AMERICAN GODS Review 1.02 “The Secret Of Spoon”

Zorya knows how gross tea is.

You can catch American Gods on STARZ.
Check out our review for the pilot episode

After a stunning pilot episode, American Gods returns with its second offering, “The Secret of Spoon”. The review of “The Bone Orchard” was spoiler-free, since we wanted to give you a little taste of the show before it aired, but from here on out we will be in spoiler town, so don’t read any further if you haven’t watched the episode and want to avoid details!

It seems that each episode of the series will start with a moment from the old world. In that clip, we get a glimpse of the theme of the episode to come. In “The Bone Orchard” it was the Vikings finding an island only to discover that it wasn’t what they desired at all, playing as a parallel to Shadow’s release from prison. In “The Secret of Spoon”, we see slaves being brought to America who are then confronted by their god, Anansi. Or, as we’ll come to know him, Mr. Nancy. Anansi tells the slaves of the future that’s to come, and how the color of their skin will continue to subjugate them to prejudices long after their freedom is achieved.

In the present, Shadow’s less than amiable run-in with Technology Boy has left him wanting answers. We’d all be a little bit grumpy if we’d just been lynched. Shadow survives the encounter and demands Mr. Wednesday fill him in after delivering Technology’s message that they will reprogram reality. Unfortunately for Shadow, being in the know wasn’t a part of their contract, but that doesn’t mean Wednesday isn’t willing to double his pay for pain and suffering. With nothing else to lose, Shadow agrees and makes his way to the home he shared with his wife to handle the rest of his affairs.

After returning to the remnants of the surprise welcome home party that was to be, Shadow has several visions of Laura as he cleans and packs. She first comes to him in a nightmare, telling him that her death was just a bad dream. Sure, that’s not disconcerting after meeting a creepy millennial who tells you that he’ll re-write reality. She pops up several times as Shadow packs and cleans the house, conspicuously avoiding one box in particular.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX!? It’s not Gwenyth Paltrow’s head, sorry. It’s all Laura’s personal effects from the car crash. Shadow goes through each item with care, despite the manner in which his wife and best friend died (if you missed it last week, blowjobs while driving remain a terrible idea). He continues to rifle until happening upon Laura’s shattered cellphone. I’ll go out on a limb and say you probably don’t want to see pics of your best friend’s junk on a good day, but especially not on your wife’s phone. The whole cheating situation can’t make it any better. So, Shadow finishes packing and cleaning the house, and gets the hell out of there.

After a not so pleasant heart to heart regarding the manner in which Laura died, Mr. Wednesday instructs Shadow on where they’ll be heading. There’s a meeting that will need to take place, but their ultimate goal is Chicago. But not without gifts! After the two make it to their first destination, Mr. Wednesday has his meeting and sends Shadow to procure said gifts. Much to Shadow’s chagrin, he ends up having a meeting of his own with Lucille Ball. Lucy wants him to work with her! She’d never hurt him like the Technical Boy, and she’s willing to double whatever Wednesday’s paying him. Sweet deal! Minor detail: she’s in a television? One that Shadow turned off, mind you. She’s gone as quickly as she comes, and Shadow finishes his errand while becoming very much convinced that he’s gone insane. Telling Mr. Wednesday as such gets him nowhere, of course. Mr. Wednesday wasn’t lynched and then propositioned by a television set. Shadow remains unnerved by his boss’ calm, but the backroad (no highways!) road trip continues.

Instead of using the run-of-the-mill travel montage, we check out what’s going on with Bilquis. If you’re watching American Gods for the sex, the Bilquis scenes are where you’re going to get most of it. Since the show hasn’t gone into too much detail as to who/what she is yet, I won’t spoil it for you here, but I can’t guarantee your safety in the comments. After her worship session we meet the Zorya sisters and their less fun brother Czernobog.

There’s a lot to take in, regarding the scenes featuring the immigrant family. No one is particularly pleased to see Mr. Wednesday, but the gifts he brings calm the sisters. There’s no such luck to be had with Czernobog. He knows of Wednesday’s war, and has no interest in his charms. He does, however, have a particular interest in Shadow. There are several uncomfortable moments at dinner, all of which lead to Czernobog asking Shadow to play a game of checkers with him. Seemingly innocuous, but Mr. Wednesday seems pretty uncomfortable at the idea. As it would turn out, there was a solid reason for his discomfort. Czernobog has a wager for Shadow: if Shadow wins, Czernobog has to go with Mr. Wednesday and join his cause. If Shadow loses, Czernobog gets to kill him. Turns out a few years in the slammer isn’t enough practice to take on someone with as much life experience as ol’ Czernobog. Shadow’s to be put to death. But, not until next week! Immediate murders are so gauche.

Being a Neil Gaiman story that’s headed by Brian Fuller, American Gods continues to show us a feast of beautiful scenery with most moments having more to them than their face value. At this point, that’s basically all Mr. Wednesday is. The show has given us no details on the characters history or motivations, and the most mentions of his war are only alluded to by other characters. His calm and composure is maintained at all times, which means when and if we do finally see him fly off the rails it will be deeply unsettling.

“The Secret of Spoon” is filled with great moments, but none quite as impressive as Orlando Jones’ monologue as Mr. Nancy. It’s so good that I managed to get over the fact that he’s a giant damned spider pretty quickly. His closing words to the slaves is that if they are going to die, die for something worthwhile, which brings us to this episode’s parallel with the present day. We haven’t been shown exactly what the stakes of Mr. Wednesday’s war are just yet, but assuming they’re pretty high seems to be a safe bet. Now, there are still many more episodes to go in the series, so Shadow not dying is also a pretty solid bet, but the parallels remain.

The final nod is to Shadow. Or, rather, to Gaiman and Fuller for giving us a scene with Shadow crying. It’s a small, blink and you miss it moment, but an important one nonetheless. The willingness to show a stoic male protagonist like Shadow Moon not only shaken, but genuinely devastated by difficult experiences is still so rare in pop culture.

Next week we’ll see what leads up to Shadow’s unlikely death. Perhaps we’ll also learn more about the mysterious Zorya sister and Czernobog’s fairer missing brother. No matter whose stories we learn in “Head Full of Snow”, we can be sure that that the striking visuals will continue. We’re also gonna rob a bank, so that’s always fun!