In its fourth outing, American Gods gifted us a wonderful little diversion, both from overall story arc and Gaiman’s novel. The Tale of Laura Moon, including her pre-Shadow existence, the couple’s meet-not-so-cute, their criminally misfired plan, and a stalled eternity in darkness, made for a darkly comical and macabre adventure. Though history was slightly rewritten, Emily Browning’s playfully wry portrayal of a faithless cynic who can barely find a reason to exist (until she dies) beautifully brought Michael Green and Bryan Fuller’s twisted storytelling to life. Well, sort of …
In her walking dead-like existence as an utterly bored casino dealer, Laura trudges through her days with about the same enthusiasm as the dying fly she shoots down with a spray from her Git Gone can. Slow-motion fluttering, spiraling down through apparent depression, she tries a gulp (or few) in her hot tub enclosure, her survival instinct kicking in, regardless of intention. A series of intermittent flashes in and around time take the audience through the night she first makes Shadow’s acquaintance, flubbed attempts at thievery, card tricks, irresistible charm and all. Laura carries her palpable heavy-hearted indifference with humor, and it’s clear Shadow has that something that speaks to Laura’s heart whether she wants it to or not, but self-sabotage is this character’s hallmark (perhaps, Shadow’s, too?) To her credit, Laura tries to shake up her involuntary stolidity, takes a chance on Shadow, though in every way, their mutual plans fail.
A six year sentence (“I’ll be out in three”) leaves Laura alone with the cat (and Woody Woodpecker) again, and when the “dummy” dies (“Fuck you”), Robbie (Dane Cook) makes his move. Less out of interest than oh-what-the-hell curiosity, Laura indulges — attempts to feel anything — and because there’s nothing much else to do, passes the long wait messing around with her best friend’s husband, her husband’s best friend. After the fatal accident we already knew would befall her, Laura heads for that ill-fated, heart-rending (not so fast, there, Anubis) trip to the scales, tips control in her own favor and (after Shadow tossed in Sweeney’s magic coin) is rushed back to the land of the living, much to Anubis’ consternation.
Returning to that last phone call with Shadow and the night she saved her husband’s life, Gods switches around our viewpoint, from the moment Laura crawls Carrie-like, hand first from her grave. There’s an infectious joy to her madness as a wife sees her husband strung up; angrily (emotionally), rushes to his aid. As she discovers her undead power to rip people asunder, body parts fly majestically through the air in a sort of zombie ballet, to heights The Walking Dead can only dream of achieving. After the carnage, her puppy’s safety assured, Laura — in one of the best ever television shots — walks toward home carrying her own severed arm.
In another of American Gods‘ already trademark hilarious conversations, a scene worthy of showrunner and actress envy across the airwaves, Laura pops into her best friend’s craft room to borrow a needle and thread. As she’s gruesomely stitching her own arm back on, the newly dead dame discovers embalming fluid’s side effects … affect, rushes rumbly-stomached to the bathroom where she nearly causes Robbie’s other half’s death, as well (“Oh hey, Audrey” *insert terrified screaming here* “What the fuck are you?”). A very amusing and somehow sweet conversation ensues, as despite herself, Audrey accepts what’s in front of her — Laura’s genuine remorse — and even agrees to drive her former friend somewhere … but they’re forced to stop in the road by a pair of familiar morticians. Escorting Laura to a funeral home, Mr. Ibis and Anubis sew her arm on properly, paint her skin for a more lifelike appearance, and recite the rules for her temporary stay (“We prefer continuity”). Anubis warns when she is done he’ll complete his own task, and with a string of paper hung to keep the buzzing flies away, Laura bids her puppy hello, again.
As a person deeply fearful of death, I appreciate so much how the show is dealing with that fear. It’s not exactly reassuring, and yet somehow, other people confronting and accepting death does make me feel better.
Since her resurrection, Laura can apparently see gods (not just Shadow). A fiery golden light flares up.
Emily Browning was a pitch perfect revelation this hour. Her take on Laura’s dis-affection, and subsequent emotional awakening (albeit, a little too late) is a thing of beauty. I can’t imagine anyone else doing as well.
As the mister noted, her kick to the groin, splitting a man in half is something we’ve never seen before.
As fantastic as Browning was, Betty Gilpin stole the show in the relatively short period Audrey was onscreen. And, it was so lovely to see that as mad as she was with Laura, she couldn’t deny the friendship somehow survived, even death. The scene with Audrey and Laura driving together was lovely, the one in the bathroom — rip roaringly funny.
I really hope book purists don’t gripe about the slight changes. This is a case of the writers beautifully expanding and making this version of the story their own.
Are the two ravens we see flying overhead Huginn and Muninn — Odin’s (Wednesday’s) messengers?
Songs this hour:
Audrey to Laura about Shadow: “Wow, ten years, Robbie never looked at me like that.”
Laura to Shadow: “My grandma always had pets. She said they can see ghosts when we can’t, warn you of thieves.”
Shadow: “I think your cat’s broken.”
Shadow on believing because his mother believed: “All I know is what I know.”
When Shadow asks Laura if she knows what happens after (people die): “Yes, I do. You rot. [“So you don’t believe in anything?”] There’s nothing to believe. My parents believed in everything. Then one day you find out Santa isn’t real, the tooth fairy isn’t real, it’s just stories. I wanted to get that magic back so bad. I couldn’t, because life just isn’t that interesting. Don’t look at me like that. [“Like what?”] Like you’re a lost puppy.
After luring Shadow from bed with coffee, Laura: “I need you to sit. [Shadow: “Are we pregnant?” Puppy, sit.
… What I’m about to say may sound irrational, but I have all sorts of rational reasons for doing it. [“You want to rob a casino?”] I think I need to. [“Are you unhappy?”] I resent not being happy. [“Robbing the casino will make you happy? What are we discussing?”] I have worked there for 8 years. I can tell you everything they’re going to do. I have a smart plan..I have a perfect plan. You will never get caught … How did you get caught?”
Laura to Anubis: “Don’t I get a say in this?”
Anubis: “Death is not a debate … in life you believed in nothing; you will go to nothing.”
Audrey to Laura: “I had Robbie buried with his penis — you know that you … — stuck up his ass. Anger and grief really have just made me vulgar.”
Audrey to Laura’s question whether Robbie is still dead: “I mean he was, I haven’t seen him. Don’t know what either of you are up to now.”
Laura to Audrey: “I know you’re pissed at me right now, but I kinda need to borrow your car.”
Audrey to Laura: “I know you’re stalking him; what’s next? A little zombie baby?”
When Laura tells Audrey she loves Shadow, he’s the light of her life (literally, apparently): “You did not love him while you were alive. He was like a pet.”