Rather than opening on the standard coming to America sequence, this episode of American Gods, titled “Head Full of Snow,” opens with someone leaving America and Earth all together. American Gods doesn’t go to space quite yet, but instead an older woman falls and dies alone in her home. Following her death, she is visited by the Egyptian god of death, Anubis. Anubis takes the woman to the afterlife to weigh her soul. It’s a beautiful, weird and oddly funny opening.
It is also the perfect introduction for “Head Full of Snow” since the episode deals with Shadow’s impending death at Czernobog’s hammer. There is maybe not enough of Shadow in the episode, but there are important steps made in Shadow finally accepting his new world.
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A Rematch for a Hammer Strike
As night falls in Chicago, Shadow gets to meet the third Zorya sister … well, almost. Shadow and Zorya Polunochnaya meeting is bookended by him sleeping just like his first meeting, with the undead Laura suggesting it is all a dream. It is a bit frustrating that American Gods keeps giving reasons for Shadow to deny all the crazy things that are happening to them, but it is understandable with such a stoic character. In any case, when the third Zorya learns that Shadow has bargained away his life, she gives him protection. Zorya gives Shadow a coin made from the moon, telling he gave away the sun and shouldn’t do it with this coin.
Armed with his new protection, Shadow barges into Czernobog’s room and tells him he wants a rematch. Shadow taunts Czernobog and tells him if he wins again, Czernobog will get a second swing to kill Shadow because one might not be enough. If Shadow wins the rematch, Czernobog must agree to Wednesday’s offer. But after it is all over, he will get to swing his hammer at Shadow.
This negotiation with Czernobog is Shadow’s best scene yet, as it proves he is learning more than a bit from charming and scheming Mr. Wednesday. Shadow is clever and manipulative, and Whittle really comes alive playing something other than anger, confusion or a mixture of both. Shadow’s rematch with Czernobog is successful too, as he wins the Checkers match. Czernobog agrees to meet the pair in Wisconsin, but before Shadow can feel too proud, Wednesday informs that they are going to rob a bank.
Somewhere in America…
American Gods doesn’t live much in this (fantastic) moment, though; the show quickly jumps to a new location with (almost) brand-new characters. Somewhere in America, we meet Salim, a young immigrant from the Middle East who is struggling to make it. Salim spends all day waiting for a work meeting that never happens; the boss ignores Salim all together. Only on American Gods could the experience of constantly waiting and being disrespected be incredibly artistic and gorgeously rendered.
Salim ends his wasted day in a taxi cab. The driver of the taxi is none other than the man with the fiery eyes that Wednesday met with while Shadow was shopping in the previous episode. Salim strikes up a conversation with the driver after discovering that they speak the same language. And they know what it is like to be an immigrant in America. Salim eventually discovers the man’s fiery eyes and correctly deduces that the man is, in fact, a djinn. After this revelation, the connection between Salim and the djinn grows much more intense and quickly becomes romantic. When they arrive at Salim’s place, Salim invites the djinn up, and the two have sex. The next morning, the dijinn is gone but the taxi cab is still outside, so Salim hops behind the wheel, seemingly taking over the djinn’s job.
It is hard to know what to make of this story. Salim and the djinn having sex is much more intimate and tender than anything Bilquis, thankfully, has been doing this season. Salim also seems to be happy to take the djinn’s spot as a taxi driver. The quickness and severity of the relationship does feel like another example of the old gods using humanity. Salim seems less in love with the djinn than entranced by him. If Salim is being used, I suppose this why it is injected directly into Shadow’s story. This doesn’t change the fact that it was incredibly abrupt to move from Wednesday announcing he is robbing a bank to a djinn meet-cute/seduction, but there is some connective tissue.
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The Protection of the Sun
After Salim’s story, we do luckily move back to the bank robbery. Shadow is miserable, thinking Wednesday is going to get him arrested again. But the man assures Shadow he has it all under control. Wednesday tells Shadow to think of snow very hard, and suddenly a heavy snowstorm occurs. Wednesday then uses the snowstorm as a cover, pretending to be someone from the bank who puts the ATM out of order and collects all the money from the people who come to drop cash off. It’s a scheme that works much better in the book, mostly because it is hard to believe that Wednesday wouldn’t be caught in an age of surveillance and smart phones even with a snowstorm, but Shadow is impressed. Shadow doesn’t quite believe that Wednesday is magic or that anything that is happening to him lately isn’t a delusion, but he is starting to come around.
Shadow’s biggest surprise is yet to come. While Wednesday is robbing a bank, Mad Sweeney is looking for the lucky coin that Shadow received from him in the first episode, the coin with the sun. Shadow tells Sweeney to go to Laura’s grave. Sweeney goes to the graveyard and finds that the coin has burned all the way through the soil and into Laura’s casket. Yet the coin is not there, and neither is Laura.
Across the country, Shadow walks into the newest motel he is staying at with Wednesday. Inside his room on the bed sits Laura; she greets with a shy, “Hi, puppy.” As far as ending lines go, this isn’t as strong as “It’s a shame you’re my only black friend,” but it is a great cliffhanger. Even more promising, an alive Laura when Shadow is wide awake should finally make him believe that everything happening to him is magic. It’s not just a trick of the mind, light or a weird dream. It is all happening.
What do you think? Will this finally convince Shadow? Were you annoyed or enthralled by the Salim story? Was Salim being used or was he in his full and right mind? Will Shadow keep his new coin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
American Gods season 1 airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on Starz. Want more news? Like BuddyTV’s Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of Starz)