American Gods is certainly stepping out of the box in the second episode of the new series based on Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel. While last week’s premiere episode could be considered to have been quite standard for a pilot episode featuring both hits and misses, this week we see an episode filled with emotion while touching on important topics such as race and politics.
The episode opens again with another ‘Coming to America’ flashback, this time to 1697. Sweet jazz music plays while a colourful spider crawls its way through a ship filled with slaves. One begins to call for Anansi, a deity from African folklore who often travels in the form of a spider. Upon offering everything, a man appears in a colourful plaid suit and declares he has a story to tell. Orlando Jones’ monologue was chill-inducing with it filled with vehemence which should touch everyone when heard. While we included his speech below, to truly bask in its glory, we recommend watching the episode.
Once upon a time, a man got f**ked. Now how is that for a story? ‘Cause that’s the story of black people in America. Shit, you all don’t know you black yet. You think you just people. Let me be the first to tell you that you are all black. The moment these Dutch motherf***ers set foot here and decided they white, and you get to be black, and that’s the nice name they call you… Let me paint a picture of what’s waiting for you on the shore. You arrive in America, land of opportunity, milk and honey, and guess what? You all get to be slaves. Split up, sold off and worked to death. The lucky ones get Sunday off to sleep and f**k and make more slaves, and all for what? For cotton? Indigo? For a f**king purple shirt? The only good news is the tobacco your grandkids are gonna farm for free is gonna give a shitload of these white motherf***ers cancer. And I ain’t even started yet. A hundred years later. You’re f**ked. A hundred years after that. F**ked. A hundred years after you get free, you still getting f**ked out a job and shot at by police.
At the end of his speech, Anansi encourages the slaves to get angry because there’s “300 years of subjugation, racist bulls**t and heard disease” lying ahead. He tells them to kill their captors and burn the ship, and although they will die, at least it will be by sacrifice because they’re already dead. Don’t forget we’re only about five minutes into the show and already it has you left in awe. There’s something about this show underneath all the bizarre things they do, it truly contains a lot more than meets the eye.
We then return back to Shadow who is being stitched up after his nasty encounter with Technical Boy and his thugs. He heads back to the motel to demand answers from Wednesday but only receives more evasive answers once again. However, he did receive a double on his salary, so that’s sort of a win? Back in his room, Shadow dreams of Laura and this causes him to break down and cry, which results in him returning home to clear out. While going through Laura’s personal effects from the accident, he discovers her phone and messages featuring a few cheeky texts between his wife and best friend. Fuelled with varying emotions, he aggressively cleans their house until his hands quite literally begin to bleed.
Wednesday and Shadow hit the road as Wednesday is in need of his hammer which is located in Chicago, but first they need supplies. While Wednesday heads off for a meeting, Shadow is shopping for maps, alcohol and…romance novels? During his shop, Lucille Ball from I Love Lucy begins to talk to him, except it’s really Gillian Anderson playing the role of Media, another ‘new god’. With the screen being her altar, she offers Shadow a job because she will always be relevant, except he turns it down while also feeling like he’s going absolutely crazy since he’s talking to a television.
Now if you were thinking this week’s episode wasn’t going to have any strange scenes, you were wrong. First up is a scene in which Robbie floating around in the cosmos with his legs spread wide and manhood on full display. Relevancy? Who knows. Then there’s a montage spanning a few minutes of Bilquis devouring her latest worshippers. Does it add to the plot? Not really and it could have been left out, except it adds to the style of the show: bizarre yet intriguing.
When they arrive in Chicago, Wednesday and Shadow meet with Zorya Vechernyaya—a guardian goddess from Slavic mythology who watches the skies in rotation with her two sisters, Zorya Utrennyaya and Zorya Polunochnaya. Wednesday hands out the goods from the shopping trip, and Shadow gets compared to the hunk on the romance novel cover, which caused a bit of a chuckle. The two are invited to stay for dinner, even though Zorya Vechernyaya knows their other companion will not be pleased to see Wednesday when he returns home.
Enter Czernobog—played by Peter Stormare, he is a blood-thirsty and grumpy Slavic deity whose name translates into Black God. His thick accent, overall appearance and rude nature makes for a delightful scene when he proceeds to throw a lamp at Wednesday’s head and refuses to join the cause Wednesday proposes. However, a somewhat truce is set in place, but this doesn’t stop Czernobog’s inappropriateness over the course of dinner.
“You’re black right?”, he says to Shadow and then proceeds to tell Shadow about being in the meat business as a knocker, a man who ‘knocks’ the cows with a sledgehammer to kill them. Unfortunately for Czernobog, the art of killing has been replaced with new methods and he has not been able to use his hammer for a long time. He proposes a game of checkers while also showing off his hammer, which is truly glorious when it’s coated in blood. Czernobog offers a bet to Shadow: if Shadow wins, he will join them, but if he loses, Czernobog gets to hit him with his hammer. Shadow agrees for some reason and at the end of the game, he loses which leaves Czernobog disappointed because Shadow is his only black friend and he now has to die.
Overall, the episode delivered fantastic performances from the cast, especially the new characters played by Orlando Jones, Gillian Anderson and Peter Stormare. The first half of the episode had a decent pace since it was so intriguing with Anansi and Media, but the second half began to lag quite significantly as the Zorya sisters and Czernobog could have been given a little more context, but it looks as if we will be getting it in the next episode. While the series has alluded to the fact that these people are not what they seem, and it’s pretty obvious judging by the title, I do hope Shadow is brought into the fold a little sooner than the novel just so he can become more invested in the cause to help make viewers more invested also.
Although we are only two episodes in, the series seems to be following the book incredibly well, which will make fans of the books happy. Naturally there will be a few changes and additions throughout the episodes, but Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have done a commendable job in adapting the novel thus far.
American Gods returns next week with ‘Head Full of Snow’.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!