The life and death of Laura Moon

By Devan Coggan
May 21, 2017 at 10:01 PM EDT

American Gods

  • TV Show
  • Starz

“You were alive, Laura Moon. Now you are dead, Laura Moon.”

The first few episodes of American Gods have primarily focused on Shadow and his journey with Mr. Wednesday, with the occasional interlude to check in on Bilquis, Mad Sweeney, or some other fantastical deity. “Git Gone,” however, has a far more human bent, exploring the life and death of Shadow’s late wife Laura, who died in a fiery car crash only to unexpectedly rise from the dead days later.

Not only does “Git Gone” move the plot forward, filling in some of the gaps from the past several episodes, but it serves as a striking portrait of one lonely woman. Laura Moon is a key part of Neil Gaiman’s novel, but the book focuses mostly on her relationship to Shadow. This episode, on the other hand, takes a deep dive into who she is as a person — her hopes, fears, and relationships — and over the course of the episode, we follow Laura Moon from her dead-end casino job to her death and resurrection, culminating in her motel room confrontation with Shadow. The result is a masterful hour of television that raises questions about both life and death… and, in some ways, serves as Laura Moon’s superhero origin story.

When we first meet Laura (Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning, delivering a powerful and fiercely affecting performance), she’s still alive. She works as a blackjack dealer in an Egyptian-themed casino, coming home to an old house that’s empty except for her cat (whom she’s nicknamed Dummy). It’s not a particularly satisfying job… or life. She’s lonely, unfulfilled, and profoundly unhappy — which is how she ends up closing herself in her hot tub and dousing the air with bug spray in a half-hearted suicide attempt. She can’t bring herself to go through with it, but for the rest of her short life, that hot tub lingers in her mind.

Eventually, good ol’ Shadow Moon comes to her blackjack table. He’s handsome, charming, and trying to rob the casino with a little sleight of hand. She’s smart, so she notices him, of course, but instead of ratting him out to her bosses, she just politely but firmly informs him that he should leave while he’s still a free man. He’s smitten, and before long, they wind up back at her place. To her surprise, he sticks around, and a few years later, they’re married.

Shadow’s head over heels for Laura, and in his mind, he’s living his best life. He even gives up his thieving ways, getting a job at his buddy Robbie’s gym. (Robbie, of course, is played by none other than Dane Cook.)

Laura, however, is still spinning her wheels, feeling unfulfilled and still thinking of that hot tub outside. Eventually, she sits Shadow down and informs him that she’s got a plan: They’re going to rob her casino. By this point, she’s worked there for eight years, and she’s confident that she knows the place inside and out. Shadow is confused, and then hurt: He can’t understand why the life they share together isn’t enough for her. But for her, robbing the casino is her last-ditch attempt to make something of her life. “I think I need to,” she tells him. Besides, she adds, it’s a perfect plan. There’s no way they’ll get caught.

…Except they do. Shadow’s caught red handed, and although Laura offers to take a deal so that they each spend about a year and a half in prison, he refuses to let that happen. The only thing he asks is that she wait for him on the other side. And she promises she will.

With Shadow in prison, her life slips back into the same old mundanity — except this time, she doesn’t even have Shadow around to distract her. When her cat unexpectedly dies, she asks Robbie to come over and help bury him, and before long, they strike up an affair. (Never mind the fact that Robbie is also married… to Laura’s best friend Audrey.) The days stretch into months, and eventually, we see Shadow’s prison phone call from the premiere — only to learn that while Laura’s talking, Robbie’s laying in Laura and Shadow’s bed.

That night, while Shadow’s still asleep in prison, Laura and Robbie are driving together in his truck, and he offers to leave Audrey. As The Band’s “The Weight” plays on the radio, she rebuffs him, thanking him for the time they’ve spent together but firmly telling them that their affair ends now.

And then suddenly, she’s watching her broken body by the side of the road.
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Laura was open about the fact that she never believed in any sort of afterlife, but after her death, she’s greeted by Mr. Jacquel. Maybe Jacquel is the American god of the afterlife who got assigned to people who don’t believe in anything; maybe it’s just Laura’s history at the Egyptian-themed casino. Either way, he’s there to shepherd her into the next stage.

In the last episode, when Mrs. Fadil began her journey into death, she stepped into a vast, warm desert with purple and blue stars sparkling overhead. Laura’s afterlife looks similar, but everything has a dark, muted tone, and the colors are more sinister greys and greens. Jacquel moves to weigh her heart in judgment, but she rebuffs him. “I lived my life, good and bad,” she tells him. “Definitely not as light as a feather.”

In response, he shows her to the hot tub and the can of bug spray — and suddenly, for the first time, she’s afraid. He informs her that because she believed in nothing, she in turn will become nothing when she is dead. Faced with an eternity of darkness, she resists… only to be yanked back into life by something more powerful than even Anubis.

Back in Eagle Point, Indiana, Laura claws her way out of her grave, stopping only to vomit up formaldehyde. (Which, ew.) The world around her looks strange and dark, except for a beacon of light in the distance. Following it, she comes upon a man hanging from a tree: Shadow, surrounded by faceless goons. As the rain begins to fall, she moves to set him free, and when the Technical Boy’s henchmen get in her way, she dispatches them with an unimaginable speed and strength.

Death has made her strong. She feels no pain, she can rip men limb from limb, and she can punch through flesh like it’s tissue paper. At one point, one of the men takes a crowbar to her arm, and in a jaw-dropping moment, she responds by literally kicking his spinal column out of his body. Which is the most badass thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

But instead of comforting Shadow or even talking to him after cutting him down from the tree, she runs. Carrying her own severed arm, which she lost in the fight, she shuffles back home, cleaning herself up and hiding in the empty hot tub when Shadow stops by to clean out the house. Later, she breaks into Audrey’s home for craft supplies to sew her own arm back on, only for Audrey to catch her and have a full-on panic attack. To be fair, if you saw your dead best friend (who you only recently learned was having an affair with your husband) sitting in your craft room, digging through the yarn and glitter, you’d probably have a meltdown, too.

Laura calmly tries to talk to Audrey… while sitting on Audrey’s toilet, expelling embalming fluid. It lends a sense of humor, horror, and surrealism to the entire scene, as Laura apologizes for being such a crappy human being and friend. “It’s so much easier grieving someone when you’re glad they’re dead,” Audrey spits back, but in the end, she helps sew her former friend’s arm back on. Say what you will about Audrey, but that is badass. I don’t think they teach you how to reattach severed limbs on Pinterest.

Something’s guiding Laura back to Shadow, but as she’s making her way to him, she’s stopped by Ibis and Jacquel. We’ve only seen Ibis as the recorder in past “Coming to America” vignettes, but here, we learn that he and Jacquel run a small, family-owned funeral parlor. Fitting, for two Egyptian gods of the dead. They painstakingly put Laura back together, fixing up Audrey’s shoddy work and even giving her a fresh coat of paint so that she looks a little more, um, lively.

Jacquel informs her that he will not interfere with whatever has brought her back to Earth, but when she completes her task, whatever that may be, he will be there to help her return to darkness and death. The episode doesn’t focus on the coin that Shadow won from Mad Sweeney and tossed into Laura’s grave, but it’s clearly the catalyst for her return to life. Laura doesn’t quite know the rules of her resurrection or where her journey may take her, but she knows that her future is deeply entwined with her former husband’s.

“Was it love?” Jacquel asks her, before she leaves to finally see Shadow.

“It wasn’t,” she replies. “But I suppose it is now.”

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American Gods

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