Let’s Talk About Laura’s Wrenching American Gods Episode
This is my favorite episode of American Gods so far, and a tour-de-force from Emily Browning, who plays Laura Moon. In the course of “Git Gone,” Laura transforms from a shallow character into a complicated, nuanced human being. Er, I guess she’s sort of still human?
Spoilers for American Gods episode 4, “Git Gone.”
I’ll admit that for the first three episodes of American Gods, I pretty much hated Laura Moon. I think she’s intentionally framed as unsympathetic to the audience from the get-go. You view Laura through Shadow’s expectation of her, and thus you are disappointed and puzzled along with him. First, she’s the ideal love that he’s surviving prison for; then her sudden death plunges him into grief; his grief is subsumed by anger and betrayal as her revealed affair with Shadow’s best friend seems to paint her as unworthy of his affections.
I’m so used to media giving us one-dimensional characters that I hadn’t given the creators of American Gods enough credit when it came to Laura. I forgot that on TV, people can be as difficult and nuanced as they are in real life, when they’re in the right hands. In one masterful episode, “Git Gone” totally upends our previous expectations and conceptions of Laura. We see her side of the story unfold over several years, and it’s one of the finest portrayals of a troubled person struggling to live and feel that I’ve witnessed.
This episode is a turning point for American Gods, breaking the show’s previous mold. There’s no “Coming to America” scene, there’s no Gods, save those of death. It’s entirely character-driven, and driven by a character we knew next to nothing about before. As we experience Laura’s lonely existence, the repetition of her dull days and nights, her flirting with suicidal thoughts and actions, she becomes starkly, painfully fleshed out and understood. And in her apathy, she also has a sort of power that will later become fully realized.
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) May 22, 2017
Suddenly, Shadow’s innocent view of his lovely wife seems unfair to her. It seems he never really knew the real Laura—dazzled by a version of her on a pedestal of his own making, happy to go about their shared routines, because he was happy. Yes, he ends up in prison because Laura’s scheme to rob the casino goes awry, but even then, he doesn’t understand her motivation and needs, manfully sacrificing himself to extra imprisoned years rather than let her take the heat with him. Shadow doesn’t understand that Laura already exists in a prison of her own mind and making.
This is not to say that I suddenly adore Laura Moon. She’s not exactly the type of person I’d hurry to befriend—callous, manipulative, filled with ennui. But that’s the way she’s written, and it’s a bold choice: people are complicated. Laura’s not a great person, and she’s the first to admit it. After she dies and Anubis tries to measure her heart, she swats him away and pushes down the scale to show that she already knows which way it’ll go. The truth is she might not be kind, but she’s more self-aware than any character that we’ve met so far on this show, and infinitely more human.
Of course the irony of all this is that as soon as Laura is dead, she wants to live, and as soon as we finally grasp her flavor of humanity, she becomes something more than human. The magically restored-to-life Laura is, through her resurrection, completely transformed. First off, there’s her sudden incredible superhero-like strength. We see her rescue Shadow from the lynch mob in a rain of blood and flying limbs—an awesome action scene by any standards, and also Laura’s chance to, in her new zombie way, redeem herself. When I first saw the scene and realized that it was Laura who saved Shadow, I gasped audibly.
Then, after such an emotionally fraught and often depressing episode, we get some necessary levity in Emily Browning’s incredible physical acting as the blood-splattered Laura carrying her arm, and the comedic discourse between Laura and her former best friend, Betty Gilpin’s Audrey. Only on American Gods could a scene of an undead woman expelling embalming fluid while her horrified friend looks on screaming be rendered into a comedic and touching interchange.
(Also, I love nobody more now than Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jaquel.)
As for Laura’s newfound affection for Shadow, this is the only part of her resurrection that leaves me wondering. She treated him like crap in life, but now, half-alive, has decided that he means everything to her? I’m willing to give the creators the benefit of the doubt here, but I’m infinitely curious how they will develop the characters’ unlikely relationship now.
Emily Browning is a talented actress who should win every accolade for carrying this episode on her shoulders. And she knows Laura well: last night on Twitter, American Gods co-creator Michael Green had Browning use his account to answer fan questions, as she’s not on the social media service. Here was my question, and Browning’s response:
@kailahalestern TBH I doubt she’d take advice frm any1. Some1 should’ve said “you should blow that guy in the car!” & then she wldnt have, out of spite-EB
— Michael Green (@andmichaelgreen) May 22, 2017
Dear Emily Browning, please never change. As for Laura, I can’t wait to see where she’s going next.
What did you think of “Git Gone”?
(images: Starz / @andmichaelgreen’s Twitter)
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