The second episode of American Gods really raised the stakes for a few of its character in Mr. Wednesday’s attempt to garner some allies for an impending war.
Having been released from prison only to find out his wife was killed in an accident, while cheating on him with his best friend, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) was aimless and ended up in the employment of the eccentric, mysterious man played by Ian McShane.
But before they could embark on their journey, Shadow suffered a slight hiccup to his plans when faceless digitized automatons attempted to lynch him at the behest of Technical Boy. He was saved by a mysterious force, allowing him to return to Wednesday’s aid in his goal to unite some allies in his quest.
That takes them face to face with Czernobog, played by Peter Stormare, who has been plying his trade killing cows in a slaughter house. Czernobog expresses disdain for Wednesday—who insists he is needed in his quest for “one final battle. But he does take a liking to Shadow and challenges the released convict to a game of checkers, which turns out to have a potentially deadly outcome.
While they play, Czernobog relays the story of his sledgehammer and how he used it to kill cattle, delivering a fatal blow with a single strike. But over the last decade technology has made his skill and strength matter little as anyone can kill a cow with a captive pistol bolt, which he now uses.
Czernobog reminisces about the good old days and laments that he’s not as strong as he used to be, but then offers Shadow a wager:
If Shadow beats him in the game, Czernobog will join Mr. Wednesday in his quest.
If Czernobog wins, he gets to deliver a single blow to Shadow Moon’s head with his sledgehammer at sunrise.
And though we are rooting for our protagonist to claim the victory in the intense game of checkers, the episode ends with Czernobog taking his last piece and winning the game.
Will Czernobog kill Shadow Moon in the show’s third episode? Is that why Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman) lied about Shadow’s fortune earlier in the episode? And how did Mr. Wednesday not see this coming, considering he’s such a cunning, crafty man?
We should find out next week, as Neil Gaiman’s novel depicts similar events in the TV series. In that story, Shadow plays off of Czernobog’s earlier comments and his waning strength.
Shadow challenges the Czernobog to a rematch with the promise of a second hit if he loses again, while Czernobog will have to go with them if he loses—but he still gets to hit him once.
Either way, it looks like Shadow is not long for this world…
American Gods airs Sunday 9pm ET on Starz.
American Gods has been translated into over 30 languages and earned numerous accolades including Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker Awards for Best Novel. The plot posits a war brewing between old and new gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Its protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities.
American Gods is produced by FremantleMedia North America. Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies, Heroes) and Michael Green (The River, Kings, Heroes) are writers and showrunners. David Slade (Hannibal, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) is directing the pilot and additional episodes. FMNA’s Craig Cegielski and Stefanie Berk are executive producing the series along with Fuller, Green, Slade and Neil Gaiman.
The cast features Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, Emily Browning as Laura Moon, Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney, Yetide Badaki as Bilquis, Bruce Langley as Technical Boy, Crispin Glover as Mr. World, Jonathan Tucker as Low Key Lyesmith, Gillian Anderson as Media, Peter Stormare as Czernobog, Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy, Demore Barnes as Mr. Ibis, Kristin Chenoweth as Easter, and Cloris Leachman as Zorya Vechernyaya.