Just when I think that American Gods can’t possibly get any better, I find myself surprised with each episode. Although last week’s tricky situation with Czernobog is solved, this week’s episode, “Head Full of Snow,” was as elusive as ever.
Need a quick catch up? Be sure to check out our recap of last week’s episode
This recap contains spoilers
Rather than follow in the footsteps of previous episodes in the series, “Head Full of Snow” starts out with something a little different. Although the gods are most certainly mentioned in passing, the opening scene, titled “Somewhere in America,” is a little different from the stories of the gods that have been present in the opening scenes of the first two episodes of the series.
The third episode of American Gods opens to an apartment in New York. Instead of meeting a god, we find ourselves face to face with an older woman and her cat. Preparing for her family to come visit her, something seems a little off in the first few seconds of the strange and unfamiliar scene. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s work might even find themselves a little confused, wondering about the identity of this mysterious woman. Just as quickly, however, the viewer is made aware of what is actually going on, as the unnamed woman receives a knock at the door from Anubis (portrayed by Chris Obi), or death.
Yes, death. In just a few, short moments, a pleasant scene becomes one that is bittersweet, as it is revealed that the woman has died, but hasn’t yet realized it. She is confronted by death and told that it is time to leave. After a brief conversation, wherein the woman is made aware of some of the details regarding the future of her family, the two begin the journey to the scales of justice. Accompanied by the cat, the two make their way up a seemingly never-ending fire escape that slowly transitions into the side of a pyramid. At the very top, a beautiful scene is unveiled, wherein the scales of justice are revealed.
Through one brief scene, viewers are presented with a glimpse at the unknown. Death and the afterlife are discussed before the woman is pushed into an unknown world. Without a true answer behind death or what comes after a person is given the opportunity to choose their fate, the scene transitions back to the Zorya house, where we left Shadow.
Shadow is woken up in the middle of the night and drawn outside, where we finally meet the mysterious third sister in the strange Zorya family, Zorya Polunochynaya (portrayed by Erika Kaar). With a stunning view of the night sky, the viewer is presented with a conversation between Shadow and the third sister, as they observe the constellations. Mysterious comments surrounding Shadow’s future make their way into the conversation as the third sister comments on his lack of belief and faith. Following previous episodes, a small sense of foreboding colors the scene as the youngest Zorya sister presents shadow with the moon in the form of a special silver liberty dollar in an offering of protection.
After hinting that Shadow once had the sun as well, the scene transitions to Shadow persuading Czernobog to participate in another game of chess on the same terms as the night before – if Shadow wins, Czernobog will help Wednesday; if he loses – he will get two chances to kill Shadow (in the event that the older man cannot, for some reason, kill him with one swing of the hammer).
In a quick succession of scenes, the viewer is given a glimpse at a few characters, including Shadow and Wednesday (who declares that they are going to rob a bank), and even Mad Sweeney, who is most definitely down on his luck, before transitioning to an intimately beautiful scene between two men.
Following its predecessors with the title, “Somewhere in America”, we are given another glimpse at a seemingly everyday encounter. Unlike the scene in the beginning of the episode, however, this new look at life in New York City that is rather unpleasant.
The viewer is introduced to Salim (portrayed by Omid Abtahi), an Arab salesman that is just trying to get by in the city. Armed with a briefcase full of trinkets and small souvenirs, we watch as Salim spends the entire day in an office building waiting for a meeting that will never come. Despite the pain at watching the man deal with being ignored, despite trying his best to do his job, things are looking up for Salim when he catches a cab and realizes that the driver is very much like him – a poor, over-worked middle eastern man. The two share a brief conversation in Arabic, before the driver’s true identity as a Jinn is revealed. Salim and the Jinn (portrayed by Mousa Kraish) talk about religion; although many people believe jinn to grant wishes, they do anything but, otherwise, why would a god be driving a taxi, without sleep, in order to get by?
In a moment of connection and understanding, Salim, upon leaving the taxi, tells the Jinn his room number at the hotel he is staying at. Shortly afterward, we are presented with an incredibly intimate scene between the two men. In a beautiful scene, the Jinn (who is revealed earlier to be an ifrit with fire in his eyes) and Salim show that a man and a god can be together and it’s just as passionate and fiery as it sounds. The following morning, Salim wakes up alone but finds that he has a new identity as a taxi driver.
Shortly afterward, we find ourselves following Shadow and Wednesday as their journey continues. In a print shop, Wednesday begins preparations for the bank robbery after encouraging Shadow to “think about snow”. Alluding to a hidden ability within Shadow, Wednesday continues to encourage Shadow to concentrate on the idea of snow while he prints up new IDs and posters that will aid them in their operation to obtain money in a soon-to-be-revealed con.
Wednesday completes his preparations while the scenery outside begins to transform as heavy snow begins to fall. As Shadow begins to question the idea that he has some type of unknown ability, Wednesday offers no support, merely stating that: “It’s either real, or it’s fantasy.”
An elaborate con unfolds shortly afterward, in which Shadow and Wednesday take on new identities for a brief period in time. Wednesday hands shadow a business card and points him in the direction of a pay phone just outside of a grocery store, before heading off to the bank across the street. After posting signs that claim that the ATM and night box deposit slot are temporarily out-of-order, Wednesday, in full costume, sits outside of the bank and begins to collect the deposits, while Shadow watches from across the street.
A moment of panic follows shortly afterward, as a police car pulls up outside of the bank. Wednesday, in his typical fashion, approaches the car at ease and hands the policeman inside a card. The phone next to Shadow rings. Assuming a fake identity on the spot, Shadow makes up a convincing story that makes their con seem plausible, allowing the two men to get away with robbing a bank in plain sight.
As the episode draws to a close, we are presented with a back-and-forth perspective that features Shadow and Mad Sweeney, who has apparently been down on his luck because he lost his “lucky” coin, which just so happens to be the coin that Shadow tossed into Laura’s grave.
After learning that Shadow tossed the coin into Laura’s grave, Sweeney makes his way there to retrieve it, only to find that not only is the coin missing, but so is Laura. In the final moments of the episode, Shadow opens his door at a new motel only to find his dead wife, who has been waiting for him.
American Gods continues to shatter all of my expectations with every passing episode. With each episode introducing a new character or mystery to the plot, there’s no telling what next week’s episode has in store.