Title: “American Gods Season 1 Episode 2: The Secret of Spoon”
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Platform: TV – Starz
Director: David Slade
Writer: Michael Green & Bryan Fuller
Release: May 7, 2017
Cast: Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning
Feature image: Source
Coming to America – 1697
A shackled African man (Conphidance) on a slave ship prays to the trickster god Anansi (who also takes the shape of spiders). “These strange men have tied my hands…help me from this place and I will sing to you my life.” A man dressed in a modern purple plaid suit walks down the stairs. Mr. Nancy/Anansi speaks (Orlando Jones):
“Once upon a time, a man got fucked. Now, how’s that for a story? Because that’s the story of black men in America. Oh, you all don’t know you’re black yet. Well, let me be the first to tell you that you are all black. The moment these Dutch motherfuckers set foot here and decided that they white and you get to be black, and that’s the nice name that they call you? Let me paint a picture of what’s waiting for you on the shore. You arrive in America, land of opportunity, milk and honey and guess what? You all get to be slaves. Split up, sold off, and worked to death! The lucky ones get Sunday off to sleep, fuck, make more slaves and all for what? Cotton, indigo, for a fuckin’ purple shirt. The only good news is the tobacco your grandchildren are going to farm for free is going to give a shitload of these motherfuckers cancer. And I ain’t even started yet. A hundred years later, you’re fucked. A hundred years after that? Fucked. A hundred years after you get free, you still gettin’ fucked outta jobs and shot at by police, you see what I’m sayin’? This guy gets it. He’s gettin’ angry. Angry gets shit done.” Mr. Nancy — American Gods
Anansi demands that the slaves rise up and kill the Dutch slavers and burn down their ship. One of the captives points out that the slaves will die also. Anansi’s answer to that, “You already dead, asshole. At least die a sacrifice for something worthwhile. Let the motherfucker burn.” They agree with Anansi and burn the ship down. A plank floats a shore with a spider, Anansi.
“An assault on you is an insult to me. Don’t think because I didn’t lose my temper I’m not angry – or am lacking a plan” Mr. Wednesday — American Gods
At the end of Mr. Nancy’s speech we see the image of Shadow (Ricky Whittle) hanging from the tree. He might be a trickster god, but he’s truthful here. After the destruction of the faceless goons from the last episode, someone is stapling Shadow’s wounds. The man tells Shadow if these are gunshot wounds he’ll have to inform the police, Shadow asks for no cops. Shadow painfully walks back to the motel where Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) is staying.
Wednesday is entertaining a naked young woman. Shadow angrily describes what happened to him and asks how Wednesday is involved. Wednesday doesn’t give Shadow a clear answer but does assure him, “An assault on you is an insult to me. Don’t think because I didn’t lose my temper I’m not angry – or am lacking a plan” Shadow goes to his room and soaks his body in the too small tub. He goes to bed and dreams that Laurel (Emily Browning) walks in and doesn’t know anything about being dead. Shadow finally breaks down and cries.
Word on the street is your wife died sucking your best friend’s cock, and you, sir, are only obligated to feel bad about that for so long.” — American Gods
Shadow goes home and packs up the house. He imagines seeing Laurel all around the house. A box from the hospital is lying on the bed. Shadow gets to it last. It has her possessions. He finds her wedding ring and her phone. On it, he finds texts between Laurel and Robbie and a dick pic. He finishes cleaning the house and a truck comes to pick up the boxes. Wednesday is waiting for him beside his Cadillac. He has something to tell him and he wants him to think about it and not knock out his teeth. ”Word on the street is your wife died sucking your best friend’s cock, and you, sir, are only obligated to feel bad about that for so long.”
Shadow: “Thank you. For warning me.” They begin their road trip.
Mr. Wednesday does some fancy coin tricks to Shadow’s amusement. He tells Shadow that even though Shadow is proficient in his coin tricks, he doesn’t have the personality to sell them. Shadow heads for the highway but Wednesday doesn’t like highways and only wants to travel the backroads and byways of America. Wednesday just slightly touches the radio and Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A – Gonna Fall” plays. Their first stop will be in Chicago. He needs to talk to some people and get his hammer.
“The screen’s the altar. I’m the one they sacrifice to, then ‘til now, golden age to golden age. They sit side by side, ignore each other, and give it up to me. Now they hold a smaller screen in their lap or in the palm of their hand so they don’t get bored watching the big one. Time and attention, better than lamb’s blood.” Media — American Gods
Before they get to Chicago, Wednesday has some errands for Shadow to run. He gives him $1,000 to pick up some items. Since his cash is a little short, he’ll need a receipt. Shadow: “I’m not gonna steal from you.”
Wednesday: “If you can’t look out for yourself, how the hell you gonna look out for me?” Shadow goes into a superstore and piles the items in his shopping cart. He passes a row of televisions and Lucille Ball speaks to him from the TV. She corrects him and says Lucy Ricardo. He pulls a cord to shut off the TV, but all of them come on with her talking to him. The woman speaking to him is one of the new gods, Media (Gillian Anderson). She is sorry that Technical Boy’s faceless goons messed with his pretty face.
