TV Review: American Gods – Season 1 Episode 3 “Head Full of Snow”

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

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EPISODE 3: "Head Full of Snow"

SYNOPSIS: Shadow questions the terms of his employment when Mr. Wednesday informs him of his plan to rob a bank (because, naturally, every army needs a source of funding). And just when Shadow thought his life couldn’t get any more complicated, he returns to his motel room to a surprising discovery.

American Gods, TV Review, Starz, Fantasy, Drama, Ian McShane, Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller, Gillian Anderson

REVIEW: As we approach the halfway point of the 8-episode first season of American Gods, there are still lots of questions. At the top of the list is "what the hell is going on?". I love the slow burn build over the first two hours of the series but there has been little to no explanation as to who these characters are and how Shadow Moon fits into Mr. Wednesday's grand scheme. Tonight's hour does little to lay out the story in plain English, but we do get a tease as to just how powerful and significant Shadow may be. All in all, this was yet another home run episode for Bryan Fuller's series, even if it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense. While some plot elements from the first episodes are left unanswered, we do have a lot of new ones introduced that continue to deepen the mythology of what Neil Gaiman's novel was all about.

Picking up from last week's game of checkers between Shadown Moon and Czernobog, we find our main character mulling his loss and his impendiing execution by hammer to the skull. Traversing to the roof of the Chicago building, Shadow meets Zorya, another of the three sisters. As she watches the skies in anticipation of Shadow's arrival, she gives him an idea as to how he can escape death at the hands of Czernobog. Shadow then challenges a rematch of checkers which he wins. This throws Czernobog into a rage and he refuses to help Mr. Wednesday. Shadow and his employer then depart. Clearly, Czernobog will play a role down the line but for now, they go their separate ways. What follows next is a series of standalone story elements which I find to be very entertaining but I am struggling to see how they fit into the main story. Rather than intercutting these subplots, the series instead opts to deliver them as segments of each episode which do not tie directly into the main narrative. It is an interesting creative choice but one I am not sure entirely works.

As in the previous episodes, this third hour opened with a distinct short story centered on Mr. Jacquel. A variation on the Egyptian god Anubis, Mr. Jacquel's story follows his guiding of a recently deceased woman to her fate in the afterlife. It is a haunting and beautiful segment that works as a short film but viewers will find out in future episodes how this ties directly into the main narrative of this series. The second standaline segment follows Mad Sweeney as he tries to find his way back to Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. Having lost his good luck charm, Sweeney is now not feeling the benefit of his supernatural abilities as a leprechaun. Now, he has nothing but bad luck. After being ejected from the bar by Jack, Sweeney hitchhikes his way to Wisconsin. Getting a ride from a man played by Kids in the Hall great and Hannibal co-star Scott Thompson, Sweeney's bad luck takes a gruesome turn. Fans of the novel will love the way Pablo Schrieber brings a humor and darkness to the character of Mad Sweeney while viewers get to enjoy just how bad things can go for the Irish trickster.

The other subplot in this episode is just as well executed of a short film as the opening teaser. Following a salesman named Salim, we find another type of mythological being in the form of Djinn turned cab driver played by Mousa Kraish. Seeing as Bryan Fuller has never shied away from unconventional romances, we see Salim and the Djinn fall into a sexual relationship. For those uncomfortable with homosexual sex scenes, this one is not going to make you feel much more comfortable, but it is executed in such an erotic way that you will likely be unable to turn away from the scene. The metaphorical fire burning inside the characters is given a physical manifestation with the two characters being intrinsically linked by the end of their carnal interaction. How the Djinn and Salim will tie into the main story remains to be seen, but this show is shaping up to work both as an episodic story along with brilliant short film worthy material.

American Gods, TV Review, Starz, Fantasy, Drama, Ian McShane, Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller, Gillian Anderson

The episode wraps with Mr. Wednesday taking Shadow through a heist, of sorts. First, Wednesday convinces Shadow to create a snowstorm using only his thoughts. The results reminded me a great deal of Morpheus teaching Neo how to use The Matrix to his advantage. When the scheme finally gets underway, Shadow falls back into his grifter ways almost without missing a beat. But, there does seem to be something missing from his lack of belief in what is going on. By episode's end, Wednesday has the cash he needs and has offered minimal explanation to Shadow. But, when they check into their motel rooms, Shadow is surprised to find his late wife returned from the grave thanks to Mad Sweeney's lucky coin. I liked this episode a lot and it kept me entertained throughout. My only qualm so far about this show that keeps me from giving it a perfect score is the lack of a cohesive explanation as to what is going on. I don't like to be spoon fed but this show is as frustrating as it is enthralling. So, like FX's Legion, I will remain a faithful watcher albeit a skeptical one.

Key Observations From "Head Full of Snow":

  • Genie weenie. That is all.
  • Is it just me or does the CGI blood look a little better on American Gods than in previous Starz series like Spartacus and Ash vs Evil Dead?
  • This show could be Shadow and Wednesday talking at a table for sixty minutes and it would still be better than most shows on TV.
  • Mad Sweeney seems to have the weakest background of all the characters but he is just awesome to watch. Pablo Schrieber should have been cast as Cassidy on Preacher.
  • Now that is a cliffhanger ending. Trust me, you are not going to like Laura Moon next week.

NEXT ON AMERICAN GODS: "Git Gone" airs May 21st –  Alternating between the past and the present, Laura’s life and death are explored—how she met Shadow, how she died, and how exactly she came to be sitting on the edge of his motel room bed.

TV Review: American Gods – Season 1 Episode 3 “Head Full of Snow”




About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.