Just like another chosen one, in American Gods 1X02 “The Secret of the Spoon,”Shadow gets his fortune told and finds out…there is no spoon
Mr. Ibis started us off with another coming to America story this week, and this one is is deeply connected to where Shadow found himself at the end of “The Bone Orchard.” A group of Africans are traveling in the bowels of a slave ship, and one of the men begins praying to his god, Anansi. The deity appears in human form and confuses them with a diatribe about their future imprisonment and generations of prejudice. He then incenses them to rise up against their oppressors, turning back into a spider and watching as the entire ship become engulfed in flames. Meanwhile, Bilquis continues her worship binge through act after act of sexual congress, absorbing each individual as they proclaim her glory. Her hunger temporarily sated, she visits a museum to stare longingly at a statue of her and a perfectly preserved set of her body jewelry is on display.
Shadow Moon’s first day as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard saw him nearly losing his life by lynching, and unfortunately for him, it is only the beginning. After a less than sympathetic reception from his employer back at the hotel, Shadow manages to clean himself up in time to come face-to-face with his deceased (maybe) wife. Soon, he leaves his past behind to drive Mr. Wednesday to Chicago to meet up with the first of his many mysterious colleagues. During a break, Shadow meets the second of the new gods, Media, who luckily opts for a hands-off approach to introducing herself. Once in Chicago, they become guests of the three Zorya sisters, who make a living telling fortunes for those who seek them. The arrival of their companion, Czernobog, signals the start of a bizarre evening filled with stories about his cow killing days, a chewy dinner, and a high stakes checkers game.
While there might not have been a spoon in sight, there were many other details that clamored for our attention in “The Secret of Spoon.” So, without further ado, let’s get started by meeting our roundtable:
Sky (@MzSkyZy) – Book fan, Bureaucrat and Admin on the American Gods Wiki
Romancia (@RomanciaSays) – TV newbie, Editor-in-Chief at TVAfterDark
Jennifer (@Storytellingdoc) – TV newbie, Author, Doctor, and Senior Writer at TVAfterDark
Debbie (American_GodsUK) – Book fan, runs UK-based fan account for American Gods
Valerie (@valderie) – Book fan, media student, professional fangirl, and tweets for TVAfterDark
1. Are we at all curious why Shadow Moon sees things no one else around him can both awake and asleep? Is this why he was chosen, or can he see them because he was chosen?
Sky (@MzSkyzy): It’s not so much that Shadow has a special ability; it’s that the veil is purposefully being lifted from Shadow’s eyes. Wednesday hints at this in the monologue he gives to Shadow in the diner when Shadow asks him if he’s going crazy: “Strange is a new language and what we’re doing here is vocabulary building.”
The conversation in the diner leads into their meet-up with the Zoryas and Czernobog. Wednesday’s and Zorya Vechernyaya’s discussion about “easing him in” to their world lends credence that this is commonplace for them but not so commonplace for Shadow. This is also why Shadow ultimately agrees with Czernobog’s wager because, in the diner, Wednesday told him he could either fight it or accept it and he’s choosing to accept it.
Romancia (@RomanciaSays): This show is strange and I feel that little bit of crazy that Shadow talked about with Wednesday. It does seem that Shadow certainly is becoming more aware with each old gods he is introduced too. Ohhh…that last questions is good and I never thought of him as been “chosen” but now I believe it was because he was chosen.
Jennifer (@StoryTellingDoc): I feel as though there’s something within Shadow that grants him the ability to see beyond what our eyes perceive. Whether he realizes it or not, there’s a reason why Wednesday chose him, and why all the people they’ve encountered openly speak with him. I think the fact that he was already dreaming surreal images while in prison shows us that he’s more than just the ordinary human, and as time goes on, I think he’ll figure that out too!
