Season 1/ Episode 3/ Starz
By now, American Gods knows what kind of show it is. It’s aware of what checkmarks it has to hit to be a good version of itself: clever moments from Wednesday, wild sex scenes, and mind-bending snapshots of a variety of deities. “Head Full of Snow” maintains this tradition and probably improves it without the shock value needed to hook viewers in the first two episodes.
The first scene opens up in an apartment building in an unnamed city and focuses on an older woman standing on a wobbly chair as she reaches for something on her top shelf. After reaching the mason jar she was after, she continues cooking whatever’s on the stove before there’s a knock at the door. On the other side is a man she doesn’t recognize. She tries to get him to leave – admittedly, by assuming he’s here to see the “Black people family” or rob her. Instead, the man tells her she’s died and shows her her body lying on the kitchen floor. She apparently fell off of the chair she was standing in and didn’t survive.
The man reveals himself to be Anubis, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. Although she’s a practicing Muslim, Anubis came to her because she was educated on his existence in her youth and never truly forgot.
As a final gift, Anubis tells her how her family will live on after she’s been buried and let’s her know the food she was preparing was perfect. As the two walk up the fire escape to the roof, they end up in a desert. As the two sit down, Anubis rips the woman’s heart out of her chest and weighs it on a scale against a feather. This is meant to determine her fate. The woman starts to confess her wrongdoings and says she tried her best as Anubis watches the scale. After presenting her with the choice of different doors to go into, Anubis chooses for her because she can’t do so herself. After one last moment of hesitation, the woman’s hairless cat pushes her into a door and walks away with Anubis.
Wondering what happened to Shadow after losing a game of chess he bet his entire life on? You’re not the only one. Instead of seeing Shadow on his knees preparing for a death blow or in a bloody death match with Czernobog, we reunite with our protagonist as he sleeps on a couch. That’s it. He lost the game and just went to sleep. Kind of anti-climactic if you ask me. But, eh.
Shadow’s awakened by a cold Chicago breeze coming through the living room window. He sees the third Zorya sister, Polunochnaya, climb up the fire escape to the roof and decides to follow her. Once there, Polunochnaya explains that she’s the youngest of her sisters and their job is to watch the sky in case “the thing in the stars” breaks loose. She then offers to read his fortune and proceeds to do so even though Shadow objects. Apparently a respect for personal space and consent aren’t worthy concepts in the world of gods because she kisses him without permission too…
Polunochnaya then notices Shadow’s lost something. Not his wife, as he initially thought. But the coin he got from Mad Sweeney. To replace it, Polunochnaya literally plucks the moon from the sky and turns it into a silver coin she tells him to keep for protection. Instead of continuing this conversation, Polunochnaya tells Shadow to go to sleep and he suddenly wakes up back on the couch after an indeterminate amount of time has passed.
After getting an unwanted close-up on Czernobog’s feet – unless you’re into that kind of thing? We don’t judge – Shadow knocks on his door and challenges him to another game of chess after challenging his ability to kill him with one swing due to his old age. Czernobog takes the bait. With another game just as intense as the first, Shadow wins. We’re to assume the luck of his new coin pushed him over the edge. Sure, Shadow still owes Czernobog a death blow to his skull, but he successfully extended the clock until after Wednesday uses him r whatever he needs to. With his shoulder feeling a little lighter, he jumps right out of the frying pan into another frying pan as Wednesday tells him they’re going to rob a bank.
Back in the badass Louisiana bar in Indiana, Mad Sweeney is asleep in the bathroom stall. The older woman who was ready to let Shadow get all in her gumbo walks in with a shotgun and asks him to leave. With the kind of confidence you’d only expect from a god, Sweeney dares her to shoot, sure that the gun will backfire. As he reaches for a bottle of beer from the bathroom floor that almost has to be p*ss-warm – we’ll let you guess why – she calls his bluff. The bottle explodes from the gun shot and a shard of it gets stuck in Sweeney’s face.
In the next scene, he’s walking down the highway as a car pulls up next to him. The driver is apparently 11 years sober and tries to help people in need that remind him of his former hard times. After some hilarious back and forth – “Are you a murderer?” – Sweeney gets in the car and tries to doze off as they head to Wisconsin. Suddenly, on some Final Destination type sh*t, a steel rod falls off of a truck up the road and flies straight through the driver’s head. Sweeney walks away without a scratch, but the driver’s dead, obviously.
As police arrive, Sweeney suddenly realizes this is way too much bad luck for a leprechaun to have in one morning. He’s lost his lucky coin. He gave the wrong one to Shadow.
Later on in the episode, he tracks down Shadow and Wednesday and asks for it back, but Shadow’s already dropped the coin back on his wife’s grave and replaced it with a new one. After making another joke about Shadow’s dead wife, Sweeney heads off to Eagle Point, Ind. to find it so he can at least survive the trip to Wisconsin.
