Season 1, Episode 3
Air Date: Sunday May 14, 2017, 9PM ET/PT on STARZ
It’s Time To Believe.
By Erin Richards-Kunkel
“You’d rather die than live in a world with bears in the sky.” – Zorya Polunochnaya
One of the best parts of American Gods is its ability to blend together cultures, religions, and faiths that as a whole feels seamless. It’s not about which religions or ideas are right or wrong, but the underlying faith that makes all of it real. The end result is a sum that’s truly greater than its parts.
Each episode of American Gods gives us small glimpses of specific undercurrent of ancient gods and their cultures and traditions, but at its very core, the story is about the faith that sustains them. For characters like Shadow (Ricky Whittle), faith unlocks keys to worlds he thought impossible. “Head Full of Snow” explores this more fully as we see Shadow truly begin to not only embrace the impossible, but also to believe himself capable of it.
Before we learn whether Shadow survives his lost game of checkers with Czernobog (Peter Stormare) from “The Secret of the Spoon,” we are taken on a journey explaining how death really works. If you were guessing trumpets and pearly gates, you’d be wrong. It’s Anubis (Chris Obi), the Egyptian God of the Dead, weighing your heart and sins against a feather and ushering your soul through the door of your choice. But from there, the mystery remains.
Back in Chicago, Czernobog waits gleefully for sunrise, the time when blood flows best for killing. Before he has a chance to take his blow, Shadow meets Zorya Polunochnaya (Erika Kaar), the third Zorya sister who is stargazing. She helps Shadow by plucking the moon out of the sky and handing it to him in the form of a silver dollar. This is his protection and luck returned. Taking a chance, Shadow challenges Czernobog to a rematch, playing upon his insecurities. This game comes out in Shadow’s favor, and Czernobog reluctantly agrees to accompany Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) to Wisconsin, but only after issuing a few death threats. I am betting there will be more to come.
In a secret meeting with Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman), Mr. Wednesday reveals that war is the end result of his plan for the gathering of gods he is bringing to Wisconsin. But to fuel his army, he needs funds. What better way than to rob a bank? To help with the caper, Mr. Wednesday instructs Shadow to think of “snow” and unbelievably, Shadow’s mind is on fluffy white snowflakes. He visualizes them materializing right in the dingy copy store. Faced with the possibility that he made it snow, Shadow takes one more step down the path of belief and slowly begins to have faith in Mr. Wednesday and his powers after their hijinks are successful.
Mr. Wednesday: “You are pretending you cannot believe in impossible things.”
Shadow: “Did I make snow?”
Mr. Wednesday: “Well, 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. Or, you can believe it’s a delusion.”
In “Head Full of Snow,” McShane truly shines. His whimsical humor and conman charms are a delight. At the heart of his character, he is power-hungry and conniving but his obvious pleasure in strategizing, planning, and reminiscent nostalgia makes him loveable.
After waking up drunk in the bar where we last left him, Mad Sweeny (Pablo Schreiber) makes a return, but his luck has turned (Since he’s a leprechaun, the irony is palpable.). Turns out the gold coin Shadow won is none other than the leprechaun’s lucky gold coin (of course). He finds Shadow and Mr. Wednesday and demands the return of his coin, which Shadow reveals he left on his wife’s grave. But when he goes back to retrieve it, he finds a hole burned in the soil and an empty coffin where Laura’s (Emily Browning) corpse should have been. But, instead of being buried in the ground, she’s sitting in Shadow’s hotel room.
Although Laura Moon’s return was foreshadowed throughout “The Secret of Spoon” and “Head Full of Snow,” the surprise of seeing her back in Shadow’s life leaves viewers wanting more.
By the Book: In the Land of Gods and Monsters
By: Connie Allen
At its heart, American Gods, much like the book upon which it is based, is a story of discovery. That said, I have come to accept that the timeline from Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” is going to be skewed with the development of the television series. This isn’t an altogether terrible thing; the critical acclaim for Gaiman’s literary work cannot be exactly mirrored on the show because the art of storytelling on TV is a different medium. Does the series stray too much from the book? So far, it stays true to Gaiman’s original conception, yet writers and producers Michael Green and Bryan Fuller manage to pave their own interpretation without diverting away from the core themes that make “American Gods” so compelling.
I appreciate the way Fuller and Green capture the essence of Shadow’s adventure as his story line takes some comedic and light-hearted turns. Fuller and Green balance the complex story lines between new and recurring characters. Director David Slade is amazing at setting up a scene; I love the style and the way every major plot point transitions from start to finish.
The Good Stuff
“Head Full of Snow” is only the third episode of the series and there are many great scenes, but several stand out in my mind the most. Starting with Shadow’s grim dilemma regarding Czernobog I love how beautifully his story develops from one of suspense to utter wonderment by the end of the episode. Shadow’s greatest challenge thus far is believing in himself and what he sees. At one point, Wednesday remarks to him, “You are pretending you cannot believe in impossible things.” When Shadow leads with confidence, it seems he can conquer any challenge facing him. We see this when he manipulates the weather, making it snow. In his faceoff with Czernobog, Shadow not only gains the upper hand, he uses his wit that bears an eerie charm-like quality reminiscent of Wednesday. What I really enjoy is the way every episode thus far has two large parts — an introduction to new gods, and the continuing voyage Wednesday and Shadow share while traveling across America.
The second significant moment in “Head Full of Snow” is the introduction of The Jinn (Mousa Kraish). While one can focus on the explicit nature of his scenes, I find it refreshing that American Gods does not limit the way it depicts sexuality; women are not the only ones who bare it all onscreen. What’s more important is The Jinn’s scenes are not intended to be exploitive but rather, demonstrative of the magnitude of his powers. Sex scenes for sensationalism are off-putting to me, but if they are utilized in a way that enhances the story and moves it forward in the plot, then I’m all in. When The Jinn and Salim (Omid Atahi) are together, it’s seductive and alluring. Director Slade shoots the scene in a way that doesn’t feel over the top, well apart from The Jinn showing his true form. That’s not something you see every day on television. Lastly, there’s the matter at hand with Mad Sweeney, who didn’t do too well with Shadow the last time we saw him. It’s interesting to see how a leprechaun fairs when his luck runs out.
With every new subsequent episode of American Gods, I remain enthralled. The visual aesthetic and the way the production team brings Gaiman’s world to life is remarkable. The talented cast members are well suited to their characters, so much so it feels like they were made for them. Whittle’s Shadow is going to be a gamechanger in his career; he commands the screen showing a range that took me by surprise. The supporting cast continues to astound me with their caliber of talent. Obi, as Anubis, makes the idea of the afterlife a little less frightening and the setting of his world in the cosmos is breathtaking.
Overall, American Gods continues to be a truly stunning series that showcases how captivating a fantasy series can be on television.
Tune in to new episodes of American Gods, Sundays at 9PM E/P on Starz.
For more on the show, go to https://www.starz.com/series/americangods/episodes
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Photos ©2017 Starz Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 2017, Connie and Erin. All rights reserved.
Connie and Erin
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