Previously on American Gods, “The Bone Orchard”
Coming to America 1693
African slaves (originating from what is present-day Ghana) aboard a ship bound for America are visited by Anansi (Orlando Jones), a cunning god. He offers freedom through knowledge of the atrocities awaiting them in the New World now, and for generations to come. Only when they are properly enraged does he break the chains and encourages them to slit the throats of their oppressors and “let the motherfucker burn.” And as it does, Anansi, now in the form of a spider, makes his way ashore.
I was skeptical of this casting as I pictured this character, who we will most certainly see again, much older. But Orlando Jones did that. At times mischievous trickster, flamboyant charlatan, and impassioned minister — you could not take your eyes off of him. Also, he delivered a line so good I’m jealous I didn’t write it.
“The only good news is the tobacco your grandkids are gonna farm for free is going to give a shitload of these white motherfuckers cancer.”
I cannot wait until we see Anansi again.
“Sudden onset of strange. Fair cause for consternation, unless strange is a new language and what we’re doing here is vocabulary building.”
American Gods has a tricky job right now. It has to slowly peel back the layers of its world in a way that keeps us intrigued, so we’re discovering its secrets with Shadow (though, we’re a bit ahead of him at the moment), but in a way that we don’t think he’s a complete moron for either a) not asking enough/the right questions or b) continuing to travel with Mr. Wednesday despite a near-lynching. So far, I give them high marks.
Shadow believes his kidnapping took place in a “virtual limo,” and that Mr. Wednesday had something to do with the massacre that saved his life. Wednesday knows of Technical Boy and won’t let the offense go unanswered, and that’s all he’ll say. He seems surprised by the how of Shadow’s escape, but not by the fact that he was in trouble to begin with. Perhaps Shadow should have pushed for answers, but he’s also tasked with putting his wife’s affairs in order so we’ll forgive him that.
He spends the rest of their time in Eagle Point cleaning the house he once shared with Laura (until his fingers bleed) and packing up her belongings (until he finds a Robbie dick pic). He’s more than ready to leave this part of his life behind, but with Laura visiting him in his dreams, that will prove difficult.
On the road, Shadow seems more amused by Mr. Wednesday than confused by him. Wednesday comes off as a cranky, slick-tongued horn dog who also happens to be a tad old-fashioned — they won’t be taking highways to Chicago and he tosses Shadow’s cellphone (and the one Shadow bought for him) out the car window.
The otherworldly weirdness gets harder to ignore when Lucille Ball (Gillian Anderson) speaks to Shadow through the televisions in a store. Unlike Technical Boy, she is less concerned with knowing what Wednesday is up to, and focuses more on recruiting Shadow to her side. The biggest question after what the hell are they preparing for is, do they want Shadow because Shadow is important or is it because he appears to be important to Mr. Wednesday?
Before we get to Chicago, where Wednesday hopes to pick up his hammer, we check in on Bilquis. She’s seducing men and women, absorbing their worship and them. The act leaves her in tears at one point and this sadness carries over to her visit to a museum where she finds a statue in her likeness. Yetide Badaki has no lines in any of these scenes this week, but she didn’t need any to convey pride, then sadness, then “I want my shit back” as she stares at a display of her jewelry. Also, such a nice touch when the velvety material upon which the jewelry laid rose and took Bilquis’ form. It was one of two scenes that felt both sensual and creepy as hell.
Their hosts in Chicago aren’t too pleased to see Mr. Wednesday, even though he arrives bearing gifts: vodka, chugged quickly and completely, for Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman); romance novels for her sister, Zorya Utrennyaya (Martha Kelly); and a pair of binoculars for the sleeping and unseen sister, Zorya Polunochnaya. Zorya V. correctly predicts that their relative, Czernobog (Peter Stormare), will feel less than hospitable as well.
After a long day slaughtering cows, dealing with Wednesday is the last thing Czernobog wants, and he wants to get involved with whatever Wednesday has planned even less. Still, they’ve already been invited to dinner so he stomachs Wednesday’s company while turning everyone else’s stomach reliving his glory days of killing cows with a hammer.
It appears Czernobog warms to the visitors when he invites Shadow to play a game of checkers, but things get awkward real quick when he puts a wager on the game: if he loses, he’ll accompany Wednesday and Shadow on their mission, but if he wins, he gets to hit Shadow in the head with his beloved hammer. Unsure of what’s real and what’s not, Shadow accepts the challenge and loses. Gulp.
Is Good? (And Other Bits of Note)
The premiere gave Bilquis a helluva introduction, but this week outdid itself with impressive first impressions of Anansi/Mr. Nancy, Czernobog, Media/Lucille Ball, and the Zorya sisters. The way Ian McShane laughs after Cloris Leachman delivers the line, “You are the worst man I have ever seen,” makes me feel like the line was improvised. Even if it wasn’t, the exchange was such a nice touch and had a serious “don’t bullshit a bullshitter” vibe.
Stormare has been perfectly cast as Czernobog. It would be easy to dismiss him as all-talk and bluster when we first meet him; he certain plays it with a bit of drunken bravado. But once he starts caressing a massive hammer dripping with blood (the other scary/sensual scene), you’re suddenly very afraid for Shadow’s skull.
So many great lines in this episode. Lucille’s pitch to Shadow is basically, “Get with the cool kids, kid” and she talks of how she and the other new gods are today and tomorrow while Wednesday and his ilk aren’t even yesterday anymore. Czernobog talks of growing up in the old country with his brother who was light and fair, therefore everyone assumed he was the “good one.” Czernobog, dark of hair, says, “So, I became me.” And every line from Mr. Wednesday in the diner, after Shadow claims he might be going crazy, was gold.
Lots of talk of the tragedy of being forgotten.
Interesting framed constellation chart in the Chicago apartment.
Mr. Wednesday met with an old god, seen briefly walking past Shadow in the diner, with flames in his eyes. Hmmm. Who’s that?
You can find more information on where some of the characters are derived below. They may be a bit spoilery, so if you don’t want to know who these characters represent in religion and literature, stay away.
American Gods S1E2
"The Secret of Spoons"
Starring: Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Pablo Schreiber, Crispin Glover, Gillian Anderson, Demore Barnes, Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare, Kristin Chenoweth, Orlando Jones