This episode is all about Laura Moon – and I think this is a definite improvement and was definitely needed to add some flesh on the flawed and slightly more complex character we see here. It would be easy to just have demonised her – had her be the cheating wife who betrayed Shadow so thoroughly, had the last words about her be from Audrey lavishly bathing her memory in the most exquisite venom. But instead we get this, from her eyes
As is often the case with American Gods, it’s less the individual scenes, the details of Laura’s daily life that make up the story so much as the collected images and scenes together that tell the full story. I love the artistry of this, how we can see Laura’s personality and life build in all these little scenes. Even things like her work getting automatic card shufflers when she preferred to shuffle them. Through grim repetition and her excellent acting we see Laura’s life – a life she clearly finds dull, boring, lonely, unchallenging and pretty much hellish up to her openly considering suicide.
And then Shadow walks into her life when he tries to rob her casino. And she warns him off, saving him from being caught with his very bad plan. She takes him home and they have sex
We see a real difference here between Laura’s view of their relationship and Shadow’s – from the very beginning Shadow has put her on a pedestal – his love for her is all consuming. He is happy, super super happy just being with her. He tells her he would be super happy with Laura even if they were living in cardboard box
But from the beginning this is clearly not enough for Laura. Even his sweet, gentle sex with her bores her and she pushes for something harder, rougher. Laura was clearly intrigued by the danger represented by Shadow the thief – but they quickly fall into the same domestic routine, boring jobs, boring lives, sex which doesn’t really do it for her and again we see Laura flirting with suicide.
She tries to explain this to Shadow but he just doesn’t get it – he takes her unhappiness as a personal insult, confused and lost with the idea that love is not enough. And I love this message – I love the idea presented in media that you can love someone deeply and passionately but still need more from life for it to be fulfilling – that love isn’t always enough for happiness and that doesn’t mean the love is lacking or inferior; it’s just that there’s more to life.
I can’t stress enough how really well done Laura’s boredom is, how much her life is a prison to her. And from that we see her motive to encourage Shadow to rob he casino – with a better plan. Not for the money but for SOMETHING, something different. Something to give her life meaning, something exciting, interesting, something other than the agonising hellish routine she lives.
And it all goes wrong
And again Shadow steps in to sacrifice himself for Laura, refusing to accept a deal that would see them both have short prison sentences instead picking a long one for himself. She doesn’t ask for this – I don’t think she even wants this. Again, Shadow seems to be seeing an ideal of what he wants Laura to be rather than the actual person Laura is; he sees the ideal of the life he imagines and now how she actually feels.
He asks her to wait for him
Which is another sentence. Another period of her life in another long, monotonous, agonising routine. And in a moment of sadness and weakness she begins her affair with her friend, making it clear it’s only until Shadow is back, the nice fig leaf to make it all ok. He falls for her anyway until it all comes crashing down with her death
And collection by Anubis. Laura has already established that she doesn’t believe in anything – and she makes it clear when he starts to weigh her heart that she’s not playing this. She tips the scales herself – she’s lived how she has, good and bad and she knows her heart is going to outweigh the feather of Ma’at. I see this as part accepting who she is, but in some way also denying Anubis’ right to judge her. She isn’t apologising for who she is. She isn’t justifying herself. She’s denying the test entirely
When Anubis says she believes in nothing so she will go to nothing – oblivion – she doesn’t protest she’s a good person or ask to be judged or appeal – she demands a say. She asks whether she gets to choose. She isn’t fighting being condemned, she’s fighting his/the universe’s right TO JUDGE HER. She doesn’t beg, she demands in outrage
I was originally dubious about how Laura’s atheism was going to be portrayed here – believing in nothing means becoming nothing – but she invoked a level of agency (however futile) which was, itself, powerful.
Of course in the face of that demand Anubis is the unflappable, inexorable face of death: she will die, like millions before her and he won’t even remember her name. Because that is death
Which is when Mad Sweeney’s coin resurrects her into zombiehood. Right at the moment when Shadow is being lynched by The Technical Boy’s minions. She also sees Shadow literally glowing like the sun.
Turns our zombies are strong. They can snap ropes with their bare hands. They can also kick a man so hard in the balls his spine detaches. All hail zombie Laura. And this is what saved Shadow. She hides from him - partly because she’s covered in blood but she’s also mixing an arm.
So where to go? After visiting home she ends up at Audrey’s house looking for craft supplies and we have the least supernatural zombie moment ever – purging her bowels of all the embalming fluid while Audrey screams and panics in the bathtub
Though it has to be said nothing quite dispels supernatural horror like the armless zombie having a major case of the runs and Audrey calms down considerably. It’s hard to be afraid of anyone having titanic diarrhoea. It’s certainly preferable to her running through the house screaming “zombie whore!”
Which means they get to have an awkward conversation which is surprisingly calm with a whole lot of emotion there as well. Audrey tells Laura that everyone knows she cheated and how she tried to have sex with Shadow on Laura’s grave (which Laura considers fair).
I love the line where Audrey says “fuck your feelings” when Laura tries to describe how she feels – instead demanding to know what Laura thinks. I like this, it’s an excellent idea, an excellent concept: “I feel” usually feels quite indulgent and self-centring. “Think” demands a more logical, dispatched, less self-indulgent analysis of her behaviour. Laura insists she does love Shadow though Audrey calls bullshit – making it clear she didn’t even think Laura loved Shadow when she was alive. At least not as much as Shadow loved her – and given what we’ve seen that’s not entirely wrong
This is discussed as they drive – and interrupted when Anubis and Thoth step in front of the car. And in contrast of his earlier chilling “I won’t remember you”, Anubis does remember her. And he and Thoth, at their funeral parlour, are able to put her back together again. They point out her zombie body will need maintenance now… also Anubis is clear that she’s only delayed the inevitable.
Thoth also reassures her that Shadow will want to see her because he did love her… despite the various issues. And we can definitely see that Laura wants to see him. Her rut has gone. I can think of several reasons: because you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Because she’s now had her eyes open to so much more – including Shadow glowing like the sun. Because she’s now having an adventure? There are many possible reasons
So she is there, after setting up lots of fly paper, to greet Shadow when he returns