Debbie (@AmericanGods_UK): Personally I think he can see them because he was chosen. Shadow didn’t really start seeing things until he threw his lot in with Mr. Wednesday. Whilst the mead was used to seal their accord, taking this libation may have also sent Shadow on the path to altered perceptions. In agreeing to be by the god’s side, he would need to perceive things that sit outside of normal human consciousness, in order to be an effective tool for Mr. Wednesday. I think it all falls under the blanket of Mr. Wednesday’s manipulative strategy.
Valerie (@valderie): There’s definitely something bigger going on with Shadow that we’re not privy to yet. In this episode, Media says Technical Boy is underestimating Shadow, and that “they all are”. That makes me think, even more so, that we shouldn’t underestimate Shadow either.
2. Gaiman is obviously known for his talent for creating memorable quotes. Was there one in particular that made you sit back and shake your head at its ingenuity?
Sky: My favorite line in this episode is actually not in the book. It’s when Shadow and Wednesday are in the diner and Wednesday tells Shadow with a Cheshire cat grin that, “there are bigger sacrifices one might be asked to make than going a little mad.”
Romancia: Anansi played by Orlando Jones was incredible. I’m crushing on that Trickster! After just coming off that lynching in episode one, then Mr. Nancy’s entrance I was utterly captivated and there are two quotes that really stuck with me in this episode. “You all get to be slaves, split off and worked to death.“ and “100 years later. You’re fucked. 100 years after that, Fucked! 100 years after you get free, you still getting fucked out of jobs and shot at.” Both passionately delivered by Orlando.
Jennifer: Man, that’s a hard one, but I would have to say that one of my favorites is the one spoken by Zorya Vechernyaya at dinner. “Family is who you survive with when you need to survive, even if you do not like them.” It shows us that family is not defined solely by blood, and sometimes those who are most important come into your life in unexpected ways.
Debbie: There are some great, quotable moments in American Gods, but to make sure I stay spoiler free, I would have to go with Technical Boy, from episode one: “Tell him that we fucking reprogrammed reality. Tell him that language is a virus and that religion is an operating system and that prayers are just so much fucking spam.” It is clever, and encapsulated Tech Boy’s malicious, self-absorbed nature in a single piece of witty dialogue.
Valerie: There were so many great quotes from the book, that I’m so pleased to have heard through the show! However, I think the best ones are the hilarious ones. Lucille Ball asking Shadow if he wants to see her tits genuinely made me laugh out loud.
3. Obviously, we know from the title that those we are encountering are gods and goddesses. How do we feel about the portrayal of the old versus new?
Sky: I’ve read the novel and one of the things I’ve always loved is how Gaiman plays around with the Theory of Forms and who these “real” forms of the gods are. The imagery used for Technical Boy and now Media vs. how we’re introduced to Mad Sweeney and Czernobog sets these two groups of gods clearly apart. The New are mysterious and broad, encompassing big ideas and generic worship. The Old are individual and personal, yet this makes them limited in their scope and number of supplicants.
Romancia: After talking on our Nerdeek Life podcast with a few guests about disliking the technical boy character and how he reminds me of Joffrey in Game of Thrones. I came to this conclusion, I’m currently worshipping tech boy, this god, 24/7/365 days non-stop. Technology has just opened up so much that I can’t but wonder, how, Mr. Wednesday plans to win this war.
Jennifer: I’m not going to lie. As much as I love Mr. Wednesday’s cheeky nature, I cannot say I wouldn’t be swayed by Media. It’s enough that she comes to Shadow in the form of one of my favorite comedic actresses, Lucille Ball, but she’s played by the stunning and insanely talented Gillian Anderson! I already read in the cast interview that she’s going to be doing David Bowie, and I’m already quivering with excitement!
Debbie: Although we have only encountered two new gods so far, I think their vibrancy is obvious when pitched against the old gods. Even in black and white, there was still a brightness to Media that shone through. Both her and Tech boy have been portrayed with a clean, crispness, whilst there is a palpable weariness to the old gods. They are in muted tones, even the reds used for Bilquis seem to be dulled. That said, it’s never overtly shiny and new versus old and wrinkled. It’s more subtle than that. I’m looking forward to the introduction of more gods to see if this continues.
