In our not-so-spoilery spoiler post for American Gods 1×04, we promised “Git Gone” would deliver a surprisingly respectful background for the character of Laura Moon. And we’re not in the habit of breaking our promises. The creative team at American Gods could have taken the easy way out. Laura could have simply been nothing more than the whore who got what she deserved for cheating on her husband. Instead, in its look back on her life and the beginning of her afterlife, American Gods 1×04 did the right thing.
The episode presented the woman, previously known as just “Shadow Moon’s dead wife,” as a fully-formed individual. Laura’s life was full of mistakes and regrets, but that didn’t make her an inherently bad person. She wasn’t a saint, but she wasn’t fully a sinner. Continuing in the series’ almost unprecedented success in creating characters representative of all types of people, American Gods 1×04 made a woman its subject. The result was nothing short of awesome.
In American Gods 1×04, Emily Browning’s Laura Moon is the type of strong female character we deserve.
When Shadow Moon first meets Laura, she’s stuck in a rut. She’s been working the same, unfulfilling job for four years. Despite going to school and getting a steady job — something we’re all taught will bring us happiness — Laura’s bored with her life, at best. At worst, she wants out of it. She uses “Git Gone” bug spray and her hot tub in some sort of sick, twisted game of risk to make herself feel. Maybe, deep down, she’s hoping to succeed in killing herself.
Viewers, especially under-represented normal female ones, can interpret a lot of Laura’s moves in a number of ways. As in, we can all see a little bit of ourselves in her. Either we’re bored and acting out; or we’re really looking for a way out. We might be leaving those dishes in the sink as an act of rebellion against traditional expectations; we might just not be able to muster up anything resembling care. Maybe we’re just too busy with better things. Whatever we are, we’re real. And so is Laura.
Reading between the lines, though, it seems that the main thing that Laura’s feeling in life is…nothing. She wants, probably a bit desperately, to change that. But she’s so stuck in the day-to-day boredom of getting by that it’s just not going to happen. Her strength is in her ability to keep pushing forward, to get out of bed day after day and just show up. She’s strong because she’s alive, even when she feels dead inside.
But then Laura meets Shadow Moon, and she feels something…but only temporarily.
When Shadow walks into the casino where Laura works, he’s got a certain swagger about him. He’s dangerous. Although Laura ultimately stops him, he’s actually planning on robbing the casino. Despite making the “right” decision to keep him out of trouble, Laura’s still clearly attracted to something about Shadow. There’s a spark, an undeniable something. It gives Laura something to hold onto, however fleeting. Whatever that something is, it’s not just Shadow’s good looks.
It also doesn’t appear to be just the great sex, however steamy.
No, really. Emily Browning and Ricky Whittle are, like, really hot together in American Gods 1×04. That needs to be highlighted, so here it is: They’re really, really hot together. Talk about chemistry.
But chemistry isn’t enough. Neither is the supposedly textbook happily ever after that women are taught we should want. Laura and Shadow get married. He’s happy…but she isn’t. After another four years have passed, she’s now been at the casino for eight years — eight — and she’s as restless as ever, maybe moreso. Now, a handful of years and a wedding after stopping Shadow from making this exact mistake, Laura wants to rob the casino.
I think I need to.
Shadow just doesn’t get it; and there’s really no way for him to. He is, after all, not stuck in the miserable trap of an empty life. For him, life is great. He’s in love. Laura, though…she’s back to being stuck and looking for a risk that makes her feel something. Her restlessness controls everything, and she just can’t stop it, no matter what she tries.
Desperate to do anything to make Laura as happy as he is, Shadow goes ahead with her plan. As well all know from the series premiere and everything that followed after, the casino robbery is not a success. Not in the least. And while Shadow is the only one to spend time in prison, Laura gets punished in her own way. She promises Shadow she’ll wait for him; and she tries — she really does — but is ultimately unsuccessful.
And then the affair with Robbie happens…followed by Laura’s damning death.
Here’s the best part of American Gods 1×04: Although Laura Moon’s decision to cheat on her husband with his best friend, all while he’s in prison for her bad idea, is a terrible one, she’s never once presented as a terrible person. She’s just someone who made an awful decision in order to try to get herself out of a prison of her mind’s making. Her actions have consequences in the form of her early demise and her own best friend’s harsh words. But even in Audrey’s righteous anger — played awesomely by Betty Giplin — there’s still some underlying sense of understanding.
This is just the way things are.
Laura is not an inherently good person. She’s not inherently evil, either. She’s a woman trying to get by in a world that keeps telling her she should be happy with certain things — a steady job, a devoted husband — but just, simply, isn’t. She wants more out of life but can’t seem to find that “more” or what it even should be, so she stumbles along, making bad decisions in an attempt to find the magic fix.
