Every episode of American Gods has ended with me longing for more. All the Coming to America vignettes have been pitch perfect and the acting top-notch across the board, but if I hadn't read the extraordinary Neil Gaiman novel, I don't believe I would care what comes next and—like my two viewing companions—would have bailed.
There's a real slow turning of the narrative page here (yet when slow is done right, it can be exciting, à la Twin Peaks) that wasn't clicking in the first three episodes, and the compartmentalization of the book that kept the reader enthralled just didn’t have the same effect in the show. For someone who likes it when filmmakers stay true to the book, I have to admit that I’m glad they expanded the Laura Moon character in “Git Gone.” It provides a much-needed backstory to her relationship with Shadow, and it made this episode the first exceptional one of the series.
It turns out Laura had issues long before she met Shadow. Working as a dealer at a casino, she comes home to an empty house, turns off the television, feeds the cat, and tries to kill herself with bug spray under the closed cover of the hot tub. Unable to follow through, she flings open the top, coming up for fresh air, and the next day she returns to work where she meets a thieving Shadow.
But before he gets busted by the guards and the cameras, she coolly steers him away from swapping out the chips that have been laid on the table. They begin an unbalanced—in more ways than one—relationship and eventually get married, but she isn’t any happier. The camera catches her stares of disaffection, quite possibly clinically depressed.
Music selected for earlier episodes tipped toward the rock classics (probably a symbol of the older gods), but here, Brian Reitzell and Shirley Manson’s “Queen of the Bored” (Ms. Manson always gets my seal of approval) nails the scenes of a woman who wants more out of life and is willing to be Shadow’s inside man at the casino. The plan fails though, and he does three years while she begins doing his friend Robbie (Dane Cook). She comes across as a manipulative, not-so-sweet person, which is in stark contrast to the dreamy ghost we saw up to this point, in addition to that extended backstory that wasn’t in Gaiman’s novel—and it works with precision.
Laura did not believe in an afterlife, telling Shadow, “When you die, you rot.” Sorry, honey. After the fateful, late-night drive with Robbie where she’s giving him a blowjob, her soul goes to the heavens where she meets Jacquel (Chris Obi). As he attempts to procure her heart to weigh against the white feather, she slaps his hand away. When he indignantly explains the afterlife process, she knows she won’t make the cut, so she slams the scale down with her hand. As Laura begins to tell Jacquel “Fuck you,” she is snatched from the netherworld by Shadow dropping that gold coin in the earth and delivered back to the land of the living, just in time for her to rescue her man from being lynched.
In the novel, there’s a passage where Laura saves Shadow from some thugs that exemplifies nicely the dark, in-between world their relationship has taken them.
Her flesh was cold as ice, and sticky.
Shadow opened his eyes.
“Where did all the blood come from?” he asked.
“Other people,” she said. “It’s not mine. I’m filled with formaldehyde, mixed with glycerin and lanolin.”
“Which other people?” he asked.
“The guards,” she said. “It’s okay. I killed them.”
“You killed them?”
She shrugged, and half-smiled, awkwardly. Her hands looked as if she had been finger-painting, composing a picture that had been executed solely in crimsons, and there were splashes and splatters on her face and clothes (the same blue suit in which she had been buried) that made Shadow think of Jackson Pollack, because it was less problematic to think of Jackson Pollack than to accept the alternative.
“It’s easier to kill people, when you’re dead yourself,” she told him. “I mean, it’s not such a big deal.”
In a bloody scene that could have filled a bathtub, the over-the-top violence and gore gave me a laugh-out-loud chuckle when Laura split one of Tech Boy’s goons in half with a kick from the crotch upward—but the scene itself was otherwise overdone. Yet, other graphic moments fit fine with some dark humor attached.
After her battle royale, Laura is carting around her severed arm. Following a shower at her house, she heads over to Audrey’s (Betty Gilpin) to borrow some crafting supplies, and Laura scares the bejesus out of the still-angry widow. Working through some bizarre closure, Audrey eventually helps reattach Laura’s arm. Now that’s a good friend for you … someone who is willing to sew a limb back onto your corpse deserves an award. And she goes above and beyond, sitting there while Laura shat out embalming fluid.
Laura took her friends for granted, no doubt, and she is paying an ultimate price for it. But Laura needs more than the talents of a seamstress, she also needs a ride to find Shadow. So Audrey gets in the car with Laura in tow. But before they get where they are going, Ibis and Jacquel stop them dead in the road. The two gods of the underworld take Laura back to the funeral parlor where they fix her up to keep her from decomposing into a blob of flesh and bone since she’s going to remain in the world of the living.
Laura Moon has a lot of indiscretions to make up for. Shadow would have done anything for her when she was alive—hell, he even went to prison for her—and what did she give him in return … a whole lot of heartbreak. Now’s her chance to make up for it by keeping him alive while on this strange ride he’s signed up for with Mr. Wednesday. But will it be enough to save her soul when Anubis comes calling again to finish his job?
After he fixes her up, his final words to her are: “When you are done, I will complete my task and deliver you on to darkness.” I’ll be waiting for that moment too, Jacquel.
David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.