Things aren't looking good. The second episode of American Gods ends with Shadow Moon losing a checkers match to the Slavic god of evil — the terms of which dictate that the Old God gets to hit his opponent with a massive hammer. Will Czernobog kill Shadow on American Gods? Or could there somehow be a way out of this predicament for the ex-con?
Given that the show is only two episodes in to what is clearly a very bold and unusual series, viewers probably aren't sure what kind of show American Gods is quite yet. Is it really the type of show that would kill off its nominal protagonist after only two episodes? And with so many powerful, immortal gods cavorting around, would he really stay dead anyway? Episode 2's cliffhanger raises a lot of questions by subverting expectations. Usually, in these types of cinematic situations, the hero emerges triumphant, beating his opponent at their own game. No such luck here; Czernobog tells Shadow he's lost after his first move… and he turns out to be right.
Fortunately, American Gods is based on a book by Neil Gaiman, so audiences do have source material to turn to for answers — (book spoilers ahead!) and no, Shadow isn't headed for the chopping block just yet.
Just like on the show, the characters' game of checkers in the book involves a wager wherein Czernobog will go with Mr. Wednesday if Shadow wins, while Shadow will give Czernobog a shot with his hammer if Czernobog wins… a wager which Shadow loses. However, although the show inserts a cliffhanger at that point, Gaiman's chapter doesn't end there. Shadow proposes a second match with the same conditions, taunting Czernobog that he'll need two swings of his hammer to kill Shadow anyway, since he's not as young and strong as he used to be.
Shadow does go on to win the second match, so Czernobog agrees to accompany him and Mr. Wednesday on their trip; but he also fully intends to make good on his side of the wager, and kill Shadow when all is said and done. So the protagonist may escape certain death for now… but even if he survives the impending battle between the Old Gods and the New, it seems he has a permanent date with destiny before the end of the story.