There is no magic fix, especially for someone who doesn’t even believe in magic anymore.
There’s nothing to believe. Trust me. I’ve looked.
It’s like anything that made the world more than what it is, is just…stories. Just snake oil. But worse because snakes are real. I wanted to get that magic so bad. But one day, I just accepted the fact that I couldn’t. Because life is just…not that interesting.
If Laura Moon had been a male character, it wouldn’t be remarkable that her indiscretion was presented as a troubling choice, made anyway because it was the best life had to offer at the time. Women, however, are not often treated quite so well. Not until American Gods 1×04, at least. To quote one of the best feminist television series out there in The Fall:
The media loves to divide women into virgins or vamps, angels or whores. Let’s not encourage them.
American Gods isn’t your typical media. Laura Moon is nether a virgin nor a vamp, an angel nor a whore. Thank gods.
Laura finds her magic when it ought to have been too late. Thankfully, it isn’t.
In life, you believed in nothing. You will go to nothing. You will be done. There will be darkness.
As we all knew by the end of the previous episode, Laura Moon’s story is far from over. She defies Anubis when he attempts to send her into an afterlife just as empty as her life. Just as he’s about to force her over to the literal dark side, Mad Sweeney’s coin drags Laura back to the land of the living…sort of. In the process, she becomes the most literal answer to the question of whether there’s life after death.
Better yet, she gets a chance to be the magic she was certain didn’t exist in this world. And she is kind of a badass while she’s at it.
Viewers finally get the answer to the question of who saved Shadow Moon from Technical Boy’s minions. For once, Mr. Wednesday was telling the truth when he said he had nothing to do with it. Shadow’s savior, ironically enough considering she condemned him to years in prison, is none other than his dead wife. But she’s not just “the dead wife” anymore. She’s Laura, and Laura is a hero. A complex and flawed one, but a hero nonetheless.
Death of a loved one usually brings clarity to the living. In Laura’s case, it’s her own death that opens her eyes. Laura Moon is now on a mission. She’s here to protect Shadow Moon, the man she finally realizes she truly loves. In the process, she’s becoming something she never was in life — memorable, even to the gods.
I mean, how could a girl who splits a guy from groin to sternum by kicking him in the balls not be memorable? Oh, and the whole marching through town, covered in blood and carrying her right arm in her left hand thing? Also badass.
More thoughts on American Gods 1×04
- Anyone wonder whether there was some divine intervention here, or is that just me? Laura and Robbie both had to be out of the picture for Shadow to take Wednesday’s offer, so could he have manipulated the situation? Yes? No? Maybe. I suppose that would necessitate a discussion on free will, but…yeah.
- Laura’s climb out of her grave: Shades of Buffy. Yes or yes.
- Look: When even Shadow Moon is surprised that you don’t believe in anything, you really have a belief problem.
- “They think krav maga is a Jew thing…Maybe that is a Jew thing. They did survive all kinds of shit, but it’s an insane workout.” Robbie’s not wrong.
- “Puppy. Sit.” I snorted.
- In spite of her boredom and the lack of fulfillment in her life, Laura didn’t resent Shadow. That’s another important layer to the whole “wow, American Gods 1×04 really gets women right” message. It’s possible for us to want more out of life than a man without hating the man in question. “Yeah, I still love you. I’m just not happy.” So. Completely. Real.
- “I lived my life. Good and bad. Definitely not light as a feather.”
- Can we just…that little “oh” and all the regret pouring out of her — in at least equal quantity to the gross embalming fluids — when Audrey asks Laura what she remembers from before her death. There’s regret there. Laura never wanted to hurt her friend. Remember: it’s complicated. Emily Browning is exceptional throughout American Gods 1×04, but that one moment is just exceptional. It stands out in a way that it has no right to but just flat out does.
- Women are, in fact, complex! Shocker! Take note, other male television writers. Call Michael Green and Bryan Fuller for tips on how to write women. Kthanks.
- “Memories lie.” Audrey gets me. “So much easier grieving someone when you’re glad they’re dead.” Audrey really gets me.
- “Love will always have you at a disadvantage.” Anubis also feels me. Does that mean I’m going somewhere bad when I die?
What were your thoughts on American Gods 1×04? Hit us up in the comments!
And make sure to keep following Laura, Shadow, Mr. Wednesday, and everyone else as American Gods season 1 continues its run on Starz. Just as a teaser, we might have one of our favorites from a previous episode back next week…but not exactly the same as before.
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