American Gods Ep. 103 Recap & Review – ‘Head Full Of Snow’
American Gods continues to astound even in an episode that is, for all intents and purposes, a “filler” (but not really) that sets up the next significant plot point. My favorite parts of the show continues to be the side stories sprinkled throughout. They are equal parts touching, sad, and terrifying as we witness the Old Gods’ lot in life as struggle for relevance in this modern age. With each new vignette, we get a clearer picture of how these guys operate, what they could be thinking, and how they each might be making ends meet in terms of gaining believers.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the main story, I want to touch on the purpose of these side stories in American Gods. We’re three episodes deep now, and we’ve seen five “Somewhere in America” vignettes featuring other Old Gods that seemingly have nothing to do with the series. Indeed, some gods we meet may not have a direct impact in the main story of the series. In the book, a majority of them aren’t even mentioned again. So why do these scenes even exist?
You can’t rightly tell a story about the soul of America if you concentrate on just one god (I am keenly aware of how that sounds considering our current state). In a letter to his agent and editor, Neil Gaiman had an idea about his next book, which later became American Gods: “It’s about the soul of America, really. What people brought to America; what found them when they came; and the things that lie sleeping beneath it all.”
First and foremost, America is a country built by immigrants with varying religious beliefs. In a world where belief creates gods and turn them into flesh and bone beings, one has to wonder what they do to sustain themselves when they start outliving their worshippers. From what we’ve seen so far, the Old Gods are struggling for relevance while the New Gods, based on modern technology and entertainment, are thriving without having to lift a finger.
In the beginning of the episode, we meet Mrs. Fadil (Jacqueline Antaramian), an old Muslim woman whose beliefs actually took root in ancient Egyptian mythology when she was a child. There’s something a little bittersweet and beautiful about how Starz’s American Gods chose to depict her crossing into the Great Unknown. I half expected Mrs. Fadil to fall from her rickety stool, a perfectly reasonable response especially if you’re a fan of Bryan Fuller’s earlier works. We’re spared her (un)spectacular death, and Mrs. Fadil is allowed to step down and resume her routine. We don’t know that she has actually died until Anubis (Chris Obi) knocks on her door.
There’s a tone of mutual respect between Mrs. Fadil and Anubis, the Egyptian god closely associated with death. The whole scene is quiet, gentle, and calm. It eases us into a transition from the real world to a way point toward the afterlife. In this case, we’re taken to a place where Anubis weighs the dead woman’s deeds and then guides her through a door into the unknown.
The whole scene has a sense of wonder and dread, kind of like how Anubis presents himself. There’s nothing flashy about how he looks. Not even in his own world does he don any sort of gaudy robe or jackal head as depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Simple black (and later white) robes only. The gods smile and voice are compassionate and soothing, but his voice holds a weight that subtly reminds you the gravity of his task. It was all so strangely comforting, and isn’t that what everyone hopes for when they die?
Another touching vignette comes in the form of a salesman named Salim (Omid Abtahi) meeting Jinn (Mousa Kraish). I will tell you right now that this scene has always been my favorite out of all the side stories in Neil Gaiman’s book. Salim is just recently came to America and has been trying to make ends meet by being a salesman. He’s not had any luck since coming. His brother-in-law hates him. The businessman with whom Salim had an appointment with just didn’t feel like meeting with him. The receptionist made him wait an entire day and wouldn’t even reschedule because she only made appointments by phone.
Since coming to America, Salim has been forced to eat sh*t and smile while he’s chewing.
Then he discovers that his cab driver is a jinn. Suddenly we find ourselves in a little romantic story where the protagonist has an awakening. Even though the jinn expressly states that he does not grant wishes, he kind of does. He opens Salim up to a whole new world, both sexually and in general. Plus, the jinn gives Salim an identity and new career that he can just slip into.
I love that this show is not limiting to the heteronormative depictions of sex. In just three episodes, we’ve seen full male and female frontal nudes, hetero sex, and female and male homosexual sex. American Gods is an equal opportunist.
The whole story is touching and it, like with Bilquis’ vignettes, shows how far these Old Gods have fallen. The jinn has to be a cab driver who must clean wet sh*t out from the back seat of his car. Clearly he detests his lot in life. He has no worshippers or friends (maybe), no one remembers his name, and popular culture peg his kind as big blue, wish-granting cosmic beings. He may not actually have the power to grant wishes, but he can certainly express his gratitude by doing Salim a solid after a night of intimacy.
