TV Recap: American Gods, Episode 2: "The Secret of Spoons"
The second episode of American Gods is going to be the make or break point for many. The series premiere, while filled with intrigue, did not do enough to establish itself as anything other than a weird thing. "The Secret of Spoon" fully makes the case for the show's worth, introducing a slew of characters while building a tighter mystery.
The episode begins very similarly to the last, with a seemingly unrelated but compelling look into the past. We open in the bowels of a slave ship making its way from Africa to America as a slave prays to the god Anansi expressing his fears. His prayers are answered and Anansi (Orlando Jones) appears in a sleek purple suit accompanied by jazz. Anansi gives a lengthy, inspired speech foretelling the future of the African people's slave role in America. Anansi compels them to rebel, breaks their chains and they set fire to the ship, presumably killing everybody on board.
We are back in present times with Shadow Moon, who's wounds suffered in the premiere's climactic lynching scene are being treated. After he's semi-cleaned up he angrily finds Wednesday. He threatens to quit, only to be back on board after a salary doubling and assurance that Wednesday has a plan for the mysterious frog-smoking man in the limo who attacked him. Shadow goes to his hotel room, draws a bath, and dreams of his wife Laura visiting him. He awakes in tears after he realizes it was only a dream.
The dream inspires a trip home. Shadow slowly walks through his house, seeing visions of his wife happily waiting for him while he packs up her belongings. He snoops through her cell phone and finds evidence of her infidelity, and he angrily cleans out the rest of his house. The moving truck takes off and Wednesday appears to tell Shadow the breaking news that his wife cheated on him. Shadow brushes it off and the two set off on the road.
They stop off at a small town and Wednesday sends Shadow to run some errands. Shadow fills up his cart with miscellaneous items and walks past a TV screen showing an old episode of I Love Lucy. In an effortlessly perfect effect, Lucille Ball (Gillian Anderson) starts talking directly to Shadow through the screen. Lucy offers him a job, attempting to convince him that Wednesday is yesterday's news and assured that she only wants to help, leaving him with a cryptic warning that guys like him always end in suicide. Shadow reports this to Wednesday who seems undeterred.
After a trippy journey through the cosmos complete with a random naked floating man we check back in with Bilquis. In a montage we see that she's continuing her sex spree, emotionlessly swallowing up men and women alike in her beautiful red candlelit room.
Shadow and Wednesday have reached Chicago where they meet an old friend of Wednesday's, Zorya (Cloris Leachman), an old Russian fortune teller. The two reminisce for a while until a worn down man named Czernobog (Peter Stormare) arrives, clearly unhappy with seeing Wednesday again. Shadow joins the ladies in the kitchen while the two talk business. Dinner is served, and Czernobog regales the table with a detailed telling of his days on the killing room floor of a slaughterhouse where he worked with a hammer (the goal is not only to crack the skull but to destroy the brain.) After dinner Shadow and Czernobog play a game of checkers and a wager is made. If Shadow wins, he'll come with Wednesday, and if he loses he gets his brains smashed in with the hammer, which was just intimidatingly shown off. Czernobog wins the game.
The largest highlight of the episode is once again the performances, particularly Orlando Jones (it's a showstopper that happens in the first scene). I found the premiere to be too littered with nonsensically vague images that, while appealing, didn't add up to much. The follow up didn't get rid of these scenes but rather tied them into the narrative (itself becoming more exciting as a few questions are elaborated on, if not answered outright) in an easier to swallow way.