Synopsis of 1×02: After packing up the home he shared with his wife and hitting the road with Mr. Wednesday, Shadow begins to understand exactly what he signed up for – for better or worse.
From there, it picks up on Shadow’s harrowing experience with lynching. Looking worse for wear, he gets medical attention and then immediately seeks out Mr. Wednesday to figure out what the hell is going on. This episode, he’s much more animated and starting to freak out about the strange circumstances he’s been caught up in, rather than blandly accepting them as he had in the pilot.
During the night, he dreams of Laura and when he returns to their home to pack it up, he hallucinates her all over the house. Unfortunately, after packing up everything else, he gives in to temptation and checks her phone – there is definitely a recent dick pic from Robbie to his wife on it. Mr. Wednesday collects him when it’s all said and done, reminding Shadow that he only has to feel bad about his wife’s death for so long.
They take off on the road, with Mr. Wednesday instructing Shadow to avoid the highways as they go. When they stop off at a diner, Shadow is sent on a shopping trip where he encounters Media for the first time. Taking over all of the televisions in the store, a gorgeously made up Gillian Anderson as Lucille Ball attempts to convert Shadow to the side of the new gods. It only manages to freak him out more than anything.
When he returns to Mr. Wednesday, Shadow passes by the man he was meeting with and his eyes appear to glow. He’s already fragile from his experience with Lucy and admits to Mr. Wednesday that he might be losing it. He’s comforted in the only way Mr. Wednesday can offer comfort and Shadow doesn’t end up leaving, so it’s back on the road they go.
From there, a psychedelic jaunt through what may be space, definitely bypassing Uranus, returns audiences to Bilquis. A montage of equal opportunity sex ensues, with each person finding the same fate as that first poor internet dater. It’s not enough worship, however, to keep her sustained and bring forth another of the old, forgotten gods as she quickly learns.
Shadow and Mr. Wednesday make it to their destination in Chicago, where it’s revealed that the shopping trip was to get gifts for Zorya Vechernyaya, her sisters, and Czernobog in an effort to recruit them to their cause. Cloris Leachman is fantastic in the role, her and Ian McShane play off of each other spectacularly.
Everything seems to be going well until Czernobog returns home from work and immediately makes his distaste for Mr. Wednesday known. In turn, Mr. Wednesday tries to flatter Czernobog into helping them, claiming that things will turn out “ glorious, win or lose.” He’s ready to throw in the towel when Czernobog turns him down again, but Shadow pushes back under the assumption that they needed him. And despite his feelings, Czernobog allows them to stay for dinner.
Over an awkward meal, Czernobog engages Shadow in conversation about his old country and their beliefs, how they fight over shades of skin tone and how good he is at his slaughterhouse job. He tells a rather horrific story about killing cows and the evolution of the job before inviting Shadow to play a game of checkers with him after dinner. He agrees despite Mr. Wednesday telling him he doesn’t have to.
They begin the game, with Czernobog drawing first blood, and it devolves into him telling Shadow about the hammer that Mr. Wednesday has been concerned about recruiting. There is some phallic imagery as he holds the hammer and it begins to leak blood, explaining that the key to a clean hammer is use. He raises the stakes of the game, offering Shadow his allegiance if he wins the game. But if he loses, Czernobog gets to use the hammer on him. Shadow agrees… and ultimately loses as the episode ends.
This episode really doubled down the equal opportunity nudity, with boobs, dicks, and full-frontal shots galore. If you were expecting less after the first episode, you’ll be surprised. Overall, this episode shifted the tone of the series to one of higher stakes than Shadow could have imagined and introduced some fascinating new gods to audiences.