American Gods – Ep. 2 “The Secret of Spoons”: A Review

Posted: 05/10/2017 in Uncategorized

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Picking up moments where we left off, Neil Gaiman must assuredly be pleased with the end product of this show. Many questioned how faithfully the series would follow the book. The answer is closely but with modifications that actually act as if not improvements, then certainly seamless additions. AG seems to be quickly finding its feet and though still mostly composed of moments rather than a unified plot, the viewer is given the notion that all things are coming together.

Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy/Anansi, the African spider god simply slayed. An original scene not found in the book, this moment delivered fantastically with grim pronouncements as valid today in many cases as they are at the time referenced. Black slaves chained below deck of a ship are led by a man who prays to Anansi for salvation. A multi colored spider scurries by and at the peak of the captive’s lamentation, Mr. Nancy appears. His goal, like that of all elder gods it would seem is not to help but to incite and he does so fantastically. His speech though florid and funny in places culminates with the heart of his message “anger is good, shit gets done with anger”. The end sequence of the scene recalls last week’s viking moment in which the sacrificial aspect of worship is duly illustrated.

A re-visitation of the goddess Bilquis, though derided by some as repetitive, actually moves her narrative along, illustrating that gender is irrelevant to maintaining her worship. Where her victims end up is presented in a mind bending celestial sequence. Her history is lightly touched upon with a cool visual involving jewelry and a sarcophagus of sorts. At this juncture she is more presence than anything else, but Yetide Badaki projects an aura of sensual mystery. Though her part in the novel was brief, I suspect it won’t be so with the series.

The working relationship between Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow (Ricky Whittle) gains due traction and as with the mysterious con man, moments between the two are magic. McShane is formidable. Ignoring his talent as an actor, the manner in which he so easily inhabits a character, particularly one who is shifty, is always tour de force. One can see Shadow warming to him despite his employment getting him beaten and nearly killed by lynching. Wednesday’s calmly telling him that his walking away from such a thing makes him special is apt. Mr. W. inviting him to come into his room to ‘talk about things’ while he clearly is not done being ‘intimate’ with a very young woman is crass and Shadow duly balks in disgust. Shadow’s perspective is our own. Their drive to Chicago with Wednesday’s “no highways ever” rule plays for laughs and his disposing of cell phones obtained by Shadow was damn funny. Wednesday is rhapsodic, lyrical and well, zany.

Gillian Anderson’s introduction as Media, another modern goddess was superb. The intimacy of the novel version of this scene was replaced with bombast and spectacle as she appears to Shadow as a former small screen icon in a warehouse store. The moment troubles Shadow, causing him to wonder if he is indeed losing his mind or if this is the first step to acknowledging another world ‘underneath’. Wednesday’s advice is duly grim and perhaps prescient as he tells Shadow plainly “There are bigger sacrifices one might be asked to make then going a little mad.”

All is not fun and games as Shadow allows for an extra day to clean out his house and go through his deceased wife’s things. Sparse of dialogue, the scene plays well. His cleaning and packing routine along with his quiet sorrow at the discovery on Laura’s (Emily Browning) cell phone allows the viewer to gain an even greater empathy. Shadow is given little to do but makes much of the little he is given. Whittle accomplishes a great deal with quick glances and minimal dialogue. Wednesday’s ‘pep talk’ about moving on is preceded by a warning for which Shadow ‘thanks him’ afterward. The scene is stark, harsh yet brings closure to a degree as the two prepare for their journey.

The visit in Chicago however is where the ep takes off. Absolutely stellar casting, regarding Zorya Vechernyaya played by screen legend (Cloris Leachman) and Slavic god Czernebog played by Peter Stromare –  again simply slays. The banter between Zorya and Wednesday fluctuates between flirtation and vexation. The moments between she and Shadow resonate, from his appreciative glance at her effortlessly downing a bottle of vodka to her thinly veiled smile noting what awaits him in his future. Her pronouncement that “you won’t die of cancer” is gallows humor at its most profound. Between Czernobog and Shadow, there is grace, acceptance and an immediately dark connection. The speaking of the old days and old ways, complete with bloody imagery regarding his hammer brings a nuanced sense of foreboding. The ep ends in a cliffhanger of sorts and the assurance of my joyfully watching the next run. American Gods gets it right, batting it out of the park from its onset, confirming its place as simply outstanding and well worth your time.

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