the secret of spoons review

(Each week, we’ll kick off our discussion of American Gods by answering one simple question: which character do we worship this week?)

The series premiere of American Gods left our heads spinning and our loins girded. Between buffalos with flaming eyes, man-eating goddesses, and a less-than-perfect funeral, episode one certainly made an impact, and let us know the kind of show this was going to be. Episode two, ‘The Secret of Spoons,’ doesn’t disappoint. Even with a few less out-of-this-world visuals, yesterday’s follow-up to the much talked-about premiere revealed a little more of where we are going, but with a lot more “what the hell is going on.”

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Who do we worship this week? Czernobog

Last week, we saw Mr. Wednesday put the moves on Shadow, and we saw Bilquis put the moves on…well, that one guy. This week was no different, with introductions from Anansi, inciting chaos on a slave ship at the end of the 17th century, and Media making her grand debut on the side of the New Gods as I Love Lucy. But this week, we’re worshipping a dark, hammer-wielding Slavic god who lives in a crappy Chicago apartment. Enter Czernobog.

Czernobog (Peter Stormare) is a breath of fresh honesty, coming into the show at a turning point for Shadow, who is beginning to lose his grip on all things normal (but we will get to that later). We meet Czernobog doing what Czernobog loves best: killing. A stark contrast from the grandmotherly Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman) that first welcomes Mr. Wednesday and Shadow into their Chicago home, Czernobog is gruff and violent and unclean. He is covered in blood and cigarette ash and sweat, and yet somehow, his personality seems grimier than his appearance. He looks weathered, and yet you are still afraid of him. He may be a god, but he appears more as a man, made fallible by his life as the black sheep and only existing as “a bad memory.” He feels the most out of place in modern times. He is the drunk uncle that talks about the glory of the way things used to be done, however brutal those times might seem now. He holds his hammer with the same prestige that you would envision in paintings of Poseidon with his trident, but in the soiled clothes of disgruntled, working class man.

However, even with his dark and blunt nature, leaving Shadow visibly uncomfortable, and even sometimes appearing to shake Mr. Wednesday’s calm exterior, Czernobog did what we have witnessed Bilquis and Mr. Nancy do before him: he got a sacrifice. He got Shadow to agree to willingly drop to his knees so that the hammer can be cleansed with his blood. He did with brutishness what Media failed to do with flash. He went as far as to point on the hammer and Shadow’s head, the two points of impact that would lead to his gruesome, brain-busting, death. However, unlike Bilquis and Anansi and Wednesday and Media, there was no charm or seduction. No give a little, get a little. No con. Just one hardened god making a deal with one hardened man.

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Angry Gets Shit Done

Much like the unusual love making and Tinder PSA that Bilquis gave us last week, the opening scene of, “The Secret of Spoons,” left us with our mouths agape. It makes sense that the following scene was not one of particular importance, because after the fiery sermon of Anansi (Orlando Jones), our minds were still on that ship. Anansi is a god that is playing the game and playing to win. An African trickster god, Anansi primarily takes the shape of a small, unassuming, spider, but the power of Anansi is not in his size or his strength, something we see paralleled later with Czernobog, but in his ability to play and pit the natures of his peers against each other.

If Anansi were really alive and well in America, it is safe to say that in the sixteen years that have passed since the original publication of American Gods, his cleverness and pride has taken him from the good natured trickster god of his pantheon to saber rattling. Still an old god at heart, he manages to get an entire ship to sacrifice to him, but he does so in the name of something bigger than man or god. He has brought with him the knowledge of a dark future, telling the slave that prayed to him that there is no escape. There is no getting off the boat and having a better life. They have come too far for that, so in turn he uses his power to catalyze the feelings of these men into fury.

This is not an Anansi that we would have seen 16 years ago in the pages of Gaiman’s work – this is Anansi revised for the year 2017. Walking into the bowels of a slave ship, Anansi delivers a speech to motivate these men to slash the throats of their captors and burn the ship at sea. Set to eerie jazz music, Anansi’s introduction made for a powerful reflection on what America takes from black culture. Anansi’s sermon is a dose of harsh reality, taking his captive audience well beyond the fall of slavery.

American Gods is fantasy only because it is the general accepted belief that these gods are not real, but make no mistake, the ideas the story presents are very real. Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green are using America’s obsession with television and entertainment to force a mirror in front of us, forcing us to come face-to-face with hard and unresolved truths in our history. With recent successes like Get Out, we are seeing more genre stories reflecting the black experience in America. ‘Created equal’ and ‘equal rights’ may be a part of the everyday American vernacular, but it would be naive to think that those phrases encompass the whole picture. ‘Equal experience’ certainly doesn’t fit the bill, and by this introduction of Anansi, American Gods (we hope) will be actively and aggressively bringing the vastly different American experiences into our living rooms.

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