The Dominant Paradigm is a weekly podcast where Geeks of Doom Podcast hosts Dwayne D, Andrew Sorcini, and Tosin Onafowokan discuss STARZ’s TV series American Gods, the works that inspired it, and the larger questions about the lenses in which we see our world, AKA, the paradigms.
In this episode of The Dominant Paradigm, Dwayne, Andrew and Tosin delve into American Gods, Episode 2, “The Secret of Spoons.” Beyond the recap, the three discuss the salient imagery of the blood, the interesting thing about spoons, the Slavic panthon we’re exposed to, and the overall impressions about the episode; as well as changes from the 2001 novel.
Finally, you’ll find Ephemera – links to content that is either related to American Gods or that gives insight to the show.
A quill writes “Coming to America” in 18th century cursive on parchment and the scene transitions into one of enslaved African men chained in the hold of a Dutch vessel, making the transatlantic voyage to the new world in order to be sold. One of these people prays to Anansi (Orlando Jones) and laments he has no sacrifices to give Anansi. Anansi appears as a man, dressed in a modern, purple suit that matches the colors of his form as a spider. Anansi tells the men that they will be split up, sold off, and worked to death as slaves for cotton, indigo, and tobacco for 300 years. He tells them to take comfort in the tobacco work because it will at least kill their enslavers with cancer.
Anansi further tells the slaves that the only thing they can do is kill the Dutch slave traders and burn the ship. When one man challenges him by saying that if they set fire to the ship, they’ll die, Anansi reminds him that he’s already dead. The god then breaks the chains of the enslaved, and they carry out his will. The next morning we see the ship’s burnt embers drifting onto a beach, and Anansi, as a spider, crawls ashore.
Next we see Shadow (Ricky Whittle) getting medically stapled to seal wounds he sustained in the lynching attempt from the previous episode. He shows up at Wednesday’s (Ian McShane) door, with his clothes drenched in blood, angry at having been lynched. Wednesday lets him in, excited to show that he’s been with a young woman all night. To soothe Shadow, Wednesday promises to double his pay and sends him to bed. Shadow goes to bed and dreams of Laura.
The next day Wednesday tasks Shadow with going to a nearby store to pick up items. In the media section, a re-run of I Love Lucy (with Lucy played by Gillian Anderson) comes to life on the screen and offers shadow a job. He is visibly unsettled and heads back to meet Wednesday, where he sees a man with glowing eyes (Mousa Kraish).
Shadow and Wednesday head to Chicago and Wednesday insists that they not use highways.
During an interlude, we learn that there is an entire universe within Bilquis, the god of love. She sustains herself on a myriad lovers and they seem to end up forever in pleasure inside the vast and starry galaxy within her. She pays homage to herself at a museum.
Upon arrival in Chicago, Shadow and Wednesday meet two of three Zoryna sisters: Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman), who read fortunes in coffee grounds rather than tea leaves, and her sister, Zorya Untrennyaya (Martha Kelly), who has a hankering for romance novels. They offer dinner to Shadow and Wednesday.
The sisters’ roommate, Czernobog, arrives from his job slaughtering cows. He is incensed not only at Wednesday’s presence in his home, but in Wednesday’s request that he join Wednesday’s mysterious cause. Czernobog demands Wednesday and Shadow leave after satisfying the sister’s request that they stay for dinner. During the meal, Czernobog finds that he likes Shadow and offers to play checkers with him after dinner is finished. During the game, he shows Shadow the large hammer that he used to wield in his cattle slaughter work. He then extends a wager to Shadow. If Shadow wins, then Czernobog will join Wednesday. If Shadow loses, he will allow Czernobog to kill him with the hammer.
Shadow grimaces at the prospect of having to kneel before the hammer, come daylight.
Salient Imagery: The spoons, the blood, and the storm.
The episode is called “The Secret of Spoons”: During the Zorya sisters’ meal preparation, the camera shots in the kitchen show spoons dancing in pots and pans. Meanwhile, spoons are the subject of the song Czernobog sings at the end.
There will be blood: While nooses were prominent last episode, we see blood this episode. We begin with the blood at the lynching which opens up the show, and then we’re confronted with blood again when we see Shadow’s bloodied body and his ruined shirt. Earlier in the episode, we understand that the enslaved men would rather have the blood of the Dutch if they can’t get their freedom. Later, The Czernobog’s hammer is fed and kept by blood, and oozes blood. Finally, we have the recurring blood color of Bilquis’s bedchamber.
