odin as he appears in American Gods is all of these things, all of these stories and poems and works of art, personified. Odin plays a major role in not just the ongoing conflict between the Old Gods and the New, but fans of the book already know that he also plays a major role in the life of protagonist Shadow Moon.
MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THE AMERICAN GODS BOOK AHEAD — AKA THE WHOLE TV SHOW
Of the many names for Odin chronicled throughout history, the most recent addition to that long list is "Mr. Wednesday," The mysterious figure who hires Shadow as a bodyguard after his release from prison. The words 'Wednesday' was originally devised from 'Odin'. Nowadays, the words 'Odin' and 'Wednesday' don't have much in common in the way that 'Thor' and 'Thursday' do, but the connection helped mythology-inclined readers figure out that Wednesday was actually Odin long before the reveal in the book.
Odin is arguably the most high-profile Old God in American Gods, so it would make sense that he's not only the one who guides Shadow into the world of Gods, but also that he may want to keep a low-profile. In American Gods, Mr. Wednesday is a far cry from the noble warrior that Odin is often portrayed as, but the series and book address what changed the once-great Odin into the swindler and bank robber he eventually became. In the new world, it seems that being the All-Father just isn't enough.