Paranormal is strangely normal in American Gods Episode 2: 'The Secret of Spoon'

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May 7, 2017

Liz: Shadows fall over Shadow Moon as American Gods grows dark with dread and charged with anticipation.

Dreamlike and dancing on the boundary between real and unreal, the phantoms of the past and the menace of the future will make you wonder whether you're awake even as impossible things flash before your eyes. As thunderclouds roll over the endless winding back roads that Shadow and Wednesday navigate, the weather — and the turn of events — can change as easily as Wednesday can blow on a dandelion whose airborne seeds crackle as a skeletal hand of lightning in the sky. Gods emerge from obscurity. Gods fade back into the catacombs of the past. Gods glare at you with taunting electric smiles. You will have to check your pulse and seriously question whether you're hallucinating or if this is all some seriously warped dreamland.

Alyse: This episode was a little slow to me. About half of the episode was spent with Czernobog and the Zorya, and for someone who didn't read the book, their purpose was not really discussed. As such, it made the episode drag.

"The Secret of Spoon" was bookended with tales of race: opening with Anansi answering the prayers of the Africans who are kidnapped by the Dutch to be slaves and closing with Czernobog asking Shadow if he is black, because in the old country, "we never cared much about skin." I don't know if this is supposed to be making a pointed statement or if it just happens to be how the story lined up this week.

Liz: Rainbow tarantulas do exist, at least in this alt-verse where even an arachnid can crawl into a cacophony of neons. Anansi (aka Mr. Nancy), as portrayed in full color by Orlando Jones, has a presence infinitely more powerful and compelling than the spidery, cackling figure that creeps out of the shadows in the novel. Never mind that his insanely plaid purple suit commands attention without a word. His speech to the shackled prisoners who willed him to appear at the bottom of a slaver is as stormy and explosive as the waves that toss the ship on an uncertain ocean. Anansi sugarcoats nothing. He is unapologetically raw in his grim foresight of the New World as a beast whose razor-toothed jaws the ship is sailing into. Illuminated by the tremulous glow of swaying oil lamps and voiced by thunder, he shocks his captive audience to life with an electrifying performance enough to move anyone into doing something drastic.

Alyse: The most striking part of Anansi's introduction (besides his beautiful suit, which mimics the colors of him as a tarantula) was what he says to the slaves who pray to him: "You don't know you are black yet." It is not just the idea that they probably hadn't seen white people before the Dutch people abducted them from their home. When Anansi tells them they don't know they are black yet, he is referring to them not knowing the lifetime of hardships and prejudice they will face simply because of the color of their skin.

Liz: TV will never be the same again after an encounter with the rerun from hell. There is nothing wrong with I Love Lucy — that is, until the title character starts hissing to you (and you're sure it's you after doing a triple take) in such a provocative way you'd change the channel if only you could. If there was ever a way to make TV screens spooky, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have brought Neil Gaiman's disturbing media concept to life in black and white that blazes into Technicolor. They took a scene that originally happened in Shadow's dim hotel room as Wednesday was rocking the casbah with the receptionist and made it that much creepier by setting it in a supermarket in broad daylight. This I where both you and Shadow will seriously question your sanity. Is that really Lucy Ricardo on all those eerily identical screens? Is it the ghost of Lucy Ricardo? Is it the ghost of Lucy Ricardo on acid?

Alyse: Shadow is in the store and Lucy Ricardo starts talking to him from the television. This happens to everyone, right? I don't know which part of it I liked more: the idea of Lucy talking to the viewer through the TV or the fact that Gillian Anderson played Lucy (although it was vaguely distressing to hear her ask if Shadow ever wanted to see Lucy's tits). I know this scene is supposed to make the viewer wonder if Shadow is losing his mind or if this is really happening. To me, again as someone who has never read the book, it seems pretty clear that Lucy is a "new god." She says as much when she says that "time and attention are better than lamb's blood."

Fun fact: Way back in her X-Files days, Gillian Anderson did a photo spread (I think it was for TV Guide) in which she dressed as Lucy Ricardo.

Liz: Bathed in the shameless red glow of carnality, Bilquis seemed almost out of place in the last episode — but she belongs as part of a crumbling pantheon thirsty for the worship that once used to throb in their immortal veins. Nowhere is this image more powerful than the goddess in the flesh mirrored in a statue of herself that now stands silent in a museum. There is something especially poignant about how she gazes into a glass display case glittering with gold, her gold, possibly once worn by a priestess with glistening skin and unwavering devotion. You can almost smell the incense and body heat, hear the haunting echo of long-dead voices, see the wraiths of worshipers swaying and undulating in a forgotten temple that has since become dust. The glimpses of Bilquis in both the throes of power and shadows of despair are a reflection of what was, what is and what lurks in an inevitable future.

Alyse: I know last week I was complaining about Bilquis' seemingly pointless introduction. And I want to again reiterate that it wasn't that I saw her as pointless but that I thought her introduction was awkwardly placed. I knew to expect her so her appearance this week was not as jarring. I still feel as though it could have been better incorporated into the episode, but let's be honest: it's just nitpicky now.

Bilquis gets two distinct scenes this week, one in which she devours both male and female worshipers. More interestingly, she gets dressed and goes out to a museum. It pleases her to see an entire exhibit about her, and I assume that seeing her figure beneath the jewels hints that she wants to return to her former glory. I'm just not sure what her former glory was.

Liz: Faded gods wander beyond museum relics. There is something atmospheric and almost mournful about the Zoryas' apartment, where everything is threadbare, sun-bleached or timeworn, including themselves. You can only imagine how fearsome Czernobog was in the momentary flashbacks to a dark world where his mighty hammer oozed blood with the reddening of dawn, but even he has been reduced to a greasy thug in a blood-spattered wifebeater. Not that it's blotted out his streak of killer instinct.

Throughout the episode, Shadow is plagued by visions of his late wife Laura in every room, every corner, every picture frame. He should have never opened that coroner's box of personal effects. The dream visions that materialize even when his eyes are open are no more than cruel tricks of light and grief. Laura lies not in the bathtub or the bed or anywhere else shrouded in half-darkness, but in a grave six feet deep in the clammy earth. Her voice can only be an illusion. There are no whispers from the dead.

Alyse: Clearly, these people are old gods, but not much else of their background or purpose has been revealed yet. A lot of time was spent with them, which frankly bored me. Czernobog will always be the Nihilist from The Big Lebowski, so that was a little distracting.

Were you bewitched by that jeweled spider or did the Zorya have you under their spell? Let us know in the comments!