American Gods - Episode 102 "The Secret of Spoons"

American Gods Review: Checker Game From Hell

There were a ton of insanely memorable moments in the American Gods series premiere, but the introduction of Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) as the African god Anansi this week blew my mind. Nancy’s impeccably written speech was powerful and elevated the series to serious Emmy Award contender.

While I’m not sure how Anansi’s intro here connected with the rest of the hour, aside from the spider arriving in America… I do know I’d missed the awesome Orlando Jones on my TV. Watch it and weep Sleepy Hollow writers. That’s the talent you guys squandered in the second season of your show. For me, once Jones was written off that show I knew it was time for me to go. “Let the motherfucker burn!” On to bigger and better things, right? I’m super stoked to see Mr. Nancy causing mischief in the present day. Aren’t you?

American Gods - Episode 102 "The Secret of Spoons"
Courtesy of STARZ
After the quick flashback, we caught up with Shadow Moon hanging from the tree as the faceless lynch mob was slaughtered below him. We still have no clue who was responsible for saving Shadow’s life. However, Laura resurfacing in his dream seems like a slight hint. No? Keep in mind, I’ve never read the novel so I’m experiencing the story for the first time. There sure were a lot of “fuck’s” thrown around during that conversation between Shadow and Wednesday. You gotta love premium cable. Ha!

Did Mr. Wednesday seriously double Shadow’s salary? How much had he paid his new bodyguard up to that point, and where’s the conman get his cash? The preview for Episode 3 mentions robbing a bank. I’m glad the writers will address those particular questions sooner rather than later. I loved it when Shadow told Wednesday he wasn’t going to steal from him. Now, that’s a protagonist I can get behind. He’s done questionable things, but he’s an honest to goodness decent guy. It’s interesting that one of the oldest gods is such an unscrupulous swindler. Clearly, Technical Boy is in a world of trouble. Wednesday throwing out the mobile phones was a trip, wasn’t it?

During the shopping spree sequence, we met Media (Gillian Anderson) in the guise of Lucille Ball. Watching the X-Files or Hannibal, I never in a million years noticed the resemblance to Ball. Media certainly made a convincing case, and I’ve got to admit I worship her. Lucy didn’t even have to show me her tits for me to fall hook, line, and sinker. The question is, what makes Shadow Moon such an important player in this war of the gods? Why did Wednesday say no one is ever going to forget him? Is the man a demigod? Is Media really trying to help Shadow? It’s too early to know who to trust, but it appears the old god’s got his back. By the way, who was the guy Wednesday met with? Were those flames in his eyes?

No installment would be complete without Bilquis, goddess of love, doing her thing. Will there be a vagina swallowing montage each week? That’s not a complaint, I’m genuinely curious.

American Gods - Episode 102 "The Secret of Spoons"
Courtesy of STARZ
In the second half of “The Secret of Spoons,” our road warriors arrived in Chicago. Though I didn’t know what to make of the Slavic family, Czernobog (Peter Stormare), Slavic god of darkness and evil was no doubt going to be difficult to recruit. Working at a slaughterhouse was a good fit, though hearing him describe “the craft” was terribly disturbing. That poor cow, damn.

American Gods - Episode 102 "The Secret of Spoons"
Courtesy of STARZ
Wednesday worked Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman), the eldest of the three sisters, like a pro. The guy is nothing if not charming, yet Czernobog sees through all of his bullshit. There’s no love lost there, that’s for sure. The music was outstanding throughout the hour, but the traditional Eastern European instrumentation was interwoven gorgeously during the scene. Composer Brian Reitzell worked with showrunner Brian Fuller on Hannibal, as well as with director David Slade on 30 Days of Night. I mentioned this in my premiere review, but I can’t imagine a more perfect creative team for American Gods.

American Gods - Episode 102 "The Secret of Spoons"
Courtesy of STARZ
Ultimately, Czernobog challenged Shadow to a high stakes game of checkers. Our hero is not about to die, this soon anyway, despite Zorya clearly lying about his future after reading his coffee cup. Was that “fortune” scene simply included to throw us off? Is it possible Czernobog kills Shadow and our hero is somehow reborn, or discovers he can not be killed? Will his brother, Belobog (Slavic god of light and Sun) step in to alter the outcome somehow? Czernobog gave us a little background on his brother, so I immediately Googled the pair. All I know for sure is, we’re just two episodes in and I am dying to learn more about these characters and the world they inhabit.

The checkers game was intense, and you quickly got a sense the old god had the upper hand. Seeing that bloody hammer would have been enough to intimidate anyone. I’m not sure Czernobog was playing fair. I mean, I wasn’t sitting in that room yet I was poopin’ in my freakin’ pants. Peter Stormare’s performance was unsettling, and absolutely brilliant.

In Closing…

“Is Good!” to quote old god Czernobog. Yeah, I’m totally into American Gods. It’s not like anything I’ve seen before, and although I’m not 100% sure what’s going on… I trust Fuller and company to deliver. It was surprising that Czernobog won the match. Where’s that leave our hero? Will the evil god knock Shadow’s brains out at sunrise? What a cliffhanger!

If you’re wondering what the hell “The Secret of Spoons” is, it’s a made up lyric from an old folk song Czernobog sings while playing checkers for Shadow’s life. Fuller mentions in the “behind the scenes” featurette, that the spoon in the song is actually Czernobog’s hammer. He goes on to explain it’s a lamentation of the guy who runs the guillotine. American Gods is incredibly profound and is dealing with subject matter that is current. The creators of this show are not out to impart life lessons, but the pearls of wisdom they’re dropping can definitely inspire change.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the series so far. Have you read the novel or are you new to this world as I am? Hit the comments below…

American Gods airs Sundays at 9/8c on STARZ.