Some rather NSFW spoilers are below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the third episode of American Gods.
The first two episodes of Starz's sensational American Gods introduced viewers to an array of enchanting, majestic and inscrutable characters and situations, and "Head Full of Snow" offered another extremely memorable book-to-TV transition that encapsulated all three of those adjectives. For tonight, viewers got to witness the eventually super-erotic meet-up between the once-optimistic Muslim immigrant Salim and the exhausted taxi driver soon revealed to be a Jinn. Co-creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green spoke with CinemaBlend recently about the show, and here's what Fuller told me about bringing that sexual encounter to life.
We just started talking about what it was like to experience sex as a form of worship, and also how do you cinematically convey an orgasm with the tools that we had. And it was really about getting into Salim's point of view on having a different kind of sexual experience than what he was used to as a man who lived in a country where gay men are thrown off of rooftops. So we talked about, in the book, it sort of loosely describes the rapture of their sex, and then a blowjob is really the most specific detail, and we thought about what it is, and what a blowjob means. We thought for Salim, that's probably the extent of his sexual vocabulary, and so shouldn't the Jinn show him how to make love to another man? Thankfully we had a visual effects team that was able to pull off the crazy images of orgasm.
I did ask about the sex scene, which was strangely tender for involving someone being on metaphysical fire the whole time, but I don't know that I expected the answer to end on something as glorious as "crazy images of orgasm." In any case, Salim's entire scene is one of the most interesting, relevant and beautifully-directed sequences we've seen on American Gods thus far, and it's depicted quite faithfully. The gratification-delivering hotel room tryst was, of course, taken to the place where readers' imaginations had to go when reading Neil Gaiman's novel, but it kept strong this show's willingness to deliver moments that you can't find anywhere else on the small screen.
Obviously there's a layman's way of depicting an orgasm, and a lot of the visuals for those versions just wouldn't fly even on premium cable. (Perhaps "fly" is the wrong word to use.) American Gods has already established outer planes of reality that co-exist with our own, thankfully, so that was indeed the best way to convey the almighty orgasm in this particular case: through the sand-swept core of the Jinn passing on his flames of legend to a stripped-down Salim. It was both lovely and frightening at the same time. As otherworldly sex should be. (And in a completely different way from all things Bilquis.)
Those existence-altering bedroom shenanigans were gloriously mystifying both in and out of context, but that wasn't the only important element in this metaphorical narrative microcosm. Without getting political, Salim entering the U.S. as a gay Muslim wasn't the most surefire recipe for instant success, and his inability to get his desired business meeting was a blow to his confidence. So perhaps that was the perfect time for him to enter the cab of a Middle Eastern mythological fire-being who could change Salim's life forever, starting with a meaningful conversation (that touched upon wet shit). As stated during my talk with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, part of Salim's change takes him to the next level of his sexuality and his post-humanity. And then part of it was the Jinn granting him the job status of being a taxi driver, which means. no filling out applications. But he doesn't grant wishes.
In a nutshell, Salim's story was kind of like a Disney movie, in the very specific way of a character having hardships and then finding happiness, and not about fire orgasms. It'll be extremely disappointing if we don't get to see Omid Abtahi returning to the series in an expansion of Salim's time in the novel. Especially since Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have a multi-season plan set for American Gods, which is on its way to making that plan a reality with FX's recent renewal for Season 2.
Next week's episode of American Gods will blow your minds even more, and we'll have more to say about the show after it airs on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. ET on Starz. Check out what else we learned from Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, and to see when other shows that are nothing like American Gods will debut and return, head to our summer TV premiere schedule.