American Gods keeps the intrigue going in a jam-packed episode

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Note: Spoilers to follow for “Head Full of Snow”, the latest episode of American Gods. I have read the book, but I will not mention any spoilers from that.

So the show continues, and some things change and some things stay the same. The episode was interesting in that we saw a few new characters, some showing information in different sorts of ways from the book. The opening scene presented information that certainly can be gleaned from the book, but it was full of meaning, emotion, humor, horror, and beauty.

With just a few minutes, we had a great look at Mrs. Fadil, a character invented for the show and one we will unlikely ever see again. Anubis was the ancient Egpytian god of the afterlife and the dead, portrayed usually as a man with the head of a jackal. The concept of balancing the scales is also an old Egyptian belief, and the way it was demonstrated here was quite elegant and engaging.

Anubis was a character slightly hidden in the book under a pseudonym, but there is no question he’ll be back. He was portrayed in a fascinating way already, and he was one of two “gods in America” segments. The other was of the Ifrit (or “efreet”), who is also called a jinn, which to put it very simply, was a sort of demon in ancient Arabian folklore. The man who he had an intimate night with was called Salim in the books, but I do not recall a single moment of his name in the show.

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Yet every review mentions his name, and also he appears on IMDB like that. Perhaps he will be a more significant character in the show. It is certainly unusual to have such an explicit scene between gay men on television, even prestige television, and even rarer to be between two Muslim men. For me, commenting on sex scenes in general isn’t really something I get into, regardless of the individuals, but instead it’s the significance of such scenes to the narrative and the context of the show.

We’ve already seen horror-show sex scenes with Bilquis, and by comparison, this is a far more consensual and tender interaction. Sure, the Ifrit seems to have given a sort of essence of himself to Salim, turning the other man into an Ifrit himself, but what happened to the Ifrit? Is he gone? Free? Did he take over Salim’s life? In the book, it is never satisfactorily answered. Here, perhaps it will be.

The powers of an Ifrit are muddled in the old stories; they are often wicked, cunning, and nearly invulnerable. And always connected to fire. But they are not gods, so he’s more akin to leprechauns like Mad Sweeney. Speaking of whom, that was a fantastic arc for the now super unlucky man. I saw the scene of comical death coming, even though it wasn’t in the book. It was simply obvious.

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That said, I liked basically everything with Shadow and Chernabog, Shadow and the youngest Zorya, Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. The chess game reconnected me to a Shadow that is actually pushing forward, and the interactions with the midnight star Zorya Polunochnaya were charming and intriguing. Pushing him ever closer to either going mad or accepting the madness around him.

The bank heist was fun, even if it was a little shorter than I would’ve liked. It’s funny how the only thing that was really unrealistic was the pay phone. Still, it connects to the mystery of Shadow; can he change reality? Did he create snow? Or was it a coincidence or the influence of Mister Wednesday? At this point, we simply don’t know.

I did notice that they tossed in a few references to different versions of Jesus; now I expect that’ll be coming by soon. Overall, this was an episode that moved things along a bit, just a bit, but more importantly, it kept the characterization strong. And although the ending was expected, I thought it worked excellently. It was delightfully creepy and funny, and that’s sort of the book in general. So … kudos.

What are your thoughts about American Gods? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

 

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