Head Full of Snow was in many ways a slow episode. The plot barely advanced and you could write an accurate summary of the key events in one short paragraph.
Yet it was also bloody good. There was some great acting and some beautifully shot TV. In fact, this may prove to be one of the most memorable episodes of 2017 from any show.
Instead of doing a straightforward review, I’d like to talk about my favourite three scenes from the third episode of American Gods. Scenes that I think made the episode such a hit.
The introduction of Anubis
Intense but polite. Calm but definite. Kind but still very much the God of the Afterlife. Chris Obi made a great Anubis. In fact, the whole scene was a quality piece of magical realism. The audience was taken masterfully from a suburban scene in Queens to the sands of old Egypt. The style was the dreamlike yet hyper-real look we’ve come to expect from American Gods. Jacqueline Antaramian should also get a special mention for grounding a mystical scene with a consummate performance. It’s subtle performances like these that put the ‘real’ in magical realism and are, in their own way, as important as the more eye-catching performances of those playing the gods.
Checkers and a seduction
This is really two scenes interlinked. The rematch between Shadow and Czernobog and the talk between Mr Wednesday and Zorya Vechernyaya.
God bless Ricky Whittle, he does his best to hold his own against the serious acting heavyweights around. Yet, even when Shadow is taunting Czernobog, it’s Peter Stormare that holds your attention. He exudes a sense of power despite his dilapidation through the subtlest changes in his expression and deportment.
While those two are playing checkers, we see Mr Wednesday slowly charm Zorya Vechernyaya. Zorya Vechernyaya clearly knows that Wednesday is not to be trusted, but lets herself be charmed by the old rogue anyway. Here we see Ian Mcshane play Wednesday as the lovable con man he is. What makes the scene for me, however, is one simple word. Or at least the way that word is delivered. When Zorya Vechernyaya asks Wednesday “what else can I taste?” and he replies “war”, we saw just a glimmer of the war god behind the huckster. McShane and Cloris Leachman gave one of the great acting ‘duets’ in this scene.
Salim and the Jinn
This was a tale of two lost souls, one mortal and one demigod, alone in a strange land that isn’t welcoming to them at all. It’s a story about a human connection achieved between two people that needed it, when they needed it the most.
Although much has been written about the unflinching depiction of the sex between Salim and the Jinn, that’s not what made the scene. Instead, it was the small touches that made the scene. Like Salim hesitating before touching the Jinn on the shoulder, or coyly holding his hand in the lift. Or the way the Jinn disrobed in front of Salim. Yes, he did have an exceptionally large penis, but it was also an act of literally baring himself in front of another and asking for acceptance. While the sex scene itself was ‘graphic’, it was also necessary as it captured the visceral passion both man and Jinn felt on finding the physical contact with another they desperately needed.
Top Three Quotes from Episode 3 of American Gods
“You’re Zorya POl.ckcth.. The sister that was sleeping” – Shadow Moon
“Knowledge over comfort, over all things, always” – Mr Wednesday
“Why are you talking to me about marshmallows? Like I’m worried about marshmallows… Yeah, I like marshmallows.”- Shadow
If you enjoyed this you may want to take a look at last week’s article ‘Three Things I Loved and One I Didn’t Understand from The Secret of Spoons‘, or you could look at our previous reviews of American Gods.