American Gods: Git Gone

"That was vulgar. I’m a vulgar woman. Anger and grief have… have really just made me vulgar."

American Gods gives us the Gospel According to Laura, and answers a few questions to boot.

OK, it's cheating just a little bit to end two episodes in a row with the exact same cliffhanger, but wow, what a trip it was getting there the second time around.

So, at the end of the previous episode, Shadow enters his motel room to find his recently deceased wife, Laura, sitting on his bed waiting for him. Expectations, then, were that we'd pick up at that same point and get to see their inevitable confrontation over the whole 'died while orally servicing his best friend' situation. But 'Git Gone' takes a different path, and instead goes back to before the show even began and tells the whole thing again, but this time from Laura's perspective.

This is by no means the first show to do an episode dedicated to re-staging things we've already seen but from the perspective of one of the other characters, but there's a reason that shows like to do it, and it's not just the cost savings of re-using existing sets. The primary virtue of this setup is that it allows you to fill in a lot of character information, while revealing information about events you've already seen that we didn't know at the time. Case in point, we've already heard the phone conversation between Shadow and Laura in 'The Bone Orchard' but now we know that she literally had his best friend naked on their bed while she was talking to him. That changes how we feel about Laura during that conversation a lot.

So, let's talk about Laura.

For the first three episodes, Laura has essentially been a woman in the refrigerator. It's an insidious trope which can be boiled down to the idea that stories tend to treat female characters as someone to kill so that the important character, i.e. the man, can be properly motivated to do whatever the story needs him to do. It's a pleasant relief then to find out that, no, Laura has been having a fairly eventful story of her own, and her untimely death was only the middle part of it.

The thing that 'Git Gone' makes clear about Laura is that she is fundamentally self-destructive. The very first decision we see her make is to attempt suicide in her covered hot tub by breathing in the titular bug spray, and that appears to have been brought on by nothing more than the casino she's working at telling her that she can't shuffle the cards by hand anymore, but she likes shuffling cards so she's super sad about it. She's clearly smart and perceptive; it takes her all of three seconds to understand the con that Shadow is trying to pull at her blackjack table. She's also basically kind, since her response to his con is to point out the casino's security measures and what they'll do to him when he's caught, then takes his bet and tells him to finish his drink and go home while he can. But when Shadow approaches her afterward and tries to ask her out in a reasonably polite fashion, she's not interested. She only becomes interested in him once he starts getting stalker-ishly creepy. The same is true of their sex scene. She's bored out of her mind when he's being a courteous lover, and slaps him full in the face for no other reason than to see what he'll do. That's just not a safe thing to do to a guy you just picked up after he attempted to rob your casino, and whom you know absolutely nothing about. Which is why she does it.

The sequence of scenes where we see Shadow grow happier and happier while she grows sadder and sadder tell us everything we need to know about Laura. She likes Shadow, but he's nice. And when Laura has something nice in her life, Laura is immediately compelled to destroy that thing. That's why she suggests the casino heist that gets Shadow sent to prison. That's why she starts sleeping with Robbie while Shadow's away. Note the way that Laura only slept with Robbie the second time because he had accepted her statement that they shouldn't. Note also how she was clearly just as bored during her sex with Robbie as she had been that first night with Shadow. It was never about the sex, it was about inviting things into her life that would cause as much damage as possible. When Audrey mentions that she wishes Robbie looked at her the way Shadow looks at Laura, you can feel how little Laura values it. How much she needs to destroy it, in order to prove to herself that she doesn't deserve it. Honestly, season one doesn't give us much in terms of Laura's early background information, and the book gives even less, but note that Laura's mother appears to be at their wedding and her father isn't. I suspect there's a lot of interesting backstory there, and I hope we get more of it in the future. People this self destructive don't just happen for no reason.

And hey, we mentioned Audrey a moment ago. Audrey, and I'll make no bones about this whatsoever, is my absolute favorite character in the show, despite only being in two episodes of the first season. The scene between Audrey and Laura in Audrey's bathroom is absolutely the centerpiece of this episode. That scene works on every conceivable level. It's simultaneously hysterically funny, heartbreakingly sad, and the weirdest thing you're likely to see on television. And it all comes down to the fact that both Betty Gilpin as Audrey and Emily Browning as Laura play the absolute emotional truth of the moment, despite the fact that the moment is a zombie with diarrhea on the toilet in front of the woman whose husband she died while blowing. Oh, and she stopped by to borrow craft supplies. The whole thing is basically, what if The Walking Dead was a production of the Hallmark Channel, and those two actresses make it work. Audrey is confronted with the woman she thought was her best friend but was sleeping with her husband. Who died while betraying her. When Audrey speaks the line 'I found out my husband was cheating on me and dead in the same sentence' you absolutely feel how much pain she's in, and it feels real. Despite the zombie diarrhea and the craft supplies, it feels like genuine emotional damage that she has no idea how to work through. It's amazing.

