Last night’s episode of American Gods was a detour for the show, exploring the life and death of Laura Moon. So while there was no forward movement in the main plot, we got a lot of backstory filled in, culminating in how zombie Laura ended up sitting in Shadow’s room at the end of last week’s episode.
In Neil Gaiman’s novel, the life of Laura was never really fleshed out, so this represents fresh territory for creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green to explore. And they managed to make her a compelling, complicated character in a few broad strokes. She was a bored woman who wanted more out of life than her casino job and living in her grandmother’s old house. She was a history buff with no time for fantasy. She was suicidal, but so creative in her attempts that one has to wonder whether death was the goal so much as feeling something (seriously, bug spray in a covered hot tub? Ouch). She loved Shadow, but not the way he loved her — and their marriage wasn’t the cure to what ailed her. She also came up with the plan that got him sent to prison, and her affair with Robbie was mostly another way to ease her boredom while waiting for Shadow to come home. What I appreciated was that, as a character, Laura seems like she’s drifting through life, and her choices become efforts to break herself out of her monotony rather than actions based on real desire.
“I lived my life. Good and bad. Definitely not light as a feather.” She tells Anubis/ Mr. Jacquel this while sitting at his scales, swatting away the hand reaching for her heart. She is no Mrs. Fadil from the last episode, willing to accept judgement. She doesn’t need judgement, or forgiveness, or pity. She just wants to get on with her death already.
Unlike the doors Mrs. Fadil had to choose from, Laura is given one entry point for her afterlife: A hot tub. And all that awaits her on the other side is darkness, because she never believed in anything. So it’s a good thing she got pulled back to Earth before she passed through to the other side because dang, that is some bleak shit.
Perhaps the biggest reveal of the episode was that Laura was the one who kicked up some blood-splosions and saved Shadow from that lynching all the way back in the first episode. Unlike those shuffling, decaying zombies you might find on other tv shows, she’s got some serious strength. And when her arm falls off, she breaks into Robbie’s house to use his wife’s crafting supplies to reattach it. Frankly, I could have watched an entire episode of just the two of them together in that bathroom: the Zombie Laura and Bitter Audrey Variety Hour. These two friends have a lot to hash out, but Laura also has to work some embalming fluid out of her system so, you know, priorities.
Which brings me to my biggest takeaway from this episode: Where. The Fuck. Is. Sweeney’s. Coin?
From the moment Laura’s hand first burst outta that grave, I was on coin-watch duty. Would she be holding it? Would she find it in the dirt? Would it have burned a hole in her? When she vomits, will it fly out? When her stomach gurgles, is it coin-related? When she was shitting embalming fluid on that toilet in front of Audrey, I definitely expected to hear that coin land in the toilet and for the scene to end with Laura using her busted arm to fish it out again. I can’t tell if I’m disappointed that it didn’t go that way or not.
At this point, I can only assume the coin has now been integrated into her body, bringing it to life. And maybe that’s why her dead eyes perceive Shadow as a glowing beacon in a bland world. Because he gave her the coin, or something? Is that why she loves him more in death than in life?
I have a feeling coin-watch duty is going to be a season-long endeavor.