Or maybe…he simply grew tired of his life as well and used Salim’s tale of woe to trade places with him. Notice the suit he’s wearing in the second episode and compare it to Salim’s in the picture above. (This literally just donned on me while I was writing this.) Be care what you wish for, indeed.
Elsewhere in Chicago, Shadow is doomed to die by Czernobog’s hammer at dawn. Before his fate is sealed for good, Shadow meets the third and youngest Zorya sister, Zorya Polunochnaya (Erika Kaar). Her job is to watch the night sky, to keep an eye out for some world-ending event. She gives Shadow the moon in the form of a coin. “Don’t lose this. Don’t give it away,” she warns Shadow. “You’ve been given protection once. You had the sun itself. I can give you the moon.”
This new coin is to replace the one Shadow lost, or rather threw away. Yes, Sweeney’s lucky coin is the “sun” to which Polunochnaya is referring. More on that later.
A little emboldened with his new luck, Shadow challenges Czernobog with another checkers match. He goads the old god into agreeing by supposing Czernobog has gotten weak after years of using the bolt gun; that his current strength won’t be enough to smash his brains in with one blow. Czernobog takes the challenge, same terms. This time Shadow wins and a salty Czernobog agrees to go to the Old Gods meeting gin Wisconsin, then he’ll kill Shadow.
Free to go, Shadow and Wednesday go off to their next order of business: robbing a bank. How Wednesday chooses to steal money from unsuspecting bankers is nothing short of genius. It’s simple, understated, and a legit scam. But the conversation leading up the robbery is what sticks out the most.
Shadow contemplates the why deities such as Jesus have different ethnicities, to which Wednesday succinctly states in so many words, there’s a supply and demand. In the wold of American Gods, belief makes things real. It leads to the most hilariously racist joke about the many Jesuses out there, but it has a point. If there is a demand, it shall be supplied.
As Shadow waits for the actual robbery to occur, Wednesday instruct him to “Think snow.” It takes some time, but Shadow does create enough snow to create enough of a distraction for their heist. That is what we’re led to believe, anyway. Whether or not Shadow actually made snow or was merely drawing from Wednesday’s own power is up for debate. “If you choose to believe that you made snow, then you get to live the rest of your life believing that you can do things that are impossible,” says Wednesday to Shadow.
Back at the gator bar where we’re first introduced to Mad Sweeney, the Irish deity realizes something odd about his luck. He doesn’t realize it until he gets picked up from the side of the road by a Good Samaritan, only to be thrown from it when a metal pipe falls from the truck ahead of them and smashes into the driver’s head. His good luck has turned to sh*t and it’s because his lucky coin is gone. While drunkenly showing off to Shadow in the first episode, he accidentally gave the one coin he was not to give away or lose.
The coin was the source of his relatively good fortune. Now he has just enough luck left to survive a shot from a shotgun point blank, and a car cash. But he has to find it before even that runs out. Unfortunately for him, Shadow left it on top of Laura’s grave in Eagle Point, Indiana. When Sweeney digs up Laura’s grave, he finds that the coin is not only gone, but it burned a hole through the coffin, which is no longer occupied…
Shadow enters his motel room for the night and finds that someone has been waiting for him: his not-so-dead-anymore wife Laura Moon.
- Check out my weekly podcast American Pods, where I and a panel of fellow nerds discuss the latest episode of American Gods.
- “You got your white Jesuit-style Jesus, you got your black African Jesus, you got your brown Mexican Jesus, you got your swarthy Greek Jesus— …. Now, the Mexican Jesus came here the same way a lot of Mexicans do. Illegally. That’s not being racial. You can ask Him. He’ll tell you. He waded across the Rio Grande, his back as wet as the epithet suggests.”
- Next week we learn a hell of a lot more about Laura Moon than we ever did in the books.
- I love the clear and present sexual tension between Wednesday and Cloris Leachman’s Zorya Zorya Vechernyaya. Their flirtation was palpable. Oh the dirty puns. Dirty puns galore!
- Vechernyaya to Wednesday: “Go to bed!”
Wednesday: “I’m trying!” He most definitely means that he’s trying to get into her bed. LOL!