Valerie: I AM OBSESSED WITH IT! I love that the old gods are actually older, and the new ones are younger. I love the scope of the gods, the countries, and cultures they represent. It’s endlessly fascinating. When I originally read the book I did a lot of research into who these characters were.
4. What do we think was the real point of the killing floor story Czernobog tells his guests? It’s obviously not just about cows…
Sky: Czernobog loves his death and violence. He was reliving his glory days and was enjoying upsetting everyone’s dinner in the process. It’s one small way for him to still feel powerful when he has become so weak with lack of being worshiped.
Romancia: Another moment when I feel I needed to be high. Ha! I haven’t figured out what old god is Czernobog. I saw the hammer and thought, hmmm…maybe he’s Thor. He’s from Russia where they apparently don’t have a lot of black folks there and Shadow goes and takes a bet with this guy. I can’t believe he took him seriously. I can’t believe that this god is going to kill Shadow, if anything Mr. Wednesday wouldn’t allow that.
Jennifer: It’s obvious to me that Czernobog feels as though telling the story brings him back to his life as a fearsome god. I feel like it’s also a reminder/warning to Wednesday as well, telling him that he’s not one to be pushed around. Czernobog is a bad man, but he does not feel guilt about that. Instead, he revels in the “work” that he did and takes great pride in being known for it. In a way, reciting the story gives Wednesday a way in, since hearing the nostalgia in his tone makes it easy to guess that he misses being that person.
Debbie: Czernobog wants Shadow to understand what and who he is and that he has a history that is steeped in blood. However “Every monkey with a thumb can kill”, shows Czernobog’s disdain for the fact that killing is too easy now. It’s his way of saying that you don’t need to get your hands dirty anymore, it has become impersonal, which for him, takes away the enjoyment. I think it also serves as an allegory for the loss of skilled craftsmanship to automation and mass production, as this would also hold a mirror up to the old gods being “replaced” by the new in the underlying theme of the story. However, it may also relate to the way humans can be brutal and murderous from a distance now, thanks to modern technology.
Valerie: I think it wets the whistle a little bit. A job as a knocker hints at Czernobog’s hammer, and his skills. “To give good death is art” is what he says, so death/killing definitely plays into his mythology. It also hints at what he’d like to do to Shadow! AH!
5. Can you believe that Orlando Jones started as a comedian on Mad TV? What did you think of his turn as Mr. Nancy/Anansi?
Sky: I’ve loved Orlando Jones since the 7-Up commercials and Office Space. I loved him on Sleepy Hollow. I will never not love Orlando Jones but I think I might love him most as Mr. Nancy. That whole opening monolog gave me chills and brought tears. It was a call to arms that there comes a point where even death is preferable.
It ties into the larger story because, on the heels of Anansi’s speech, we’re brought to present day where Shadow is hanging from the noose, a powerful reminder of what it’s like to be Black in America. It’s sobering when he asks for no cops after being violently assaulted and almost murdered because the sad truth of the American police state is he would be the one punished for it, being both Black and an ex-con. (Which would he have even been imprisoned if he weren’t Black?)
Romancia: What? Was he a comedian? You may be thinking of Arsenio Hall. Orlando Jones has such a vibrant and authentic personality, he’s quite the showman as well and that most definitely comes across in this character. One thing I did find shockingly with his character, is that I’m afraid of him as that damn spider. Anyone else feels that creepy hypnotism?
Jennifer: Having originally been introduced to him on MadTV, I have to say that I’ve watched him grow in talent with every role he plays. His take on Mr. Nancy takes his over-the-top style (which you saw even as a comedian) and give it a very dark twist. He happily walks the thin line between righteousness and insanity, and we’re left with no choice but to worship his madness!