She would like him to work for her. She explains how they are taking over from the old gods. “The screen’s the altar. I’m the one they sacrifice to, then ‘til now, golden age to golden age. They sit side by side, ignore each other, and give it up to me. Now they hold a smaller screen in their lap or in the palm of their hand so they don’t get bored watching the big one. Time and attention, better than lamb’s blood.” Shadow is confused but he doesn’t take her up on her job offer or getting to see Lucy’s breasts.
A shaken Shadow meets with Wednesday at a diner and tells him he thinks he might be losing his mind. He tells him about the weird incident. Wednesday lays it out, either you are going crazy, or strange things are happening. It means the universe is paying attention to you. As we’ve seen from all the gods we’ve met so far, being paid attention to is the most important thing. They get back on the road to Chicago as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” plays.
Some naked dude is flying through the cosmos. He has a blissed out look on his face. We are paying a visit to Bilquis (Yetide Badaki). She is busy conducting worship service with several of her worshippers, both male and female. Her vagina is busy. Bilquis doesn’t look as ecstatic as her worshippers do. She later goes to a museum and looks at an ancient statue of herself. In a display case, is the jewelry she used to wear and she imagines an outline of herself wearing the jewelry. She sadly remembers her golden age.
“So, at sunrise, I get to knock your brains out, and you will go down on your knees willingly. It’s good. A shame. You’re my only black friend.”Czernobog — American Gods
Shadow and Mr. Wednesday finally arrive in Chicago. They stop at an old rundown house. An elderly woman, Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman) greets them. She isn’t happy to see Wednesday, but is glad to drink the vodka he brought her. The person he is there to see, Czernobog (Peter Stormare) will be less happy to see him. Her sister Zorya Utrennyaya (Martha Kelly) doesn’t say anything, but looks at Shadow as she looks at her erotic novels. Czernobog finally arrives, covered in blood. He works at a slaughterhouse and loves talking about his work. He doesn’t want Wednesday there but since Vechernyaya has invited them to dinner, he doesn’t throw them out.
Wednesday wants him to join him in the conflict between the old gods and the new gods. Czernobog doesn’t want to have anything to do with it. He asks Shadow if he is black, in the old country his brother was considered the white one, while he was considered the black one. He takes a liking to Shadow and invites him to play checkers. They begin playing. Czernobog raises the stakes of the game, if Shadow wins, he will join Wednesday’s crusade, if he wins, he’ll take the sledgehammer he used to use on the cows and crack Shadow over the head with it. With everything that has happened to Shadow in the last few days, he takes the bet. Czernobog wins. “So, at sunrise, I get to knock your brains out, and you will go down on your knees willingly. It’s good. A shame. You’re my only black friend.”
Sacrifice is important to the gods. We saw that in the first episode with Odin and the Vikings. He required blood. Bilquis has her worshippers sacrifice their lives. Media wants our total attention, to the exclusion of others. Shadow has done nothing but sacrifice since he has met Mr. Wednesday. He nearly lost his life to Technical Boy’s faceless goons. He feels like he is sacrificing his sanity with all the strangeness going on around him. He bet his life with Czernobog to get him to join Wednesday. He can’t be doing all this for $2,000 a week, or maybe $4,000 for hazard pay. With all his losses, I think he is looking for something, and unconsciously is willing to sacrifice everything to find it. He doesn’t know he is surrounded by gods yet, but he has to know something huge is going on and he’s in the middle of it. Why did Mr. Wednesday choose him? There might be more to Shadow than we or he realizes.
Czernobog is a Slavic god, the god of darkness. That sounds evil, but I don’t think that means he’s the devil. He is just someone you shouldn’t play checkers with. Zorya Vechernyaya is the Evening Star, Zorya Utrennyaya is the Morning Star, and the sister who was sleeping, Zorya Polunochnaya, is the Midnight Star. They are guardian goddesses who watch over the earth and protect it from the doomsday hound Simargl. I’m sure you all knew that already.
There were so many standout scenes and performances in this episode that Bilquis blissed out worshippers aren’t near the top. That was a lot of nudity and sex, but it wasn’t the most memorable thing in the episode. It is good to know when her vagina eats, you go to a cool existence. You’d hate for them to end up working a late shift at Walmart. The scene with Bilquis I enjoyed the most was her trip to the museum. It added a nice melancholy air to her story. She needs these worshippers to look and feel young, but she has lost what she had as a younger goddess and won’t be getting it back.
It is always a treat seeing Cloris Leachman, she might nearly be as old as her character. Peter Stormare gave an intense, darkly humorous portrayal of Czernobog. He was kind of racist in a clueless way, as so many people are. He seemed truly upset he might have to kill his only black friend.
Gillian Anderson was great as Media. She made Media very seductive with just a tinge of menace. Not a lot, but enough to know she means business. Her power and reach is vast and she knows it. She seemed to be playing with Shadow. There is something about Shadow that is important to these gods, Media doesn’t seem the type to waste her time on the unimportant.
I’ve always liked Orlando Jones, but I didn’t know he had this in him. His speech to the slaves was a show stopper, and it began the show. It shows how strong the episode was that it didn’t completely dominate the episode. He made Anansi slick and charismatic. He was selfish because he wanted the slaves to sacrifice their lives for him, but you sensed he was angry at their situation and wanted them to sacrifice their lives for themselves too. He expressed the anger and pain black people have felt in this country. It was a great performance.