The second cutaway scene involves a familiar character you may have missed earlier this season. In episode 2, after Shadow was offered a chance to get flashed by Lucille Ball, he walked into a diner to see Wednesday meeting with someone who had flames for eyes. Apparently, that was a djinn and he’s a major player in the scene focused on an Omani salesman named Salim. Salim spends an entire day in the waiting room of a “Mr. Blanding” who’s clearly giving him the cold shoulder. Due to his determination to sell some products he has no faith in, Salim sits in that same dreary office until 6 o’clock before the secretary basically tells him to leave.
Downstairs, he catches a cab that’s actually being driven by a djinn – the “people of fire” the modern concept of genies are based off of. The two connect over a shared struggle of trying to make ends meet after immigrating to America. While he may be a djinn, the cab driver is still a cab driver.
Salim is completely unaware of the origin of his new friend until the cab driver falls asleep. As Salim reaches forward to wake him, the driver’s sunglasses fall off and reveal the two balls of fire filling in for where his eyeballs would normally be. Salim shares how his grandmother once claimed to have met a djinn but no one believed her. When the driver drops Salim off at his hotel, Salim turns back and let’s him know his room number. They’ve clearly made a connection and both want to see how much further it can go as they’re soon holding hands in an elevator.
Apparently there’s no such thing as a normal sex scene in American Gods. We’ve already had a baker’s dozen worth of people get eaten by a vagina. Now we’ve got a djinn passing the eternal flame of his powers literally into a guy he just picked up in his cab. In a magical desert.
The next morning, Salim wakes up alone. His clothes are gone as are his belongings. All that he can find are the clothes of the nameless cab driver and a wallet with an ID that doesn’t belong to either of them. He heads downstairs, in the cab driver’s clothes, and gets into the driver’s seat of his cab. They’ve both found an escape from their life struggles in each other. The djinn is off doing who knows what and Salim no longer has to sell “horrible, cheap, ugly sh*t” just to survive.
Back in what we’re supposed to believe is Chicago – as a native Chicagoan, I can tell you it is not – Shadow keeps doing things he doesn’t want to do. He’s way too susceptible to peer pressure!
After stating his objection, Shadow follows Wednesday into a bank he plans to rob. Fortunately, he’s not about to just walk in with a gun and a ski mask. He’s got too much style for that. Instead, he just asks some questions, grabs some deposit slips and they both head across the street to a store to get some copies made.
To calm down his anxieties, Wednesday urges Shadow to concentrate on the word “snow.”
While waiting to talk to someone at the photo copy story, Wednesday schools Shadow on the many different shades of Jesus and why so many versions of him exist. That is, until he goes off on a blatantly racist tangent about “Mexican Jesus” swimming across the Rio Grande.
[Note: Okay, it’s been three episodes. It’s time to talk about the awkward relationship this show has with race. It was almost better in the book when they stopped short of making Shadow Black because now everyone just uses it as an excuse to hit him with their racist verbal think pieces.]
As Wednesday goes to talk to the clerk, Shadow falls asleep while thinking about snow. When he wakes up, lo and behold, it’s snowing. Which is odd because it wasn’t even supposed to be a cold day, better yet cold enough to snow. (I’d just blame it on Chicago weather, but we can call it magic if it helps the show move forward.)
Get ready for the most action-packed, adrenaline-pumping bank robbery of all time!
Just kidding! It was actually really anti-climactic for something we spent the entire episode building up to. It was admittedly clever though. Wednesday just sat outside the bank in a security uniform and let people drop their money in a bag for him. All he had to do was make it look like the ATM and deposit box were out of order and people were willing to give their money to a complete stranger.
Not even the best plans come without a snag or two though. A cop drove by and asked Wednesday for his card – which sent Shadow into a minor breakdown at the thought of going back to jail – and called the number on it. The pay phone behind Shadow rings and he decides to stick with the plan and act like Wednesday’s boss. As a matter of fact, he gets really into it after a while.
The officer pulls off and Shadow and Wednesday drive off with a bag full of money and they barely had to lift a finger to get it. Wednesday gives him his cut as they pick up their discussion about believing in the impossible and the heart and soul of America. Wednesday pulls a classic Wednesday and falls asleep in record time to leave Shadow alone with his thoughts.
“You are pretending you can’t believe in invisible things.”
Back in Eagle Point, Ind., Mad Sweeney makes his way to Laura’s grave. He starts digging to find his lucky coin before finding – pregnant pause – and empty grave with a circle shaped hole in it!
The last scene shows Shadow walking into his motel room to find Laura, his dead wife, sitting on the bed waiting for him.
Looking for all of our American Gods recaps, reviews, and commentaries in one place? *flips a coin* Look no further, you can find them all right here.