Debbie: Orlando is a diverse actor that really deserves recognition. I could not think of a better person to play Mr Nancy, and he definitely hasn’t let us down. That scene was brutally honest and portrayed with so much righteous venom. It was a game changer. This is what good tv should be. It challenges the audience with sometimes uncomfortable truths.
Valerie: I honestly wasn’t super familiar with Orlando Jones prior to American Gods, but I’d be happy to worship Mr. Nancy! His performance was powerful, and striking. I loved how he moved within the space of the ship too, creeping, sliding, long and everywhere like a spider.
6. What is your opinion of the choice to have discordant music pairings with the scenes? Was it distracting or add to the overall feel of the show?
Sky: Usually, I don’t really notice music unless it’s awful and jars me out of the story. With American Gods, I notice the music because the song selection and the musical accompaniments set and build a tone for each scene. It creates an unmatched audio-visual stimulation that overloads the senses and alters your state of consciousness.
Jennifer: It was definitely jarring, but it also made me sit up and pay attention. I’m so used to music that blends into the scene and drives the emotionality, but the music actually kept me from completely falling into the events I was watching. I think that’s genius, because I suspect it is what Shadow feels like – seeing things happen but not quite feeling completely connected to what is going on.
Debbie: I think that Brian Reitzell’s work can sometimes be divisive. He makes brave unusual choices for the sound mixes and music which, although cleverly paired to sequences can sometimes feel alienating. I think that without Brian’s music, the show would have a very different feel, but it is sometimes jarring. That said, I think it aims to purposefully make the audience unsettled perhaps to me more attuned to the uneasiness of the characters themselves in certain scenes. It’s probably not a score I could listen to in isolation, but I did enjoy the eastern European-inflected music for the Zorya’s scenes.
Valerie: Oh god no I adore the music. Hannibal was similar with odd, but beautiful music soundtracking its scenes but it added so much depth. The music does the same thing here. It calls and responds to the action, it throws us off, it comforts us, it foreshadows next scenes (how perfect was the song about the hammer playing in the car while Wednesday and Shadow drove to Chicago?!)
7. We know that with a show like this, details really matter. Was there one that really stuck out to you as important?
Sky: When Mr. Wednesday firmly tells Shadow, “no highways” and later on tosses the cell phones out the window. As we see with Media’s powers of taking over any television, that means there are certainly Highway and Telephone gods Wednesday is looking to avoid.
Jennifer: I would say that it was the shopping list Shadow was given when he first met Media. I loved that it later tied into the gifts that he gave the Zoryas and Czernobog, because they seemed so random at the time. I also liked the bit with the dandelion and how Wednesday came to its defense as a beautiful thing rather than a nuisance.
Debbie: I think the choice of songs in this episode were actually quite important. If you have a look at the origins and story behind the Bob Dylan track, and the lyrics for it and the and Credence Clearwater Revival song used, they give insight into what we could see from the story going forward. With showrunners like Bryan and Michael, I am sure their musical choices were painstakingly made, and not just because they thought they were solid, well-made tracks, but for the stories, they themselves tell.
Valerie: The colors of Mr. Nancy’s jacket. The shape Shadow’s tea leaves made. The symbolism in the checkers game of black and white.
Final Verdict: Shadow Moon may not want to know his fortune, but we’re pretty sure American Gods “The Secret of Spoon” will be a hit
After seeing this episode, it’s pretty clear that Fuller and the rest of American Gods has every intention of fulfilling Gaiman’s vision for the show – no matter how crazy, polarizing, or controversial it might be! While some parts might not make sense (yet) and the imagery vivid as can be, it kept us firmly in our seats with our mouths hanging open. We appreciated the unflinching look at what happens when a man has to deal with the secrets his wife kept from him in life, and how that drives him to the brink of despair. After all, it’s the only thing we can think of that would convince us to risk sticking our heads under Czernobog’s hammer! On top of that, the sarcastic quips between Wednesday and Zorya Vechernyaya had us rolling in our seats, so let’s hope next episode will gift us with more moments like that!