American Gods S01E02: “The Secret of Spoons”
Note: This review will not have explicit spoilers for either the book or this episode of American Gods other than what is in the summaries for both pieces of media. However, this review will have spoilers for the first episode of American Gods.
Need to catch up on episode one? Read our review of “The Bone Orchard” here.
This Week on American Gods
This week on American Gods, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) packed up his old life for good, went on a road trip with Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), and played a deadly game of checkers.
American Gods seems to want to take its sweet time giving up its secrets. The book’s author, Neil Gaiman, has previously said that showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green plan to take anywhere from two to five seasons to adapt the original novel, and any additional seasons would play around further in the book’s universe. On the one hand, they seem to understand that fans wouldn’t be fond of a compression of the 500+ page book’s themes. Many an adaptation has been raged against by die-hard fans disappointed by plot alterations, detours, and shortcuts. However, this patient devotion to the source material presents a problem for new fans, people who like prestige television and wanted to give American Gods a try. Like Shadow, viewers unfamiliar with the source material are still left in the dark regarding Mr. Wednesday’s motives, his plans, or even who he actually is. I can’t be sure, but it’s not clear to me if new viewers would know how the title of the show is relevant to the plot. New fans to the material may be willing to trust Fuller and Green as they slowly dole out essential nuggets of information. Unfortunately for Shadow, neither knowing what Wednesday is up to nor the motives of the people who claim to be against all that he stands for is getting more dangerous every day.
This episode seemed to focus on black male trauma in general, eventually honing in on our poor protagonist Shadow’s trauma in particular. The episode opens as Anansi (Orlando Jones) tells the hold of a slave ship what horrors await them in America, including the struggles that black people still go through today. This moving diatribe ends up being a speech that leads the prisoners of said ship towards drastic action. After the opening, we return to Shadow’s section of the plot, which is not short of troubles. Last episode, Shadow had to deal with the death of his wife (Emily Browning), hearing at her funeral that his wife had cheated on him, being kidnapped by a mysterious and malicious figure, nearly getting lynched by the malicious and mysterious figure’s henchmen, and watching said henchmen explode into puddles of blood (but surviving the encounter). You’ll find no spoilers here, but poor Shadow’s situation only gets worse from there. The camera lovingly follows Shadow as he suffers aftereffects from last week’s episode and as new issues compound his misery, giving viewers a glimpse into his pain in a way that is almost creepy. Threats thrown at Shadow in the book seem to eerily connect with current events, reminding viewers that black men still aren’t safe, even over a hundred years after slavery’s end.
In conclusion, this episode continued the slow build that Fuller and Green are going for. Most of this season’s major players have been introduced in one form or another. Next week should give new viewers more answers, and confirm for old fans at least one thing that they already know (but I said this last week as well).
Next week on American Gods, Shadow and Wednesday rob a bank…
Points to Remember From This Episode:
- Anansi is a notable player from the book, and may become notable in the show.
- Czernobog’s ruminations on his brother.
- The fact that neither Wednesday nor his enemies know who saved Shadow.
- The importance of remembrance and being remembered.
American Gods airs on Starz at 9pm on Sunday nights.
Images via Starz.