Now that American Gods has been officially renewed for a second season, watching the show takes on a less desperate feel. Instead of a small voice in the back of my head asking “Is this too weird for mainstream audiences?” as Mr. Wednesday’s car drives off a giant hot chocolate marshmallow, instead I can focus on absorbing every decadent inch of this bonkers series. With each new episode, I can’t believe American Gods exists. Truly this is a gift from the Media, or one of her court. Is there a minor deity named Peak TV™ perhaps?
Unlike previous weeks, tonight’s article will be fairly succinct. “Head Full of Snow” changes little from the original text, moving through the episode with near total fidelity to Neil Gaiman’s source material. The changes — such as they are — are either additions to flesh out the world of American Gods or minor reconfigurations of existing scenes. Such as:
#1: We spend more time with Mr. Wednesday and Zorya Vechernyaya
In The Book: Being trapped (for the most part) in Shadow’s point of view in the novel leaves readers knowing what he knows and seeing what he sees. So while Shadow is meeting with the young Zorya Polunochnaya (Erika Kaar), we stay with him with little knowledge of what Wednesday is up to in his free time.
On The Show: Being able to spend time with the gods as they reminisce about their glory days is always a melancholy thing, but watching Ian McShane flirt with Cloris Leachman as they walk through both the rain and their characters’ memories is one of my favorite moments in the series thus far.
#2: The introduction of Anubis
In The Book: Mr. Jacquel (Chris Obi) is one-half of the owner of a funeral parlor that he shares with his cohort Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes). Once known as Anubis and Thoth, respectively, the two Egyptian gods eke out living putting people to rest in their small town of Cairo, IL. Oh, and Anubis occasionally, with great respect, eats a portion of the deceased’s heart before embalming them.
On The Show: Again, American Gods is doing a smart thing by introducing the gods via vignettes before the big meeting at the House on the Rock. Seeing Anubis in his natural state — shepherding believes to the afterlife — does a quick and easy job of showing that his true nature. Anubis may be a god of death, but he’s a sweet boy.
#3: The introduction of the Jinn
In The Book: Salim (Omid Abtahi) meets the Jinn — known specifically as an Ifrit, one of the many species of Jinn — in a taxi but the scenario that follows plays out slightly different. Instead of coming straight up to Salim’s room, the Jinn (Mousa Kraish) returns to Salim’s hotel later in the evening and the meet in the lobby before going upstairs. There’s also quite a bit more oral sex involved. The men also openly talk about bit more about their fears; Salim’s at first that he believed the Jinn would kill him and the Jinn later about his fear of the “oncoming storm” which is obviously the battle between the old gods and the new.
On The Show: The sex scene between Salim and the Jinn is one of the few times I can recall where a show treated a same-sex couple with the same care and attention as a heterosexual one. There’s raw emotion and desire on the part of both Salim and the Jinn. Instead of focusing on the titillation or fading to black as the men crawl into bed, American Gods portrays LGBT sex as just as worthy and human as heterosexual couplings.
#4: Minor changes to the bank robbery
In The Book: This takes place much earlier in the game, but survives fairly intact. Shadow is still responsible for the snow, though he originally had to wait inside by the payphone. You know, since payphones were more prominent when the novel was written. Because of this, Shadow has a quick conversation with an employee about waiting for his girlfriend. Mr. Wednesday wears adorable pink earmuffs instead of boring brown ones. Shadow gets super into his role and asks the officer if Mr. Wednesday has been drinking on the job again.
On The Show: I’m so pleased they kept this scene in the show. When Mr. Wednesday appeared flush with cash in earlier episodes, I feared it would be cut. But showing that Shadow has the ability to do the impossible was too important to leave out. Of course, they could’ve concocted a new reason for Shadow to produce a snowstorm, but watching Mr. Wednesday charm people out of their money with his debonair old-man style is great television.
#5: Laura Moon’s big reveal
In The Book: Laura shows up the first night Shadow spends in a hotel. Far before they leave Eagle Point.
On The Show: Pushing Laura’s corpse waiting in Shadow’s room to the third episode makes sense from a storytelling perspective. Throwing too much at the audience at once — especially with a show this weird — is a dangerous game. Besides, having the episode cut between Shadow getting settled into the motel and Mad Sweeney digging up Laura’s grave cast a little bit of doubt, even for this seasoned reader. Until the last second, I thought there was a chance maybe Laura wouldn’t be freed from her coffin until Mad Sweeney broke through the dirt.
Odds & Ends
– The second checkers game is now moved to the middle of the night instead of immediately afterward. As such, Czernobog’s arrival at the House of the Rock will probably be a surprise to Mr. Wednesday, since the chain-smoking god isn’t traveling with them.
– Right now, Mad Sweeney’s coin appears to just be responsible for his luck, instead of the coin reserved for the “King of America” and one Sweeney swears he “shouldn’t have been able to take.” So it seems Sweeney is pulling the coins from somewhere…but where?
– Due to time constraints, it’s a shame the Zorya sisters didn’t get to the tell the whole story of how they open the gates for their father at sunrise and sunset, and the youngest of them never saw their father as her time is the middle of the night.