A Delightful Turnaround
'The Secret of Spoon' was much more fun to watch than the pilot. The show feels like it has found its pace with this episode. It moves between drama, comedy, horror, and action much more smoothly than just one episode earlier. Perhaps since the heavy work of introducing the characters, world, and conflict is done the show has more freedom to explore itself. To settle in.
The best example of this is the part where Shadow returns home to pack up everything. It starts with the funny moment of Shadow getting hit in the head with a newspaper, but then cleanly transitions to a melancholy tour of the interior. We are deep in Shadow's point-of-view with no voice-over or dialogue. The camera and music do all the talking as Shadow sees his wife around every corner. Then there is a tense antagonism between Shadow and the evidence box. The contents of the box switch the tone to horror as we use a dick-pic for a jump scare. The motion of the scene is deft, and I felt completely invested in Shadow by the end of it.
The opening prologue did not work quite as well for me. I love the bold choices made around Mr. Nancy. He is an anachronism. The rules don't apply to him. That is in line with the character I know from the book. But investing him with the knowledge of the next three-hundred years puts the world-building of the show in a vulnerable place. Will he know the outcome of the show's finale when Shadow meets him? If not, then why not? This part of the show created too many problems to justify its place in the episode.
I loved everything we get in Chicago. The gods we meet are strange, but easy to understand. Everyone is giving wonderful performances. Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman) is charming with her self-satisfied dead-pan humor. Czernobog (Peter Stormare) is menacing while still being affable. The entire sequence is just the right amount of working-class mundanity, mixed with other-worldly wrath of the gods, for me. These feel like people who have lost everything but their pride and bitterness.
This episode makes me excited for the rest of the season. Shadow has invested in Wednesday's agenda and learned to live with the weirdness of the world. Now that all the characters accept the premise of the show, we can dig deeper into theme, metaphor, and character.