Then Audrey gets her craft supplies, sews her friend's arm back on for her, and drives her where she needs to go. Because she has no idea how else to respond to the situation. And if anyone is capable of getting through the following exchange without falling in love a little with Audrey, then that person has no soul. As Audrey is sewing her dead friend's arm back on and discussing the way that friend slept with her husband:

Best friends sew your zombie arm back on

Laura: "I feel terrible about it."
Audrey: "Oh, f*ck your feelings."

Quotes:

Laura: "Is this your first time trying to rob a casino?"
Shadow: "A casino? Yeah."
Laura: "Well, you’re really not very good at it."

Shadow: "All l know is there’s more than I know."

Laura: "There’s no farm upstate for old dogs."

Laura: "I have a perfect plan. You will never get caught."
(Cut to jail)
Laura: "How did you get caught?"

Laura: "I lived my life. Good and bad. Definitely not light as a feather."

Audrey: "…Laura?"
Laura: "Hey Audrey."
Audrey:

Laura: "Audrey. Audrey. Don’t call the police."
Audrey: "Get out of my house, you zombie whore!"

Ibis: "Don’t move. You’re still tacky."



Bits and Pieces:

-- Nice fake-out at the beginning with the Egyptian theme casino. The casino's name was 'The 26th Dynasty.' Apparently that was the last Egyptian dynasty before they were invaded by the Persians. I don't know if that's at all important, but information is always nice.

-- Mrs. Fadil's post-death scene with Anubis last week served the important function of letting us understand what was happening to Laura this week. It's a little weird that Laura would be the province of an Egyptian death god, though. They hand waved it last week with Mrs. Fadil remembering the old stories, but all we get here is that Laura is Anubis' concern because of the manner of her passing. That seems like a curiously specific thing for an Egyptian god to care about. Maybe she had to sign a release when she started working at the casino or something.

-- The hot tub is a visual metaphor for nothingness and oblivion. Watch the episode with that in mind and it opens up a world of interesting interpretations.

-- Do people leave their TVs on for the cats while they're out? It made total sense that it was the death of Dummy the cat, who Laura claimed to not even like, that drove her completely off the rails and into the affair with Robbie.

-- I'm not sure why, but the Egyptian eyes on Laura's work uniform bow tie really freaked me out. Like, to an irrational degree.

They're always watching you.

-- Laura's dialogue, 'When you die, you rot,' is shown over the images of her and Shadow's wedding. That was a nice directorial touch.

-- I liked the visual cue of Shadow leaving his wedding ring on the statue of the Eiffel Tower when he went to the gym. That's a real thing, I take off mine myself to work out.

-- Three episodes later, we find out that it was Laura who killed all of Technical Boy's henchmen and saved Shadow from the lynching. Wow, zombie Laura is apparently quite strong. And can kick you in the balls so hard your entire spinal column flies out the top of your head, which was a funny sight gag.

-- Mr. Jacquel, a.k.a. Anubis, told Laura that after this was all over he would complete his task and send her to oblivion. So now Laura has a matching doom over her head to go with Shadow's promise to let Czernobog smash his head in when it's all over.

-- I'd have liked to have known what happened to Audrey after she and Laura encountered Jacquel and Ibis. I assume she just dropped Laura off and went back home, but it would have been nice to see it.

-- Absent entirely this week: Wednesday, Mad Sweeney, Bilquis, Media, Technical Boy, Czernobog, The Zorya sisters, and Mr. World.

A great episode that gave us a lot of character work and some intriguing answers, but at the expense of paying off the previous episode's cliffhanger.

Three and a half out of four hot tubs.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

2 comments:

magritte said...

This episode amazed me on a number of levels. I had a suspicion that American Gods would need to expand on its universe to fill out a multi-season series. Like the Man in the High Castle and the Handmaid's Tale (and SO unlike Game of Thrones), there isn't enough material in the novel. But I wasn't expecting an episode devoted almost entirely to Laura, who was a bit of a cipher in the book. I love how the series has brought Laura and Audrey so forcefully to life, in their crazy broken ways. There's very little plot development here, but bravura character work.

Also, while I too loved the scene in the bathroom with them, doesn't every episode of American Gods have at least one contender for the weirdest thing you'll ever see on television? The show is nothing if not audacious.

Diogo said...

This show has added so much to the already great book. Laura's condition was just what it was in the book, but here in the show it works perfectly as a metaphor and an extension of her character even before she died. She was already a zombie, going through the motions, sleepwalking through life and ruining the lives of those around her. Her death and revival just turned the metaphor into reality.