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Review: American Gods 1×04 “Git Gone”

Last week, I hoped for some character development for the late Laura Moon, and this week I got it in spades! Indeed, the entire fourth episode is dedicated to the backstory and POV of Shadow’s deceased wife and, quite frankly, it turns out she’s a bit of an asshole!

While the first three episodes of this season may have left viewers unfamiliar with Neil Gaiman‘s novel and Bryan Fuller‘s oeuvre a little dizzy, this mid-season offering strayed from the vignette style of storytelling we’ve seen up until now in favour of a more traditional, linear narrative. “Git Gone” was about as close to a vanilla ‘boys meets girl’ tale as we’re likely to get in this show, which is to say, it wasn’t very vanilla at all.

We meet Laura as a single woman, a casino worker who eats plain, boiled eggs for dinner, with an aged cat she doesn’t much like and a tendency toward suicidal thoughts. Expanding greatly on the characterisation provided for her by Gaiman’s source material, “Got Gone” presented us with a deeply troubled soul, a person who could be temped to suffocate themselves in a hot tub with bug spray by something as trivial as being asked to use a card shuffling machine at her gambling table.

It was fun to see a pre-prison Shadow, a charming grifter who meets his match in pint-sized Laura when he attempts to scam her. Their first interaction was a nice bit of foreshadowing too: the microcosm of the Egyptian themed casino – where all eyes are on Shadow, watching and waiting for him to slip up – representative of the surveillance of the prison environment and the wider world where gods walk among us. But far from ‘saving’ Laura from the purgatorial existence in which she lingers, believing in nothing and unable to feel much or care much, Shadow’s love for her only serves to underscore how unhappy she is. Their first sexual encounter – in contrast with the intimacy and sensuality of last week’s Salim/Jinn scene – is a relatively cold affair, with Laura looking bored and passive, using violence to incite Shadow to treat her more roughly so that she might feel something.

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Although they marry and settle into a pleasant enough domesticity of barbecues and lazy pillow talk, Laura’s ennui can’t be cured by the love of a good (ish) man, and she asks Shadow to help her perform a heist on the casino, telling him she isn’t happy and the robbery is something she needs to do. Although Laura promises Shadow he’ll never get caught, of course he does, and the smitten conman won’t hear of letting his wife take the fall, asking her instead to wait for him.

The banality of the affair Laura falls into with Shadow’s best friend, Robbie, added to the sense of sadness which pervaded this episode. Laura doesn’t betray her friend and her husband for passion and excitement. Robbie performs the duties Shadow would have performed better if her were around, like burying Laura’s deceased cat and changing lightbulbs. Even the sex seems boring perfunctory until the high speed blow job which puts them both in the ground.

Laura’s meeting with Anubis also contrasts brilliantly with the death of Mrs. Fadil last week. While that was a quiet and poised affair, both terrifying and comforting by turns, Laura’s passage to the afterlife is blunt and crude. She slaps Anubis’ hand away when he reaches for her heart and swears at him, refusing to believe even after seeing her own corpse, that she should have to account for her actions to a higher power.

The constant buzzing of flies which followed Laura around in life hinted that her psyche and recklessness were always going to lead her down a dark path, even without the help of Mad Sweeney’s coin. I really like the idea that although she wasn’t capable of loving him the way he wanted while she was alive, Laura’s death reveals Shadow to be the one beacon in a washed-out world. He literally glows with a gold light which draws her attention and enables her to rescue him from Technical Boy’s thugs. Replaying scenes from the season premiere with added context was a really smart move. Seeing the phone call from Shadow five days prior to his release with Robbie present in his house and bed deepened the sense of tragedy, and revealing tiny Laura to be the mysterious saviour capable of tearing Shadow’s attackers  limb from limb with her bare hands was scary and absurd in all the best ways.

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As with Hannibal before it, American Gods always manages to walk the line between comedy and horror with aplomb. The scenes between Laura and former friend (and Robbie’s wife), Audrey, managed to be gross-out funny as Laura evacuated her body of embalming fluid in front of a terrified Audrey, and also moving. The dialogue between the women rang hauntingly true for anyone who has ever been betrayed by an old friend, and it was the relationship between these two which elicited the most empathy for Laura. Their honesty and pragmatism came over as completely authentic and believable.

Laura’s encounter with Anubis and Mr. Ibis was reminiscent of Shadow’s deal with Czernobog. While they helped repair her rotting body, allowing her to continue the business she has on earth, they warned her that she will be sent into darkness one she’s done. She believed in nothing, so she will be sent to nothing. While Shadow has a task to complete with Mr. Wednesday, he is still has the threat of that hammer hanging over him. Like many of the characters on this show, the Moons are on borrowed time, allowed to function only while they serve a purpose.

A solid episode which fleshed out one of the characters in a way the book never did, and filled in some backstory for our protagonist organically and accessibly. “Git Gone” also served as something as a breather for the uninitiated who might have felt the first three episodes of the series were too fragmented and surreal to be able to form an attachment to, and solved some riddles along the way.

Final Grade: B+

+ It’s pretty difficult to create a character who is as inherently unlikable as Laura Moon and still make her compelling and worth caring about, so kudos to everyone involved.

+ Shirley Manson‘s original track, “Queen of the Bored” was perfection for the heist scene.

+ Betty Gilpin continues to steal every scene she’s in – even when up against explosive zombie diarrhoea!

– Although I do think the change of pace was necessary for the story, I must admit I missed the Coming to and Somewhere in America segments.

Extra Thoughts: After this palate cleanser, I’m expecting the weird to be ramped up to eleven next week!

What did you think? Git in or git gone? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

 

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Katie Young

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