Black Gods Matter | American Gods Recap
American Gods | Episode 102 | 'The Secret of Spoons' | Aired May 7, 2017
This article is our recap of the second episode of American Gods on Starz. Our recap of episode 1 can is here.
Coming To America - 1697
This episode's prolog introduces us to Orlando Jone's Anansi, known as Mr. Nancy. Anansi is an African trickster god who takes the form of a spider. We are presented to him on board a slaver's ship. A captured man is chained up, praying to Anansi for help. He says that he can't sing or dance or provide an offering, but that he needs Anansi's help now more than ever.
"Help me from this place and I will sing to you all my life".
Anansi, the spider, climbs down the ship towards the man. Then, suddenly, Anansi is a man. Anansi is known for telling stories. That's part of how he can pull his tricks and create mischief in the stories about him. Orlando Jones' Mr. Nancy starts off with a different kind of story. A compelling, soul-rattling story that leads into a strange monolog."One upon a time, a man got fucked. Now, how is that for a story? Because that's the story of black people in America". This monolog is astounding. We knew McShane was going to be great. But this is excellent. Nancy turns back into the spider after breaking a few chains and telling the would be slaves to burn the ship. Better to die as a sacrifice to something.
"One upon a time, a man got fucked. Now, how is that for a story? Because that's the story of black people in America".
Jones' performance as Anansi in this opening scene is incredible. He is only the second god to whom we've been properly introduced. And it's quickly become apparent how Bryan Fuller wants to separate his gods from his mortal characters. The dialogue, the charisma, and the sense of panache coming off the gods are palpable. We knew McShane was going to be great, but it seems like that was just a sample of how all our gods are going to behave. Describing Jones' performance wouldn't do it justice, so a clip of the scene is provided below.
Mourning the Dead
The main story of the episode picks up exactly where the left episode left off. Shadow is falling from the tree, and the blood of the thugs is still splattering through the air. We jump forward in time very quickly though. Shadow is at a doctor's office. The doctor staples up his wounds and asks if his attackers shot at him. The doctor says that, if there was gunplay, the doctor is obligated to call the police.
Shadow reports back to Wednesday's, telling him all about his encounter with the Technical Boy earlier in the night. Wednesday is clearly frustrated, but not nearly as angry as Shadow. Shadow says Wednesday that he was lynched, but Wednesday points out that he fell, which isn't how lynchings typically end. Wednesday offers Shadow twice as much money and tells him that they will have revenge on the Technical Boy.
Returning to his room, Shadow takes a bubble bath to try and relax.He places his ring on the edge of the tub and tries to relax. As he lays down in bed to try and get some sleep, the door to his room opens up. And in walks Shadow's dead wife, Laura. But, suddenly, Shadow wakes up, and Laura isn't there. He lays in bed and weeps for his dead wife.
Leaving Eagle Point
The next morning, Shadow goes to the home he shared with Laura. Laura had started to decorate for the party, and now the celebration has an odd sense of macabre. Shadow sees all the time he missed with Laura. He sees her in the kitchen and the bedroom. But of course, she's not there.
As Shadow pack up everything important into a few boxes, there's one box he won't touch. The box of Laura's things from the coroner sits on the bed, filled with Laura's thing. Her wedding ring, her cell phone. Shadow's will breaks, and he opens it up. He reads her texts from Robbie. He finds a picture of Robbie's penis. Suddenly the picture is everywhere Shadow looks. Shadow cleans the house obsessively like he's trying to scrub the image from his mind.
Shadow tells Wednesday that he's ready to leave and he won't miss Eagle Point. There are too many Laura memories here. Wednesday tells Shadow there's a lot to be said for bottling up emotions. He says he's heard rumors of Laura's death. Wednesday means that based on the stories he's heard, Shadow is only obligated to feel sad for so long. Sadow gets into the car, and Wednesday plucks a dandelion.
On the Road in America
In the car, Wednesday asks Shadow why he does coin tricks. He points out that Shadow doesn't really have the personality to be a magician. Shadow doesn't have a real answer. Then Wednesday begins to explain his plan to Shadow. The pair of them will meet with a number of people "preeminent in their fields." Then they'll be going to one of the most important places in the country. But first, they have to go to Chicago, apparently to get Wednesday's hammer.
Wednesday has a meeting in a diner and sends Shadow to Wal-Mart. He picks up some maps, some notebooks, and some vodka. In the TV section, Lucy Ricardo starts talking to Shadow. She is the New God Media, but she has taken the form of Lucy, complete with sound effects and a laugh track. Shadow isn't interested in hearing what Media has to say, so he unplugs the TVs. But Lucy comes right back on.
"They sit side by side, ignore each other, and give it up to me."
