The first three episodes of American Gods showed an unbelievable patience when it came to delivering story, a trait one could successfully argue as both a feature and a fault: “Git Gone” takes this glacial pace a step further, earning its fully laminated Prestige TV membership card by spending an entire episode essentially away from itself, abandoning any sense of trajectory with its main story for a journey into the past, full of Big Thoughts, Signature Images, and Revealing Character Moments. “Git Gone” is exactly that, an episode that somehow feels both like a perfunctory and necessary expansion of source material, wrapped up in the now-familiar tactic to spend an episode focused on a single character isolated from the main narrative; and as such, is as conflicted in tone and uneven in quality as any episode forced to embody the stylistic leanings of such a deliberately constructed hour of television.
That the hour decided to focus on Laura Moon, and Laura Moon alone, is an interesting decision to unpack, even after putting aside any comparisons to her character from the book. The Laura Moon we meet here is able to tell her story in her own terms; and unsurprisingly, that story is one ripe with internal conflicts, signifying by a sprinkling of indie drama scenes, dusty rooms where Laura realizes that she’s numb to the world around her, the cyclical nature of daily modern life driving her further and further into a numb existence. Her life was so numb, in fact, that the feeling of pure, unadulterated adoration was completely missed on her: through a montage of short scenes, we see that Laura’s relationship with Shadow takes the traditional arc of romance to love to co-existence in appearances only. For awhile, the flies signifying her dead soul dissipate, but by the time her and Shadow are living together, they’re circling her head and her mind, poking her incessantly with the fear that she’d experienced all the excitement she could have in life, left to wander around aimlessly until swatted down by the cosmic powers of life and death.
As an audience, we watch a story play out over 40 excruciatingly methodical minutes, awaiting the scene we’ve been told about since the pilot: Laura getting herself and Shadow’s best friend Robbie killed, when she decides to give him a blow job while he’s driving. This episode literally spends forty minutes trying to give that blow job context; and while it certainly succeeds in giving Laura multiple dimensions as a character, I’m not sure the lengthy emotional cycle we watch Laura live through was necessarily worth all the trouble. I know I’m saying this as a person who watches shows that designate years to trying to figure out why dudes bang other women (see: Mad Men), butI don’t really need to see an entire episode justifying why Laura – whether she was male or female – decided to throw wind to her relationship, her friendship, and her life for one fleeting moment when she recognized the feelings of another person.
In a way, it kind of undermines the entire point of the episode, which is to break Laura out of the definition of “zombie whore” that Audrey so hilariously nails her with. In fact, it all but works to the opposite: every decision is made in the context of her eventually putting Robbie’s dick in her mouth (side note: how well is Dane Cook casted here?!!), which robs her of a lot of agency as a character, when it is both the first thing we learn about her, and the defining moment of the episode focused around her life. Although she doesn’t really let that moment define her – as she notes to Jacquel, she was both good and bad – American Gods uses it as her defining moment, wrapping every conversation, relationship, and narrative movement around the very ill-fitting thank you she gave Robbie.
Despite its intentions not to feel exactly that, “Git Gone” feels a bit condescending; though it reinforces the notion that the mortal characters of American Gods do not explicitly decide their own fates, the idea that Laura’s karmic justice is to be changed in a specific way to serve the man who loved her is… a bit unsettling? Laura struggled to define herself by anything other than emptiness in life, so in death she’s given… the purpose of serving a man in her life, one she couldn’t even wait for? There’s a lot to unpack with Laura’s sudden reappearance as a revenant in Shadow’s world, and it doesn’t feel like American Gods really wants to engage with those unsettling ideas; just because Shadow wanted to will her back to life, should that wish have been granted? All along, Laura was supposed to sacrifice her own life, so she could be re-purposed to serve his? (Though I will note kicking a dude so hard in his nuts his spine goes up through his neck is pretty badass, in any context).
There’s a lot of interesting debate to be had around Laura’s character, specifically because American Gods is willing to explore every single shade of gray within Laura Moon’s mind, and not necessarily come to conclusions about any of it. What it leads to is an hour of TV that is unsettling as it is touching, relatable as it is obtuse, and as uncompromisingly non-judgmental as television can possibly be. Putting aside the troubling undertones of her character, the show’s willingness to bring sympathy to the ugly, to bring empathy to the seemingly unforgivable, is powerful material: sure, the show doesn’t seem completely capable of harnessing that into something truly meaningful, but it certainly makes for objectively fun, thoughtful television to consume, full of evocative images (though Laura walking down the street with her own arm feels like a The Walking Dead homage nobody needs) and powerful, contemplative moments. It may not know what exactly it wants to say about Laura; the highest compliment I can give is that it doesn’t try to pass final judgment on her behavior or actions explicitly, even if the narrative decisions seem to have heavy undertones for how it thinks of her.
And so, as American Gods reaches the halfway point of its freshman run, “Git Gone” serves as a fairly accurate microcosm of the show so far: ambitious as hell, often stumbling onto moments of true wonder or wisdom amidst a collection of lush visuals and frustratingly obtuse sequences. American Gods is all emotional drive and aesthetic so far; which on one hand is a refreshing wonder, and on the other end, a little underwhelming in terms of thematic work or evocative world-building. Laura’s hour-long highlight only adds to the confusing, hard to pin moral center of the show; only time will tell whether four more hours of this show will deem this all an enlightening aside on a long journey, or an ephemeral pleasure as superficial as it is stimulating.