by Chuck Bowen | via Slant Magazine
After the enraged and despairing racial-religious politics of “The Secret of Spoon,” “Head Full of Snow” serves as a tonal palette cleanser for American Gods, reveling in the solace of belief during times of loneliness and despair. The episode is appealingly scruffy around the edges, as television isn’t usually allowed to roam this freely. At times, “Head Full of Snow” suggests that creators and screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green and director David Slade are getting high on the existentialist fumes of Mad Men. And this episode also once again recalls certain portions of Fuller’s Hannibal, notably the first half of the third season, in which the characters wandered the Italy of our opera- and horror-film-fed imaginations.
The prologue signals this episode’s softer and guardedly optimistic tenor. As we know by now, each episode of American Gods begins with a primer scene in which a god associated with a specific culture is shown to flex its powers, usually to destructive ends. In “Head Full of Snow,” an Egyptian god of the afterlife, Anubis (Chris Obi), guides Mrs. Fadil (Jacqueline Antaramian) to her death. The reveal of Mrs. Fadil’s fate is elegant and poignant, as she’s cooking over the stove and answers a knock on the door to let in Anubis, who gradually allows her to see her own body collapsed on the kitchen floor.
Mrs. Fadil straightens the dress on her corpse, and wonders aloud why an Egyptian god should be here to greet a Muslim upon death. Anubis reminds Mrs. Fadil that she’s never forgotten the Egyptian stories told to her in childhood, and for that homage he’s here, paving the way for a wonderfully uncanny image: Anubis escorts Mrs. Fadil out onto her fire escape, and they walk the turquoise metal stairs all the way up into the sky, settling into a desert with a scale measuring goodness. Mrs. Fadil is stuck on the cultural significance of Anubis’s presence, as she’s afraid that an Egyptian deity won’t lead her to the afterlife of her family. Mrs. Fadil’s cat helps her take the plunge, abandoning the trivialities that characterize earthbound squabbling.
This notion of transcendence, of gods ironically inspiring humans to abandon the very prejudice that’s usually encouraged by religion, runs through “Head Full of Snow” as a thematic thread. In a vignette that’s disconnected from the show’s predominant arc, we meet Salim (Omid Abtahi), a salesman from Oman who’s trying to make a living within American capitalism, selling gaudy trinkets that no one wants to distributors who might allow him to net a big payday for his brother-in-law. Humiliated and dejected by an executive he was supposed to meet, Salim climbs into a cab driven by The Jinn (Mousa Kraish), who wears sunglasses to obscure his eyes of literal fire. The Jinn understands how capitalism has taken over religion, pickling us in greed and self-loathing, as his kind is only known by Americans as a granter of wishes.
The notion of transcendence runs through the episode as a thematic thread.
Salim and The Jinn strike up a connection, which leads to a sequence that’s moving precisely for its metaphorical obviousness: They have sex in Salim’s motel room, which transitions to a vision of them in a desert realm presumably close to The Jinn’s Lost City of Towers, Ubar. There’s fire visible within The Jinn’s ghostly silhouette, and he penetrates Salim, transferring that fire into the mortal’s body. His compassion frees Salim. Capitalism convinces us that we don’t deserve any respect or compassion unless we earn it, which The Jinn actively refutes, reorienting Salim’s centrality of belief.
To read the rest of the recap, “Head Full of Snow,” click HERE!!!