Media wants to hire Shadow away from Wednesday. She says that the New Gods are the future. Wednesday isn't even yesterday anymore. Media says the Technical Boy underestimated Shadow, but that's not a mistake she'll make. She offers to give him more than anyone else will. Media seems honest when she says she's trying to help because she's seen things and guys like Shadow. She says those guys end up a suicide every time. She warns Shadow to "Keep [his] neck out of the belt."
Back at the diner, Wednesday's meeting went alright. Shadow tells Wednesday he thinks he's losing his mind. He says Wednesday about his talk with an episode of I Love Lucy. Wednesday says the universe has singled Shadow out for a particular adventure. Shadow has to decide if the world is either crazy or if he is. Wednesday says the best thing Shadow can do is to pick one or the other, then move on.
"There are bigger sacrifices one might be asked to make, than going a little mad."
Shadow bought Wednesday a cell phone. Wednesday throws it out the window. He throws Shadow's out too and then starts to complain about the information age. Wednesday waxes poetic about the age of the telegraph. Say what you will about Bryan Fuller and Neil Gaiman. They are both very particular kinds of men with very specific aesthetics. But they can write the hell out of a good script
The Queen of Sheeba
Suddenly, the camera flies up into outer space. We see a naked man who has a very prominent erection. Then, suddenly, we're flying across lightyears of space, away from that man, into the Queen of Sheebah's bedroom. She seems to have just gotten done with another lover. We see her put a couple more through their paces. Men and women. Then she lays on her bed, satisfied.
In a museum, we see a statue of her. She appreciates it for a moment and then turns to the other side of the room. There is a case filled with very expensive looking jewelry. She becomes the velvet in the case into the shape of her body. The jewelry fits. Apparently, she has filled herself up with enough life to achieve her goal.
In Chicago, Shadow and Wednesday have some new friends. Well, Shadow has new friends. Wednesday apparently knows the three sisters as he showers them with gifts and compliments. The eldest sister warns Wednesday that "he" will not be happy to see the travelers.
When "he" returns home, it turns out that "he" is Czernobog. And he is definitely not pleased to see Wednesday. He throws a lamp at the one eyed god. But Wednesday convinces Czernabog to let them stay with the always popular gift of Bree cheese. While Wednesday and Czernobog catch up, the sisters read Shadow's fortune. Even though the sisters have been braging about their ability to lie about fotunes, they are too shocked to tell Shadow what they see.
Czernobog is still unhappy about seeing Wednesday. But Wednesday needs Czernobog to come on the adventure. Aparently everyone will be there. And Wednesday needs Czernobog to show them what strength actually looks like. Czernobog is wise to his flattery though, and says that Wednesday actually wants Czernobog's brother.
At dinner, we find out more about Czernobog's brother. Czernobog tells a story about growing up. He tells Shadow that in Eastern Europe, when they were growing up, most everyone had the same skin color. So they found other ways to hate people. Czernobog says that brother had a very light complexion. And Czernobog had a dark complexion, so they assumed he was the bad one. So Czernobog decideed to be the bad one. But now, after so many years, they are both grey.
"So much for killing."
Czernobog talks about working in meat packing. He used to kill cows by knocking them in the back of the head with a hammer. To do it right you need to be strong and talented. It's important, Czernobog says, to crush the brain to give the cow a good death. But now they have a machine that does the job.
The Secret of Spoons
After dinner, Czernobog challenges Shadow to a game of checkers. The men agree that checkers is an honest game where every man is an equel. Wednesday tells Shadow he doesn't have to play, but Shadow accepts. Czernobog says he will play as black, alluding to his speech from earlier. In the game, Czernobog draws first blood, and then asks if Shadow wants to see the hammer that he used to kill.
He brings out the hammer and Wednesday puts down his newspaper. As Czernobog holds the hammer, Shadow starts to see blood flowing down from the top of it. Czernobog finishes telling his story about killing with the hammer, and props it up next to the checker board.
Czernobog says the men should make a bet on their checkers game. If Czernobog loses, he will go with Wednesday and Shadow. If Czernobog wins, he gets to knock Shadow's brains out with the hammer. Shadow still isn't even 100% sure any of this is real. But he says okay to the bet.
The two play their game into the night. Czernabog hums "The Secret of Spoons" to the thunder outside. Eventually the game comes to an end, and Chernabog wins.
"At sunrise, I get to knock your brains out. And you will go down on your knees willingly. Is good. A shame. You're my only black friend."
From Orlando Jones' opening monologue on slaver, to Czernabog's story about dark being bad, this episode is filled thoughts about race. Even the decision to cast Shadow as black makes the lynching scene even more impactful. Then there's the Queen of Sheeba, who we see trying to reclaim what is hers. The fact that Bryan Fuller is using as light a medium as a Fantasy novel adaptation to take on real issues in our time is amazing. And even better is the fact that he's doing it so well.
American Gods airs on Starz on Sunday nights at 9pm.