American Gods is back in its second episode entitled “The Secret of Spoon,” and it’s anything but full of sugar, especially when it provides its social commentary. The show already pleasantly surprised me as it demonstrated that it was going beyond its original source material, but let’s just jump right into what happened and see if that’s a good or bad thing. Spoilers ahead!
The episode starts off with another “Gods Origin 101” lesson, much to my delight. This time it’s about Compe Anansi, who’s one of the most important spirits of knowledge in folklore. “Compe” is directly translated to “companion,” but is actually a term to address one as a familiar equal, an acknowledgement of close kinship.
The little “more you know” star-wipe moment aside, this introduction of Anansi is a fantastic, raw monologue of the injustices that African-Americans face, told to a boat of slaves who don’t even know what’s truly in their future. I give a standing ovation to Orlando Jones for the unapologetic, explosive performance. It starts the episode off in such an appropriate, powerful way, and immediately continues from the show’s premiere, with a group of mindless minions attempting to lynch Shadow.
We see Shadow teetering back to Motel America. His attitude is flaring, and he’s and demanding answers from Mr. Wednesday, who’s in the middle of some companion time of his own. Shadow delivers Technical Boy’s warning and goes back to his room, licking his wounds in a bath followed by a heavy sleep.
It’s still a bit confusing in the show if Shadow is imagining Laura out of grief or if something else is happening. In any case, Ricky Whittle does a fantastic job with his character’s understandable, confused grieving, especially when he’s trying to pick up the (literal) pieces in the aftermath of his wife’s death, including clearing away a “dick pic” previously sent from his (ex) best friend to Laura’s cracked-screen phone.
(Sidenote: It’s clever how Shadow’s wedding photo with Laura on the dresser turns into that same sexual snap before he goes off on an angry cleaning rampage to blow off some steam.)After that, Mr. Wednesday and Shadow are on the road, avoiding highways and taking the more scenic route. When Mr. Wednesday says he has to attend a meeting and sends Shadow on shopping errand, he meets Lucille Ball… wait, no, Lucy Ricardo. Well OK, she’s actually one of the new gods, Media (played by famous The X-Files actress Gillian Anderson). She tries an interesting approach in trying to get him to work for her instead of Wednesday, and it’s clear at this point that Shadow is starting to become untethered. He can no longer distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. Wednesday seems incredibly level-headed about Shadow’s predicament and gives him two options: “The world is either crazy or you are. Both are solid options.”
And he’s right. This particular corner of the universe is pretty bonkers for someone being shoved into it, and judging from how Shadow’s reacting to things, he’s acknowledging the craziness and trying to accept as much of it as he can take at once.
Before we continue with Wednesday and Shadow’s road trip adventure to Chicago, we briefly see Bliquis (Yetide Badaki) taking more lives of her sex partners, and we watch her admire what looks to be a room in a museum with artifacts of worship — ones that once belonged to her.We finally get to Chicago and visit some more of Wednesday’s friends, although they don’t seem to feel the same enthusiasm when they see him. We meet Czernobog (Peter Storemare), Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman) and Zorya Polunochnaya (Erika Kaar), and we briefly hear Zorya Utrennyaya (Martha Kelly), who sleeps during the day. They break bread, where the intimidating Czernobog fantasizes about how he would kill cows with his hammer back in the day. This moment was kind of like an old football player reminiscing about his golden days of passing around the pigskin.
Then, things escalate to arguably the most chilling part of the episode: Shadow and the ragged, blood-thirsty man have the most intense game of checkers I’ve ever seen. If Shadow wins, Czernobog joins Wednesday’s cause. But if he loses, he becomes the cow whose brains get smashed in with a rusted hammer at sunrise. The result: Shadow loses. There’s a clap of thunder, and the camera cuts to black.
Even though American Gods’ second episode is already deterring from Neil Gaiman’s novel, it’s still telling the same general story so far. The cultural commentary is incredibly powerful and entirely fitting considering that our protagonist is African-American. It seems like the series will drag out Laura’s arc in order to not distract the audience from the current world-building, but I’m expecting the show to properly introduce what’s going on with her either in the next episode, or perhaps the one after that.
Bryan Fuller’s symbolism and vision, along with his background music creates a beautifully artistic show, but it still lacks focus in explaining everything that’s going on. The plot also seems a bit rushed for the second half of this specific episode, but the main cultural message comes across just the same.
Additionally, the show seems to be focusing more on conveying a statement more than telling a story, and even the characters come across as more watered down and friendlier than their literature versions. I’m not entirely sure I’ll like the show over the book, but at this moment in time, I’m all for checking in next week to see what happens.