American Gods, ‘Git Gone’ aka The Complex Portrait of Laura Moon

American Gods ‘Git Gone’ Plot Summary:

We see the story of Laura’s (Emily Browning) life, from when she meets Shadow (Ricky Whittle) to her death to the moment she shows up on his motel room bed.

Up until now, American Gods has more or less been following the novel it’s based on. There’s been additions and embellishments and minor changes, but the majority of what we’ve seen has had a solid base of Neil Gaiman’s words to draw upon. But now, with its fourth episode, the show has gone off on its own for the first time, devoting nearly the entire hour we see to completely new content. It’s an important test that many shows adapted from novels must eventually face: how well can they stand up without the aid of the source material? In this deep dive into Laura’s life, American Gods passes that test with flying colors.

“Git Gone” is not just a departure in terms of content, but also in form. Rather than follow the journey of Shadow and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) interspersed with vignettes about ancient gods and mythic beings in America, we spend the hour following the story of Shadow’s wife Laura from their first meeting to the present. The novel did have the rather unfortunate tendency to define Laura largely in relation to Shadow, rather than as a complete character in her own right, so it’s good to see the show issue this corrective. She may not quite pass the Bechdel test, but we get a much better sense of who Laura is, both before and after dying.

Without the trappings of the supernatural to provide a more mystical perspective, we end up with the most despairing and existentialist work in the show to date. The tone is set by the intro, where Laura returns from a disappointing day at work and, after going through some of her routine, decides to seal herself up in her hot tub and fill the air with insecticide. It’s not clear if this was an aborted suicide attempt or if she just wanted to see how it would feel, but either way it reveals someone deeply unhappy and desperate to feel something. Shadow provides that escape at first when he pops into her life, his life of theft and cons giving him a dangerous edge that sates her unspoken yearning for something more. But as his edges are sanded off by their slide into happy (for him, at least) domesticity, that same hunger surfaces once again.

Shadow has served the role of the skeptic in the series, but in truth he is more of an agnostic, willing to go along but not sure if he can trust the evidence of his eyes. Laura is revealed here as the real nihilist, bluntly stating to Shadow her certainty in the oblivion after death. Ironically, it is that very certainty that consigns her to said oblivion after death, until she is given another chance by the golden coin Shadow dropped in her grave. The scene of an undead Laura, covered in blood, shuffling down an empty street carrying her severed arm is the most striking visual of the episode, a macabre portrait of someone totally at sea in a confusing new world of the supernatural and zombiehood. Her only guide is the burning image of Shadow, an incandescent light in a world of gray.

Of all the new scenes added for this untold story, most extraordinary is the confrontation between now-undead Laura and her former best friend Audrey (Betty Gilpin). We’ve already seen how Laura’s affair with Audrey’s husband Robbie (Dane Cook) got started, Laura welcoming his advances in a moment of vulnerability and allowing him to replace the role Shadow played in her life until he returns. Now, in her undeath, is when she must atone for it. But in a darkly comic display, this reckoning begins with Audrey screaming and afraid in her bathtub while Laura is forced to use the toilet so her body can expel embalming fluid. It’s awkward and funny and helps to reduce the tension, which allows Audrey and Laura to talk honestly about what happened between them and what it did to Audrey. It lacks the drama of Audrey’s meeting with Shadow in the graveyard, but it is no less honest or raw for that.

All put together, the episode paints a complex portrait of Laura. She was really devoted to Shadow in life, but, as is repeatedly pointed out to her, not in the same way he was to her. Her existential yearning landed Shadow in prison when she convinced him to rob the casino she worked at to satiate it, and it lead her to betray him when he was away. But we can’t all have the luxury of knowing there is something more out there like Shadow now does. The fears, concerns, and worries that drive Laura are the same ones that gnaw at everyone who must exist in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Whether or not that makes her sympathetic is up to you, but either way we now have a much fuller picture of who Laura is going forward.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Chris Diggins is a staff writer and incorrigible layabout for The Pop Break. He usually reviews TV and movies, although he sometimes writes ludicrously long pieces of critical analysis and badgers the editors to publish it. He cannot be stopped.