American Gods, ‘Head Full of Snow’ is a Blizzard of Spectacle and Sidetracking

Head Full of Snow Plot Summary:

Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) must try to figure out a way to get Czernobog (Peter Stormare) to join Mr. Wednesday’s (Ian McShane) team. Meanwhile, Mad Sweeney ( Pablo Schreiber) is in desperate search of his lucky coin, and Mr. Wednesday is determined to rob a bank. We are also introduced to Zorya Polunochnaya (Erika Kaar), Anubis (Chris Obi), and Ifrit (Mousa Kraish).

The third episode of American Gods, ‘Head Full of Snow,’ will most likely be remembered for its spectacle rather than its substance.

The “spectacle” of the episode was the extended love scene between the jinn known as the male Ifrit (Mousa Kraish), and salesman Salim (Omid Abtahi). To be fair, watching a lengthy, and some would say, graphic sex scene between two men, is not an everyday occurrence on television. To some it may be shocking. It’s definitely a talking a point…but let’s not get too crazy about this scene. Remember, this is a show where a woman turns into a giant during sex and absorbing her partner through her womb. To some this will be the one thing they remember about the episode, and if that’s it, they’re basically looking past an episode that had a lot of great things going on.

They would miss the excellent evolution of Shadow Moon’s faith. Watching him slowly, but reluctantly begin to believe in the “unbelievable” (and watching Mr. Wednesday drag him through a series of unlikely events) is a wonder to watch. Ricky Whittle continues to deliver the goods — every ounce of Shadow’s reluctance is etched across his stubbled face. The potential this character has is limitless (both as a character, and in the world of the show), and I cannot wait to see what his ultimate role in the war of the gods is.

His relationship with Mr. Wednesday is taking on a near Clarence/George Bailey level of camaraderie. Wednesday is showing Shadow all the signs, slowly opening the door to the other world — but Shadow keeps fighting. The interplay is mostly playful, particularly during Wednesday’s ingenious “bank robbery.”

They would miss the welcome return of the leprechaun, Mad Sweeney. His brief interaction with Kids in the Hall and Hannibal alum Scott Thompson was a delight. Schreiber, as always, delivers a scene-chewing performance whenever he’s on screen. Schreiber’s tightrope walk between villain and hero is something special. We know Sweeney is on Wednesday’s side (which we’re assuming is the good side), but man is he an unmitigated douchebag. Only Schreiber could pull this off with grace, ease, and a red mullet.

‘Head Full of Snow’ is not without its worts, though.

The extended opening sequence with Anubis, is visually stunning — but we were left wondering what any of this sequence had to with the series. It’s not until the coming attractions for next do we actually know what’s happening. Maybe it’s a personal preference, but the coming attractions really shouldn’t be where we find out why a scene was included in an episode.

The aforementioned scenes with Ifrit, and Salim don’t seem to take us anywhere. We find out Ifrit is a jinn/genie driving a cab in New York — but after the love scene we see Ifrit has left Salim his clothes, and a driver’s license. So, we’re left to wonder — is Salim a jinn now? His eyes, unlike Ifrit’s were not on fire, so probably not. But it’s a very obtuse ending. What was the point of their interactions?

Then again, maybe these aren’t “worts” at all. Maybe this is the style in which American Gods is giving us information. It’s introduced, cultivated, and then the purpose is revealed. Kind of like our hero’s faith.

If this is the case…then well played American Gods, well played.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites