[SPOILER WARNING: The following review does contain spoilers for the novel American Gods as well as the first three episodes of the TV series American Gods.]
One of the few flaws with the original American Gods novel was that protagonist Shadow Moon was something of a cipher. Granting that as a natural consequence of establishing a character as an everyman who serves as the reader’s entry point into a strange and unusual world, it is still a flaw. Indeed, there is only one character whose motivations are more mysterious and unexplored than those of Shadow Moon – his wife Laura.
Laura Moon plays a major role in the events of American Gods yet she has surprisingly little time on the page. Her apparent motivation – caring for her husband in death in all the ways she failed to do so in life – never really rings true given what we know of her life. We know that they met through mutual friends but no backstory is given as to how or why Shadow and Laura fell in love with each other.
It was because of this rather sizable gap that show-runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green decided to devote an entire episode to further defining Shadow and Laura with an original and untold tale detailing the life of Laura Moon, her death and everything that came after.
Git Gone marks the first major deviation between the story of the novel and the story of American Gods – The Series. Rather than meeting through mutual friends, we find that Laura and Shadow met at the casino where she was employed as a blackjack dealer. Shadow is a small-time crook with more ambition than sense, whose attempt to cheat the house is quickly spotted and cut short by Laura.
What follows is a whirlwind romance, where Laura takes Shadow into her life because the danger of his life of thievery excites her in a way that noting else does. This leads to the second major change – the circumstances of how Shadow came to be imprisoned. In the novel he got into a fight for unspecified reasons. In this episode, we find out that Shadow got busted trying to rob the casino using a plan devised by Laura.
Fuller and Green’s script does much to develop both Shadow and Laura. Laura benefits more from this episode, however, as we discover her to be a woman deep in the doldrums of depression. While it’s debatable how sympathetic Laura becomes given some of the revelations in this episode, the script still does a fine job of explaining her motivations, even if Laura herself seems unsure if she’s trying to get high or trying to kill herself when she inhales bug spray.
The essence of Laura’s depression is well captured by Emily Browning’s performance, the production design and Craig Zobel’s direction. Like many depressives, Laura does not feel sad so much as she feels nothing. The general aesthetic of the first half of the episode captures the essence of this form of depression, with muted tones in the set colors, soft light and quiet music.
This stands in stark contrast to the bolder second half of the episode, after which Laura comes back from the dead. The fight sequences here are somewhat over-the-top, with more blood flying through the air than in a Zack Snyder movie. Some of the material here also seems to be arty for the sake of being arty, yet some conceits – such as Shadow being the only source of light in the darkness of Laura’s afterlife – are perfectly executed.
Git Gone is a fine addition to the American Gods oeuvre. It accomplishes its stated goal of better defining both Laura Moon and Shadow and showing just how the two fell in love. Or, at least, how Shadow fell in love. The direction is brilliant and the script well-written. Only some gratuitously arty sequences rob this episode of perfection.