American Gods: “Head Full of Snow” Review


By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

On the heels of a welcome season two renewal for American Gods comes the third episode of the first season, “Head Full of Snow.” The roster continues to fill with the supernatural and where it’s ultimately headed, only Wednesday knows. Read on for a review of this week’s episode of American Gods!

American Gods has managed to delve into the mythology of many world religions and beliefs, and “Head Full of Snow” was no exception to that, continuing to introduce more deities. While Neil Gaiman book fans are unsurprisingly excited to see characters brought to life on their television screens, the viewers who are new to the world of American Gods may find themselves lost in the sauce! This week’s episode was particularly heavy with new characters, and the truth is that viewers unfamiliar with the source material may be asking themselves what the point of each new character might be. New gods are introduced in various individual subplots, but that familiarization does not often tie the characters into the overall story. Without that connection, those subplots can feel irrelevant to the new viewer. This particular episode also felt more disjointed than the previous episodes, perhaps because there was more than one “somewhere in America” tale told while the flipside brought less Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow (Ricky Whittle). This was a similar pitfall that season one of Gotham ran into once upon a time, scrambling to introduce characters each week that viewers knew, but losing character and deep story development opportunities in the process. The reality is that there’s nothing wrong with a slow burn, if done right. However, writers Michael Green and Bryan Fuller came across in “Head Full of Snow” as overly eager to bring in more of the supernatural without moving the story forward in a meaningful way.

Perhaps another flaw of this week’s episode of American Gods was its gratuitous sex scene. While scenes with Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) have served the story in previous episodes by showing how the goddess is worshipped and gains power, this week’s scene did not feel as purposeful. Less can be more, but nothing was left to the imagination…for several minutes. Ultimately, a story of love and identity has meaning, but that meaning can easily be communicated in more subtle ways. Even though the scene was taken from the source material, in this presentation it felt more like a “shock and awe” tactic than truly helpful in plot development. Sex for the sake of ratings is an unfortunate waste when it can be more appropriately used as tactful part of the storytelling.

All that being said, one of the things American Gods does well is address relevant issues of today. In “Head Full of Snow,” Shadow and Wednesday had a powerful conversation about belief and how it informs one’s view of the world. Does the world change because something exists or not? Or does it change because we believe something exists or doesn’t? Belief is something that everyone struggles with in some form or another, and this week’s episode began to get to the core of belief philosophy (and in turn got to the heart of the show). This feels like the stride American Gods is really trying to hit, and this week’s episode served its purpose in fulfilling that.

Additionally, this week’s episode expertly weaved source material from the book with new facets of the story previously untold. Die hard book fans likely find themselves appeased, while the new material adds to and supplements what is already familiar to them. Book fans can be the most critical viewers of all (myself included), yet I was particularly struck with how “Head Full of Snow” managed to blend old and new seamlessly, creating something new for the screen.

As always, this week’s episode of American Gods was visually creative and interesting. With David Slade directing this week’s episode (in addition to episodes one and two), a consistent atmosphere has been created for the show, brilliantly bringing to life Gaiman’s story and its adaptation by Green and Fuller. Each scene is a stunning piece of art while also serving as a form of media entertainment. In a world full of options for entertainment left and right, to be unique and stand alone is an accomplishment, and American Gods continues to deliver!

Overall, “Head Full of Snow” was not the best episode of American Gods, but with an impossibly high standard set by the pilot episode alone, it’s not surprising that small disappointments can creep in. That being said, this week’s episode was still fantastic, flaws and all, and could be considered leagues ahead of other shows. Even the worst of this show might be better than the best of other television series. And that’s not a bad spot to be in!

    One Comment

  1. NicoleMay 16th, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I’m saddened that you found that scene gratuitous, especially since it is in the book as you said. I don’t think it should have been changed at all. I was happy that Starz and the creators were willing to go there with two men who were not white. I feel like it would have been a disservice to that scene if it were less than it was. It would feel that the creators were trying to play it too safe by diminishing that scene. We need to see this type of representation on the screen.

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