We’ve heard a whole lot about American Gods being an immigration story. No sequence drives this point home more powerfully that the prologue to episode 2. In it, we encounter Orlando Jones' Anansi (aka ‘Mr Nancy’, subject Neil Gaiman’s 2005 spin-off novel Anansi Boys), a trickster ‘spider god’, who appears aboard an African slaving ship on its way to America in answer to the prayers of the poor buggers chained to its oars below decks. In a powerful call to arms, Anansi describes to them the next few hundred years of the black experience in the land of the free and – to put it mildly – doesn’t paint a rosy picture. So much so that the men rise up and take matters into their own hands in shatteringly final fashion.
After the frenetic opening salvo of episode 1, this second chapter consolidates the relationship between Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), slowing the pace to allow the natural rhythm of the cross-country folk tale that is the spine of the story to bed itself in. McShane’s character is our guide to the otherworld of old and new gods hidden in plain sight and continues to demonstrate a great line in natty metaphor to help Shadow – never that quick on the uptake – to understand the layers of this surreal onion unpeeling before his eyes. There’s a palpable sense of (wait for it) a storm coming as the pair travel to Chicago to begin recruitment to ‘team old’ by enlisting the help of the Slavic god, Czernobog (Peter Stomare), one of Wednesday’s closest allies.
The big guest star this episode is Lucille Ball, or rather Media, one of the insidious new gods risen to personify the media in all of its forms. As played rather brilliantly by Gillian Anderson, Lucy is the first of multiple famous personalities we’ll be seeing Media assume over the course of the series including David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. We’re guessing Anderson had a ball in the role because it certainly looks that way. Media attempts to lure Shadow with an offer of better-paid work than Mr. Wednesday is offering, and she’s not backward in offering perks (“wanna see Lucy’s tits?”). Sensible chap that his is, Shadow doesn’t take the bait – after all, she’s playing for the opposition. Talking of which, this episode we also get to see love goddess Bilquis swallowing entire females with her vagina as well as males. You don’t need to read that sentence again – it really is that kind of show.
Incidentally, the series is now reported to be running to 8 episodes in length rather than the originally intended 10. This isn’t due to any lack of effort on producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green’s part, rather them taking the opportunity to tighten up the material shot for episodes 3 and 4 which has now been re-cut into a single episode. It has also been decided to end the series on the natural chapter-ending point of episode 8 and hold episode 9 to series 2. That’s if we get a series 2 of course, although if ever a show was a dead cert to continue, it’s this one.
AMERICAN GODS EPISODE 2: “THE SECRET OF SPOONS” / DIRECTOR: DAVID SLADE / WRITERS: BRYAN FULLER, MICHAEL GREEN / STARRING: RICKY WHITTLE, IAN MCSHANE, PETER STORMARE, GILLIAN ANDERSON / AIR DATE: MAY 7TH (USA ON STARZ); MAY 1ST (UK ON AMAZON PRIME)