American Gods, ‘Secret of Spoons’ Reels Back the Outrageous Violence, Intensifies Surreal Storytelling

American Gods, “Secret of Spoons” Plot Summary:

Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) has been saved from Technical Boy’s lynching, but finds himself completely bewildered by the world Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) has thrown him into. The two must drive cross country to meet Czernobog (Peter Stormare) and his relatives (including Cloris Leachman) to enlist him in the impending war. Meanwhile we’re introduced to the spider/trickster god Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), and Media (Gillian Anderson) who takes the form of a legendary television icon.

As amazing as last week’s premiere of American Gods was — I’m certainly glad the hyperreal violence and viscera were pushed to the side in this week’s episode.

Why?

This show is not just another Starz blood and guts drama — this is a series about mythology, character, and the battle between the gods of old (nature) and the gods of new (technology). The story and everything it entails, is infinitely more interesting than las week’s bloodletting. If that same level of violence had been maintained, the story here would feel cheapened, and that would be a crime.

“Secret of Spoons” picks up right where “The Bone Orchard” left us — Shadow being freed from his lynching (by who – we can only guess), and cleaning up his former life. Ricky Whittle is the perfect surrogate for the audience, because we like him, have zero clue what’s going on (unless you’ve read the book, obviously). We’re discovering everything through his smoldering eyes. Whittle does a brilliant job of playing a man whose beliefs are torn right down the middle. He calmly maintains the role as a man who may be losing his mind, and is also destined for greater things. It’s a tough role to play because this could easily be a role played to ludicrous extremes. Whittle plays it, like Shadow Moon, cool as ice, but with a wary eye.

The best scene where this is on display is when Shadow is confronted by Media (Anderson) dressed as Lucille Ball. This is such a hallucinatory, and brilliantly crafted sequence that perfectly explains the entire plot of this series – the old gods vs. the new. It never feels like a “here’s the plot!” moment, mostly because of Anderson’s amazing performance. No one could pull off the calm hybrid of sweet sentiment and impending danger like she can.

The episode’s road trip feel is bolstered, unsurprisingly, by the sublime charm of Ian McShane’s Mr. Wednesday. Well…that is until they reach their destination, where they run into Zorya (Cloris Leachman), and Czernobog (Peter Stormare). The combination of Leachman’s acerbic wit, and Stormare’s loutish bravado are a joy to behold. It’s not some out of the norm that we’ve seen from either actor, but here they hit it pitch perfectly. Leachman is probably the best of the two, as she’s able to tone down here “wild grandma” routine and turn it into a more reserved, yet still bluntly honest matriarch.

There are two plotlines that have no connection to our main plot yet — Mr. Nancy’s (Jones) excellent introduction, and Biliqus’ (Yetide Badaki) literal consumption of sexual partners. Orlando Jones straight kills his introduction with a fiery, damning, and heartbreaking speech to a slave ship. This character is going to be the scene stealer of the series, easily. Biliqus’ arch remains a mystery. The visuals are a psychedelically sexual montage — but we need to know more about why they’re happening, or this is just going to be sex for the sake of sex. I doubt the motives will remain secret for long, but we to get to the point soon.

“Secret of Spoons” is the perfect follow-up to the shoot-the-works premiere. It sunk the hook into the audience, and began to reveal (slowly) what is exactly is happening in the world of the series. Everything about American Gods right now is utterly fascinating, and in a world where we can just binge shows we like, it’s almost torture having to wait for next week’s episode.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites