Spoilers for episode 2 of American Gods follow! You have been warned.
After the mind-bending WTF-ery of the American Gods season premiere, things mostly fall into a more linear place in “The Secret Of Spoons.” However, for the life of me I can’t figure out why it’s called that—perhaps something to do with how the Zorya sisters read Shadow’s fortune in his coffee grinds? Oh well, maybe Bryan Fuller will tweet an explanation and we can all discover it as a group. In the meantime, there are plenty more juicy, confusing details to digest in this episode:
Coming to America
Obviously, there’s no way to cover the many ways people find themselves in America without talking about the slave trade; the book does it as well, but certainly not with as much punch as the show. Here we’re also introduced to Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), a.k.a. the trickster god Anansi, who is both spider and man. While the deity's origins are based in Ghanaian folklore, he’s also an important figure in other West African cultures and in the Caribbean, having been brought there by slaves.
However, Mr. Nancy’s goal in riling his followers to mutiny may be more than just righteous fury—note the wording he uses to convince them to kill themselves, that their “sacrifice” will serve a greater purpose. In American Gods, the gods require two things to survive: belief, and sacrifice. He’s certainly dead-on about the severe mistreatment of black people in America, but make no mistake about it, he benefits directly from these deaths.
Emily Browning’s been doing all the same press junkets as everybody else, so if you thought she wasn’t coming back despite the fact that her character is already dead, I’m not sure what to tell you. Here, however, her presence consists of mere dreams and flashbacks, and straightforward ones at that—no supernatural antics to be found here, just a man grieving for his wife. Speaking of which, look closely at the Motel America shirt Shadow is wearing while he packs up the house: it has a buffalo on it, like the one who spoke to him in the last episode.
I Love Lucy
— Gillian Anderson (@GillianA) April 30, 2017
While picking up supplies for Mr. Wednesday, Shadow has a run in with Media (Gillian Anderson), and finds that the god of television is doing quite well for herself; as she tells Shadow (and us, the viewers of this TV show right here), “Time and attention are better than lambs’ blood” for sacrifices. The setup of this scene deviates wildly from the book, where Media corners Shadow while he’s watching TV at a motel, but the actual conversation they have is practically word-for-word in places—yes, including the line about which, er, parts of Lucy Shadow might want to see. She wants to offer Shadow a job, but the fact that she’s spouting all the same rhetoric as the Technical Boy definitely doesn’t seem to sit well with him.
We’ll learn more about the guy Wednesday met with while Shadow was at the store in a few episodes, trust me. Until then, all you need to know is that he’s of Arabic origin, and that is definitely fire coming out of his eyes.
Well, guess that sort of explains what happened to Bilquis’ date from the season premiere—he’s still in there, completely frozen in ecstasy. He’s not the only one either, as we see the goddess absorbing both men and women into her during an intense love-making montage. Given the somber look on her face, I’m guessing they never come back.
A few little details to note, as we follow Bilquis through a museum exhibit in the next scene: the sign in the back confirms that these are artifacts of the Aksumite Empire, a trade-based African civilization that lasted from 100 to 800 A.D—according to some Ethiopian tradition, it was the Queen of Sheba’s home. The statue at the center of the exhibit bears a striking resemblance to those of Ishtar or Astarte, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and beauty. Judging by the way Bilquis molds the shape of the jewelry on display (the placard reads “The Queen’s Wardrobe”) to her body, it’s definitely all her.
Slavic mythology isn’t exactly ubiquitous, so it’s understandable if you’ve never heard of Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman), who represents the evening star, Mercury; and Zorya Utrennyaya (Martha Kelly), who represents the morning star, Venus. Together, they are also known as the Auroras, the goddesses of dawn and dusk. Here Vechernyaya is the leader and the most clear-headed, which makes sense if you consider the fact that Mercury is also the god of wisdom and messages in Roman mythology—that’s probably also why Mr. Wednesday gives Utrennyaya a gift of romance novels, as Venus is the goddess of love.
Neil Gaiman also invented a third Zorya for his book, Zorya Polunochnaya, who represents the midnight star. We’ve not officially met her yet, but rest assured that we will soon.
This guy (Peter Stormare), however, you’ve definitely heard of; he’s best known to modern Americans as the satanic monster in the center of "Night On Bald Mountain" in Fantasia. In Slavic myth his name means “Black God,” and as he tells Shadow, he has a brother, Belobog, who represents light. Wednesday (Czernobog here is calling him Wotan, the German name for Odin) needs him to join his cause, but he’s not interested—not unless Shadow plays checkers with him, and if he wins he gets to strike him with his hammer. In the book, it’s actually Shadow’s idea to wager his life, and when he loses he immediately offers to play another game. TV Shadow is not quite so confident yet, which will work to give him more of a narrative arc throughout this encounter—and also gives us a pretty compelling cliffhanger to end on.
Any other questions about what happened in this episode? Leave ‘em here in the comments and let’s see if we can’t solve a few mysteries together!
Here's how a god made our book club divine: