I take back my previous trepidations…
This weeks episode of American Gods takes a much needed detour in the story of Laura Moon. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Laura in the novel but this rendition of her character is both faithful and more entertaining.
The episode opens on Laura working as a dealer in an Egyptian styled casino called Anubis. She seems to be underwhelmed by everything in her life, including the entrance of our protagonist, Shadow. She seems to be a lonely and somewhat suicidal person, frequently asphyxiating with bug spray in her own hot tub. She appears to go through the motions when “falling in love” and marrying Shadow, but when her life becomes too stale and boring she comes up with the idea to use Shadow’s skills and her knowledge to rob the Casino she works at. Unfortunately, the plan goes to hell and Shadow is arrested. He refuses to take a plea deal that would shorten his sentence by giving up Laura’s role in the botched scheme, and Laura is forced to wait for 3 years for Shadow’s release.
This is where things get good. Finding herself in the same unhappy cycle she was before, Laura begins an affair with their mutual best friend, Robbie. As Shadow’s release draws near, she attempts to end things “nicely”, giving him a friendly blow job for the road. Unfortunately, this also happens on the road… while he’s driving, and a slip of the wrist causes an accident which kills them both.
Now dead, Laura comes face to face with her judgement. But before she is forced to face the eternal darkness that awaits her, she is sucked back to the surface. Back to her dead buried body. She follows a light and ends up chasing after Shadow; saving him from Tech Boys minions, going to their home, and waiting for him in his motel, until we reach the end of last weeks episode. As Shadow enters the motel room, he is radiating light like the sun. Laura welcomes him with a casual “Hi Puppy”.
This episode is drastically different from the previous three in it’s sheer straightforwardness. Although there was plenty of symbolic imagery, it gave it’s audience something that it has been missing up till this point. Answers.
We get to know Laura in this episode. The real Laura. Not Shadow’s image of her. Not her friend’s jaded idea of her. Laura is a complex and ultimately unhappy person, who’s life only begins to have meaning after its over.
I loved the use of Crows (or Ravens?) During this episode. They would often appear in the far off corners, watching things transpire. These crows often appear around Wednesday, like messengers and gives an unobtrusive hint that je has been watching (and possibly manipulating) everything that has happened. I also loved that Laura was able to be fleshed out a little more. In the novel, most of Laura’s back story is revealed as she talks with Shadow in the motel room. By This punter she had been deaf for a while and is a bit jaded. Thus, hey recounting is also quite jaded. This is why, despite all the help she gives Shadow in the book, I never grow attached to her. This iteration of Laura is more fleshed of, helped in large part top the change of medium. I’m sure the showrunners would like a reason to keep this actress around and liked for as long as they can. I applaud them for managing to make Laura.faithful to the book while still making her a character audiences would want to see more of.
And while we’re on characters audiences would want to see more of, Audrey! Dear Lord! I think I have a new favorite character. Her reaction to finding Laura in her house was spot on. She is another character that I am finding much more interesting than I did in the original novel. But why is that?
I believe the answer lies on intent. When Neil Gaiman was crafting his novel, he fleshed out a lot of the concepts as well as the location this story is meant to be set in. For this reason, he spends much of the time in the novel world building and giving life to the people who are in the middle of Shadow and Wednesdays’s journey. The show, by contrast, wants to go on much longer and tell many more stories than the book, and so they are forced to make previous characters more engaging so the audience will stay with them and care about them for as long as the show goes for.
I didn’t care for Laura in the novel. I do now.
In general, I think audiences will enjoy this episode a lot. It was funny yet profound and answered a few questions along the way. What more could you ask for?