American Gods: “The Secret of Spoons” Season 1 Episode 2 Review

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With introductions out of the way, American Gods improved with its second outing. Filled to the brim with insane visuals and entrapping editing, “The Secret of the Spoons” is a slow burn delight from start to finish. However, it does point to a potential ongoing problem for the show, which is the rate at which information trickles out. Bilquis’ role, for example, is hardly expanded here, with the second entry merely just showing a gorgeous montage of her “feeding.” The show is obviously setting up for more down the line, but how long will it remain slow?

At least Shadow Moon’s characterization felt a little smoother this time around. We see him finishing his grieving process for his adulterous wife and then getting in the car with Mr. Wednesday without looking back. Their dynamic is fun while on the road, set up like the classic mentor/mentee relationships of sagas like Star Wars and Harry Potter with a rousingly cynical, pitch black twist.

But it’s also how the show’s mysterious other figures are interacting with Shadow Moon that keeps his quest for information engaging. The showstopper of the episode was obviously Gillian Anderson showing up as Lucille Ball on the TVs at the department store. She waxes philosophical about the twin golden ages of the gods’ existence, presumably, all while Fuller wags the two golden ages of TV in a stirring cross pollination in this single scene. Anderson’s character centers on the new gods opposed to Mr. Wednesdays potential rallying cry. But which side is Shadow Moon to side with?

Mr. Wednesday’s recruitment process makes a compelling argument not to stand beside him, as by episode’s end, it could get Shadow Moon killed. We meet Zorya (Cloris f*cking Leachman), a crabby old associate of Wednesday’s, and her housemate Czernobog (a chilling Peter Stormare), the later of which challenges Shadow to a game of checkers that could cost him his life. Shadow loses the game and we’re left with a promise that his head will face Czernobog’s hammer in the morning. It’s a rousing cliffhanger that proves American Gods is doing something right with Shadow’s characterization, in that I cared.

All that said, the episode’s discussion of race must be addressed. Oddly sidelined between the rousing opening scene on the ship to Czernobog’s disturbing anecdotes, it’s unclear what American Gods plans to do with its racial overtones in the future, but this introduction to them is wonky at best. The opening scene is proudly stirring, in its own violent way, but Czernobog’s comments are just uncomfortable, and not in a way that feels natural but one that makes me wonder why this fantasy about gods is tackling it this way. This is another product of the show’s slow delivery of information.

But hey, there isn’t a second of this episode that isn’t engaging. American Gods could very well be one of those shows that, once in its groove, the early episodes improve from the context they’ll receive later on. This show as it is currently is riveting and gorgeous, the only thing in question is the value of what it’s trying to say. For now, it gets the benefit of the doubt. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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