American Gods 1×02, “The Secret of Spoons” and 1×03, ”Head Full of Snow”

It’s a double-post for American Gods! Episode 2’s Coming to America story introduced Anansi in a manner that doesn’t just strike a chord for black America, it’s the start of a symphony. It was raw, powerful, and true. The rest of the episode moved rather slowly, while Episode 3 had a bit more plot advancement and brought us deeper into the backstage world of the Gods.

Episode one’s cliff-hanger (with an unfortunate emphasis on hang) raised some questions, most of which went unanswered. After escaping his lynching, Shadow demands some clues from Wednesday about what he’s gotten involved in. He gets little in the way of answers,  and things only get weirder for the man who wishes the world would ignore him.

While running errands for Wednesday, Shadow finds himself talking to the titular character of I Love Lucy. Welcome Media, played by Gillian Anderson. She offers Shadow a job working for the New Gods. Though Shadow barely understands the war he’s walked into, he passes on Media’s temptations:

I suppose, compared to the first episode, “Spoons” is actually rather slow. As a huge fan of the novel I keep getting lost in the excitement rather than focusing on it with a critical eye. What physically happens in this episode could be summed up in a few meager sentences, yet there’s a lot going on emotionally: Shadow mourning Laura and finding concrete evidence of her affair with Robbie, the struggling Slavic Gods in Chicago, and we get another glimpse at the life of Bilquis. Though plenty of worshippers (male AND female) find their way to her bed-altar, a tear falls down the goddess’s cheek. She is not the idol she once was. Bilquis visits a museum only reminds her further how abandoned she is: an exhibit has adornments from her past on display, but they’re arranged incorrectly.

Like the first episode, “Spoons” builds up to a point of suspense, then leaves one hanging. Thankfully, this time not literally. After Wednesday’s attempts to rally Czernobog to his side fall flat, Shadow accepts a challenge over a game of checkers. If Shadow wins, Czernobog will join. But the episode ends with Shadow’s loss, meaning Czernobog gets to hit him in the head with his hammer.

Episode three, “Head Full of Snow” introduces Mr. Jackal AKA Anubis in its cold open. He guides the spirit of a recently deceased woman outside her apartment and up a fire escape to the sky that becomes a desert landscape. After weighing the deeds of her life, Anubis lets her choose the door to her afterlife.

Zorya P. offers Shadow a new coin of protection

Back in Chicago, Shadow awakes and follows a mysterious woman up the fire escape to the roof. He properly meets Zorya Polunochnaya, the third sister who lives with Czernobog. Meanwhile Wednesday flirts with Zorya Utrennaya, who can tell that the old hustler has put something into motion.

After his chat with the midnight sister, Shadow wakes up and challenges Czernobog to another game of checkers. He plays upon the god’s ego, suggesting he may not be able to kill Shadow in one blow.  Czernobog takes the bait and accepts that if he loses this second game, he will join Wednesday’s cause and take his blow against Shadow later.

Elsewhere in America, a struggling Muslim businessman named Salim recognizes his cab driver as a divine being: an Ifrit, also known as a Djinn. The two feel a connection, not just as immigrants, but the kind that leads to the bedroom. After a night of passion, Salim finds the Ifrit gone, having taken Salim’s clothes and identity. Salim does the same with the abandoned cab driver identity, arguably happier than before?

The Ifrit in episode 2, clearly after his encounter with Salim in episode 3

Meanwhile, Mad Sweeney is down on his luck, literally. The self-described leprechaun searches frantically for a particular gold coin, realizing he gave it to Shadow after their last encounter. Bad luck follows Sweeney as he hitchhikes to Chicago, including a gruesome accident for the good Samaritan who offered him a ride. After another tense conversation, Shadow tells Sweeney he can find the coin at his wife’s grave.

Wednesday enlists Shadow’s hell in a low-key bank robbery by asking Shadow to think of snow. To Shadow’s surprise and confusion it does, which prompts some heavy discussion later on between the two about faith and evidence. Shadow never believed in love until Laura turned his world upside down. Which she’s still doing: while Mad Sweeney digs up an empty casket, Laura Moon greets Shadow in his motel room.

What are your thoughts on American Gods so far?

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