The Storm: Wednesday uses a dandelion to spark a coming storm. Is it the storm we heard Shadow talk about during the pilot?
Supernatural characters introduced in “The Secret of Spoons”
Anansi or Mr. Nancy
An ancient god brought over to the New World from West Africa during the Atlantic slave trade.
He’s not really present in the cultural history of descendants of U.S. slaves, but he remains mostly untouched in Caribbean cultures.
He’s a trickster, who, despite his small size, manages to achieve great things through the power of his guile and cunning.
In the U.S., Anansi has thematic ties to Brer Rabbit. A folk hero brought over to the U.S. by slaves of Bantu origin – those slaves come from the central and southern parts of the African continent.
Zorya Vechernyaya, The Evening Star (Mercury) or goddess of dusk
In Slavic folklore she watches over the doomsday hound at night.
She is the one who locks and closes the palace of the Slavic sun gods at night once the sun returns to his palace.
She’s bossy and stubborn: She doesn’t take Czernobog’s shit; she doesn’t let Shadow, a guest, help; and she refuses to learn to cook.
Zorya Utrennyaya, the Morning Star (Venus), goddess of dawn
Smaller in stature, but still important. Works in tandem with her sister to make the meal.
Watches the doomsday daemon during the day.
She is not so good at fortune telling because she’s more honest.
She opens the gates of the Slavic sun gods in the morning to let the Sun ride his chariot.
Czernobog and his brother Bielebog
Czernobog is the guy we meet with the hammer. He’s an incarnation of a god of the same name. The black god of evil and swearing.
According to the wikipedia, he is responsible for all bad things in the world.
He speaks to Shadow about how in Russia, everyone is white, but since his hair is dark, he is like a black man there.
His brother is the white god, Bielebog: Light and sun, and responsible for all good things in the world.
The goddess of media communications.
She talks about the time people give to her as better than sheep’s blood.
She mentions that she’s not as old as some but she’s “been around.” Television was invented 90 years ago and became mass market about 60 years ago in the 1950s.
She was critical of the Internet boy. Is he subordinate to her? The Internet is, after all, a part of the media.
Now she looks like Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, and it was a great make-up job, but what will she look like later? Will she stay Lucy or will we get to see her play other notable media figures?
Changes between “American Gods” the book and the STARZ TV show (by no means exhaustive)
Anansi’s monologue is unique to the show.
Anansi is also an old man in the book, and Orlando Jones is no old man.
Wednesday’s lady friend is revealed to be the motel attendant in the book, rather than some random female eating pizza.
In the book, Laura actually comes to Shadow in the hotel as a dream rather than actually visiting him.
When Shadow tells Laura that people believe she’s dead, she tells him that he’s having a bad dream, somewhat denying her death.
The “Coming to America” slave ship cold open is a variation on a tale Mr. Ibis (whom we’ve yet to meet on the show) wrote about in the book. The god in the book is Elegba the trickster, not Anansi. It’s a more in-depth story than what we saw in this episode but, as is the case in any show, we don’t know yet whether that story will be continued as it was in the book.
In the book, Shadow doesn’t clean up the house – he leaves Laura’s mother to clean up the home and to deal with her effects. The show has Shadow do it, which seems like a realistic way to allow him to get closure while also allowing him to come to grips with evidence that Laura and Robbie were having an affair.
In the show, Shadow meets Lucille Ball in the big box department store rather than in his hotel room.
Wednesday meets with a red-eyed character in this episode, which isn’t in the book. That character seems like he’s part of a coming to America tale, so we hope and expect to see more of him later.
Wednesday sparks a storm with a dandelion he takes from Eagle Point. We don’t know what the significance is yet, but is he spreading his seed?
We get more of Bilquis with more lovers and a visit to the history museum.
In the book, Czernobog’s hammer is described differently. It’s smaller, not unlike Thor’s.
In the book, the checkers game is played before dinner. Shadow wins one game and Czernobog wins the second game. They are about to play a third game to determine the best of three when dinner is called, leaving them at a stalemate.
Ephemera: Stuff to read or watch related to this episode, “The Secret of Spoons”
American Gods Wikia – Very helpful! Spoilers, obviously.
Nightwatch and Daywatch , which are a modern retake on slavic mythology that discusses the light and dark side of the Slavic mythological pantheon.