In “Git Gone,” American Gods stops the overall narrative to go back and fill in a perspective I was sorely missing. Finally, we get a good, long look at the human women in this world. By focusing on the messy, banal parts of being human—a sharp contrast with the magic and glamour of the gods—“Git Gone” emphasizes its female characters’ humanity.
Emily Browning is terrific as Laura Moon. Browning plays Laura with stoicism no matter the situation. She has a straight face—one that never looks lifeless—both when she asks Shadow (Ricky Whittle) to rob a casino and when she surprises her best friend by coming back to life—not situations in which many people would be able to remain calm. She is funny, charming and sad, all at once. Audrey (Betty Giplin), on the other hand, is cracked open. Her overflow of emotions is a foil to Laura’s stony face and heart. Both of them together show there is not one right way to be a woman and there is not one right way to grieve.
The form and structure of “Git Gone” is just as much part of the storytelling as the performances. This episode doesn’t match the format of the previous three episodes—which is fitting because Laura’s death doesn’t match the process of those who came before her, either. There is no opening scene that tells a coming-to-America story; there is only the story of Laura. The repeated use of montage echoes the repetitiveness that Laura struggles with in her life, and though the episode is a flashback in the grander scheme of things, it tells Laura’s story linearly, how she experienced it, from before she met Shadow until she ended up dead-but-alive on his bed. There are no other gods or people interrupting Laura’s story, and no time spent in someone else’s head.
But that doesn’t mean Laura’s story is totally disconnected from the rest of the narrative. Laura faces her own small battle of the old versus the new when her boss at the casino introduces her to the shuffling machine. It makes part of her job obsolete—a part she particularly likes amid the doldrums of her day-to-day work. This mirrors Wednesday’s (Ian McShane) claims that the new gods are taking the place of the old. Wednesday wants to fight back, and Laura does, too, so eventually she convinces Shadow to rob the casino as an act of revenge and as a way to reclaim her life from the depression overtaking her. Egyptian symbols and images of coins and slot machines also tie the visuals of “Git Gone” with the rest of the series; in fact, it’s the Egyptian god Anubis (Chris Obi) who guides Laura through the afterlife—or tries to, before Laura is spit back out into the world of the living.
Laura doesn’t believe in anything, so she has nowhere to go in death but into darkness. She doesn’t believe in anything because she feels like the stories she was told when she was younger don’t matter because they aren’t real. But in the world of American Gods, stories are what matter most. Laura doesn’t fit in this world when she’s alive—or in the afterlife when she’s dead—because she believes in physics instead of tales. According to Wednesday “Head Full of Snow,” faith in something can change your life, and Laura struggles with both faith and making changes.
Laura lives her life in a stupor. Flies follow Laura in life as well as in death, perhaps because she feels like she is already dead and rotting. The night she meets Shadow, she takes him home, and they start kissing on the couch. Laura looks bored with her life, with Shadow, with everything, until she slaps him, twice. The slaps act as a way to wake herself up, and to try to shock her life into something that will feel different than boredom. She does this again when she asks Shadow to rob the casino. Both instances act out and hurt Shadow even though it’s Laura who really needs the jolt of something new. But instead of a moment of sharp pain that can make you feel alive, like from a slap, robbing the casino leads to months of a dull, slow ache.
Although Laura’s story is entwined with Shadow’s, “Git Gone” is definitely her story, not her and Shadow’s story. Her story starts before Shadow walks into her life because she is her own person with her own narrative. Her story continues when Shadow isn’t on the screen, and she has relationships that are separate from him, including significant scenes with another female friend. All of this contributes to Laura being a fully formed female character.
The scene of Audrey and Laura in the bathroom takes the pop culture trope of girls going to the bathroom together and turns it on its head. Audrey and Laura’s heart to heart is about coming back from the dead, sleeping with each other’s husbands, and shitting embalming fluid—not exactly the makeup tips or gossip a gentler show would depict. The embarrassment of needing to use the toilet in front of a friend that you have wronged is such a wonderfully human moment amid fantastical events. The hilarity of Audrey responding to Laura as an old friend when she isn’t even sure if Laura is alive anymore highlights the humanity in them both. Their relationship feels so lived in and familiar, even though it’s drenched in fear and grief, and it felt so real that Audrey would help her best friend even when she was mad at her. (If this entire show were just Laura and Audrey taking a road trip and crafting, I would still tune in every week.) By telling Laura’s origin story with empathy and humor, American Gods proves it can tell women’s stories, too.
Rae Nudson is Chicago-based writer and critic whose writing has appeared in Esquire, Bright Wall/Dark Room, and Real Life, among other publications. You can follow her on Twitter @rclnudson.