American Gods Recap: Death Becomes Her

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Emily Browning as Laura Moon. Photo: Jan Thijs/© 2017 Starz Entertainment, LLC
American Gods

American Gods

Git Gone Season 1 Episode 4
Editor's Rating 3 stars

American Gods isn’t a brisk novel, and the TV series is following the book’s inclination to break away from the main action and explore tangents that inform the larger world of the story. The first three episodes did this with the “Coming to America” and “Somewhere in America” sequences, but “Git Gone” is an entire detour of its own, an episode-length recounting of Laura Moon’s journey from suicidal blackjack dealer to superpowered zombie. It’s a bold move to pause the main story this early and rewind the clock to focus on a different character. The pacing already isn’t especially quick — the show spent a lot of time in Chernobog and the Zorya sisters’ apartment — and now Michael Green and Bryan Fuller are adding an hour’s worth of material that wasn’t in the book.

American Gods is taking a risk, but it’s one that pays off with “Git Gone.” For better and worse, the episode feels like a pilot for a different show. There are references to events we’ve seen, but this could easily be someone’s introduction to the series and they wouldn’t be lost. The reasons behind Laura’s resurrection and the lynching she discovers immediately afterward aren’t made specific because they are still a mystery to her, and everything else is explained in enough detail that this “Git Gone” could stand alone. It’s a satisfying, self-contained narrative about a woman who finds a new purpose in life after death, and it ends with the final moment of the previous episode, merging the two stories together.

Laura Moon completes the trinity of undead heroines in Bryan Fuller shows, joining Dead Like Me’s Georgia “George” Lass and Pushing Daisies’ Charlotte “Chuck” Charles. (The connection would be even stronger if Laura had a masculine nickname.) Fuller has experience writing women who are liberated by death, and Laura is the darkest of these three characters. She’s introduced as a casino employee who is so numb to the world, she passes time by trapping herself in a covered hot tub filled with bug spray. The name of the spray gives the episode its title, and Laura is looking for a way out of her life.

Emily Browning does strong work capturing Laura’s existential ennui, and she’s trapped in a routine that is draining her more with each passing day. The thing she enjoyed about her work, shuffling cards, has been taken away from her by an automated shuffling machine, and the recurring visual of Laura pulling cards out of the shuffler is a fitting metaphor for how the character feels about her life. She has no control over the cards she’s being dealt, but she still pulls them one by one because she’s used to it. She’s resigned herself to this fate, and Browning’s performance highlights that detached boredom, which weighs Laura down until her death.

As for the music, it’s strange to hear Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s main theme from The Social Network underscoring Laura’s unhappiness at the start of the episode. (It pulled me out of that sequence because I just started thinking about Mark Zuckerberg being an asshole.) The religious imagery in the Band’s “The Weight” made it an interesting music choice for the moment before Laura and Robbie’s deaths, but I didn’t understand the decision to have her ask him to sing along. It’s a moment of humor that doesn’t land, and while I can see this being a way for Laura to exert authority over Robbie, it feels shoehorned in by the writers. They have a comedian in Dane Cook, so I guess they wanted to give him some comedic material?

Like many pilots, “Git Gone” simplifies characters and relationships to give viewers a clear, shallow idea of who these people are and how they interact with each other. There’s a lot of material to cover in an hour, so Green and Fuller don’t bring much depth to Laura’s conflicts before she dies giving her best friend’s husband road head. The betrayal would’ve hit harder if the show provided a clearer picture of Laura’s friendship with Audrey (Betty Gilpin), but we do eventually get a stronger sense of that dynamic when an undead Laura shows up in Audrey’s house to sew up her detached arm.

While the pilot exaggerated Audrey’s character to the point where she didn’t feel like a real character, her aggressively vulgar behavior plays into “Git Gone” after she discovers her best friend is now a zombie. Audrey’s heightened state of vengeful grief in the pilot makes her interactions with undead Laura more intense, and Audrey can direct all of her rage directly at her. (The severity of this encounter is undercut by literal toilet humor, as Laura expels the embalming fluid from her body.) You can see glimmers of shame and regret in Laura as she’s berated by her old friend, but she has bigger problems on her hands.

The most substantial relationship in “Git Gone” is the missing one, and so the episode provides valuable context for Shadow and Laura’s marriage. It shows their first meeting at the blackjack table, where Laura tells Shadow not to go through with his attempt to cheat the casino, then follows them through the early days of their courtship and the degradation of their relationship after getting married. Ricky Whittle brought a lot more confidence to Shadow last week, and he’s all bravado when he first shows up in “Git Gone.” Shadow thinks he has what it takes to steal from the casino, but Laura quickly deflates his ego.

Laura challenges Shadow, and that attracts him to her. He’s totally smitten, while she’s mostly interested in having something new to distract her from her dreary life. Once that freshness wears off, she looks for another distraction: She decides that she’ll be Shadow’s inside man and help him rob the casino like he suggested when they first met, but we never see her perfect plan in action. Instead, the action cuts immediately to Shadow in jail, where he decides to take the full blame rather than put Laura in prison, even though it’s a change that would probably satisfy her need to get out of her hometown.

Once Laura dies, supernatural elements begin to take over the narrative. The circumstances of Laura’s death invite Mr. Jacquel (a.k.a. Anubis) to take her to his desert limbo and weigh her heart against a feather, but unlike Mrs. Fadil in last week’s “Somewhere in America” sequence, Laura doesn’t have patience for this process. She bats Mr. Jacquel’s hand away when he tries to rip her heart out, then slams her fist on the scale because she knows what it’s going to say. She lived her life, good and bad, and she’s ready to face the consequences without all of the added theatrics. Laura’s final resting place comes in the form of a hot tub and a can of bug spray, but before she can submerge herself, she’s pulled away from limbo and brought back to the world of the living.

After Laura crawls out of her grave and stumbles around for a bit, she discovers a gang of faceless goons lynching her husband. “Git Gone” reveals that the explosions of blood shown in the pilot were courtesy of Laura, who has been gifted with incredible strength after her resurrection. She punches holes through heads and abdomens, and a kick to an opponent’s crotch sends his spine and skull bursting out of his skin. It’s a grisly sequence made all the more brutal by sound effects that emphasize the sound of bones breaking and gore squishing. The violence is totally over the top, but it effectively establishes that Laura’s new circumstances are giving her the excitement she craves.

The shot of Laura covered in blood, walking down the middle of the street in broad daylight and holding her detached arm is a visual that is both chilling and comedic. Laura has no reservations about her current state, and the juxtaposition of her appearance with the sunny suburban surroundings adds a layer of dark humor. “Git Gone” actually gets funnier once Laura is a zombie, which makes a lot of sense given the tone of Bryan Fuller’s previous shows that dealt with similar circumstances. Now that Laura has the spotlight, will she become a more active player in the ongoing narrative? Will that sense of humor follow her into upcoming episodes? The best part about “Git Gone” is that it makes it even harder to predict where American Gods will go next.

American Gods Recap: Death Becomes Her