Photo Credit: Jan Thijs/Starz
After three episodes of slowly easing us into the fantasy-mythology world of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, by giving us extended vignettes of the Old Gods finding their way to a new land, or the lives they lead in the present, alongside Shadow and Mr. Wednesday taking a road trip across the Midwest meeting the latter’s old friends, the show toppled that format for an hour-long look at the life of a depressed, hurting, lonely and a confused young woman, both before and after her untimely death.
Note: spoilers below for the fourth episode of American Gods.
The woman in question was Laura Moon (Emily Browning), Shadow’s wife. The only thing we knew about her before this week’s episode, “Git Gone”, was that she died while engaging in oral sex with Shadow's best friend. And in some magical fashion, she had left her grave and made her way to his motel room, closing out the third chapter with a “Hi, puppy”, and a look that would get her anything, as Shadow tells her. But there’s so much more to her story, as we learn thanks to the showrunners’ choice.
With an entire episode from Laura’s perspective, we started at an Egyptian-themed casino, where she dealt cards on the blackjack table. (As part of the visual gags, the cards had Anubis written on them.) Shadow turns up to play one day, and as he tries to rob the casino, Laura warns him not to do it (instead of informing her bosses) telling him the number of cameras that will catch him in the act.
He meets her outside later, and Laura takes a liking to his straight-forwardness, so they end up at her place. One thing leads to another, and through a montage that jumps back and forth in time, we see their lives together at backyard barbecues with Audrey (Betty Gilpin) and Robbie (Dane Cook), at a church wedding, Shadow giving up his thieving for teaching boxing, and Laura growing increasingly disillusioned with her dead-end job.
As their lust and newfound love for each other slowly subsides into the monotony of adult life, you can tell that the relationship is bound for disaster, which eventually pushes Laura to suggest they actually rob the casino - as Shadow had suggested on their second encounter in the parking lot. Having worked there for eight years, she has the perfect plan to match Shadow’s ambition.
Her husband is hesitant, and wonders why she wants to. She resents not being happy, she tells him. While he is safe and cosy with the life they lead – he’d even be okay living in a cardboard box under a freeway, he says – she is constantly looking to make herself feel alive. There’s a destructive person inside her, and the casino heist seems like a great idea.
To give Laura the happiness she craves, Shadow agrees. The episode doesn’t bother us with the details from there on, and jumps instead to where we found him at the start of the series, in prison. And it is from that moment on that we start to see how Shadow had always been too good for her. Shadow declines to take Laura on her offer of coming clean so they can split prison time, saying he can take it, and only asking her to wait for him.
Even as Laura says “Yes”, her face seems to convey something else entirely. That becomes clearer as the prison calls rack up day by day, and Laura’s growing detachment is conveyed by the way the sounds mute around her. With Robbie always around helping her with menial tasks – fixing a bulb, or burying her dead cat – Laura eventually breaks, and starts cheating on Shadow.
As their one-night expands into something much more, there’s still a part of Laura that wishes to stay true to Shadow. So, when we see Shadow’s prison call from the premiere, this time from Laura’s end, the struggle on her face and in her voice is palpable, given Robbie’s presence in her bedroom with Shadow’s homecoming just five days away.
She’s adamant with Robbie that their thing must end, and tells him to think of it as a “naughty secret”. But their lying and cover-up is cut short, as a final fellatio turns into the two’s final moments alive. And it’s at that moment the show steps back into mythological roots, with Laura first finding herself hovering above the accident, and then pulled into the mystical desert from the previous episode. It’s a little strange that Laura’s after-life undertaker is Anubis (she has no Egyptian connection whatsoever), but it works for the show overall.
Thanks to the lucky coin Shadow got from Mad Sweeney, Laura doesn’t stay (in the land of) dead for long, though. Her return shows that the coin can also grant superhuman powers, with Laura going ballistic after finding her literal source of light leads to Shadow hanging from a tree. She punches and kicks her way through people’s bodies with a single blow – Bryan Fuller’s love for slow-mo violence is on full display again – and she saves Shadow from his lynching at the hands of Technical Boy’s minions.
In the morning, she ends up at Audrey’s place, where she uses craft supplies to stitch her arm back. After a visibly frightened Audrey calms down, she helps Laura with the arm, and then drives her towards Shadow’s location. On the way, they come across a man with his dog, who turns into Anubis. Later, they introduce themselves as a family-owned funeral home, called Ibis and Jacquel. Anubis, now known as Mr. Jacquel, uses his expertise to make Laura look presentable to Shadow, and tells her he’ll complete his task once her work is done.
Laura’s purpose back on Earth isn’t made clear with the episode finishing at the exact moment from last week’s, but it all revolves around Shadow, what with her world literally illuminated by his sheer presence. He loved her more than she did when she was alive, and Shadow was always more of a pet for her (which is why the endearment term ‘puppy’), as her best friend Audrey tells her. Now that she’s been pulled back, she has a chance at redemption.
And for someone who believed in nothing in her past life, that’s more than she could have ever asked for.