May 21, 2017
Laura was a bored jackblack dealer in a shitty casino when Shadow Moon came into her life, trying to rip off her table. However, Laura was clever, caught him and warned him away. After her shift, Shadow found her in the parking lot and she took him home because just look at him. They eventually got married and settled into a boring-ass routine. Laura, miserable in the monotony, eventually suggested that they rob the casino together: she’d come up with the plan, he’d execute it, and no one would get caught. Shadow got caught. And while he was in prison, she began fucking his best friend, Dane Cook. Which, we know, is how she and Dane Cook died. But when Anubis came to judge her, she suddenly and unexpectedly found herself back on Earth. There, she saw Shadow as a weird glowing light that she was drawn to, and she is the one who, with her superhuman zombie strength, saved him from the Technogoons. However, her arm fell off in the process and through help from Dane Cook’s betrayed wife and two old Gods, Anubis and Mr. Ibis, she pulled herself together to pursue Shadow. In exchange for his help, Anubis vows to claim her soul once she’s done with her mission. And that’s how Zombie Laura ended up in Shadow’s motel room.
Laura is miserable. Laura is a blackjack dealer at a shitty side-of-the-road casino somewhere in Nowhereseville, Indiana, and the dead-endedness of her life is taking its toll to the point that one night when she goes home to her only friend, her kitty that looks remarkably like my very dumb cat when I was a teenager, Michael (named for the youngest son of my parents’ best friends because they thought the cat looked like him), and is annoyed by a fly buzzing around her while she’s trying to eat her Sad Dinner, a boiled egg, she takes out a can of Git Gone® Insect Spray, kills the fly and finds herself inspired to climb into her hot tub, lower the lid and fill the space with Git Gone® Insect Spray in an attempt to end it all in the worst way possibly imaginable.
She comes up for air almost immediately.
One night, Laura’s table is visited by Shadow Moon who she catches trying to swap out chips. Laura lets him know that he’s been caught before ordering him to finish his drink and GTFO, which he does.
However, when her shift is done, she finds Shadow out in the parking lot waiting for her, teasing that they should rob the casino together — she could be his inside man. She brushes his suggestion off but is like, “In the meantime, how about we remove those pants,” and takes him home with her, because have you seen
Ricky Whittle Shadow Moon?
Over card tricks, discussions of the afterlife (Laura’s not a believer) and backyard barbecues with their friends Audrey and Dane Cook, the two — well, Shadow — falls in love and they marry.
And then things really get boring.
After again contemplating the Git Gone® Insect Spray solution, Laura settles on a different way to spice things up: they should rob the casino together. She’ll be his inside man: after working there for 8 years, she knows everything about the place, he’ll never get caught.
He gets caught.
But because he loves her so much, he takes the entire prison sentence himself: six years, he’ll be out in three. As a fly buzzes around their heads in the prison visitor’s center, Shadow asks Laura if she can wait for him, and she promises that she can.
When Michael Cat dies, Dane Cook comes over to bury the body for her, and after a large glass of wine or five, Laura fucks Dane Cook despite the fact that he’s Dane Cook.
And so, yeah, when Shadow called Laura and spoke to her that one last time from the prison and she told him about the surprise party that she and Dane Cook were planning for him, Dane Cook was in the next room on Shadow’s bed, pantless.
After hanging up on Shadow, Laura orders Dane Cook to get up and the two drive into the night as a raven follows their car. On the ride Dane Cook offers to leave his wife for Laura, but she’s like, “gimme a break,” before reminding Dane Cook that they both knew all along that this thing between them had an expiration date and that he needs to let go. But before he does that, she unzips his pants and offers him a parting gift in the form of a blowjob.
This goes poorly for everyone and Laura and Dane Cook die in a car crash.
The next thing Laura knows is she is on the cosmic plane with Anubis who informs her that she’s dead. He leads her to his judging blanket, but when he reaches for her heart, she slaps his hand away, because fuck that noise.
Anubis then shows her where she’s going when she “passes through” since she spent her life believing in nothing: a hot tub with a can of Git Gone® Insect Spray. Laura’s response is a hearty “FUCK YOU,” but before she can finish that sentiment, she is whisked back to the world of the living, forced to crawl out of her fresh grave.
Filthy and vomiting embalming fluid, Laura notices a bright glow in the distance and begins instinctively walking towards it. The source of the light: Shadow, who is presently being lynched by the Technogoons. Laura goes into full superhuman ass-kicking mode and literally kicks the spines out of the Technogoons, before saving Shadow’s life.
However, Laura is not invincible and does lose an arm in the fight, which she carries with her back to her house to take a bath. Her bath is interrupted by Glowing Shadow, and she is forced to hide in that damn hot tub until he leaves.
Cleaner now, but still very dead and very much missing one arm, Laura breaks into Audrey’s house to make use of her craft room in an effort to reattach her arm. Needless to say, she is not warmly received by the woman she betrayed. But after some screaming and some expelling of more embalming fluid in the most of humiliating ways and some discussion about how Laura and Dane Cook’s choices made Audrey feel …
… Audrey sews Laura’s arm back on for her and agrees to drive Laura to Shadow, which is remarkably forgiving of Audrey who (SPOILER ALERT for GLOW) kicked Alison Brie’s ass for doing the same thing over on that series. On the drive, Laura bitches about her shitty obituary, and Audrey wonders what, exactly, Laura’s plan with Shadow is? Have a zombie baby and a zombie dog? But Laura just smiles: she’ll have her “own private sunshine” because Shadow is the “light of her life.” While she might not have loved him the way he loved her before, she loves him now.
And that’s when Mr. Anubis and Mr. Ibis step in front of their car, bringing this strange little buddy comedy to an end. The men bring Laura to their funeral parlor where they spruce her up: reattach her arm, give her a paint job, and deliver her a promise that when she’s done with her little mission, Anubis will take her back to where she belongs: the darkness.
Laura breaks into Shadow’s motel room, hangs some flypaper to catch all the annoying flies that seem to be following her around these days and waits for the glow to appear.
Alright, Just Get On With the Analysis Already
Let’s begin with our newish God, Anubis’ funeral home partner, Mr. Ibis, whom we have actually seen in earlier episodes writing the “Coming to America” stories. In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the ibis is associated with the god Thoth who was the god of wisdom, writing, knowledge, measurement, the moon, astronomy, logic and reason, hieroglyphics, intelligence, equilibrium, records, magic and was a participant of the judgment of the dead. Thoth served as a mediator between good and evil, overseeing three epic battles, including the one between Horus and Set.
Thoth was originally a lunar god, the ibis’ neck resembling the crescent of the moon. The moon’s phases allow for the calculations of the passage of time, so Thoth became associated with astronomy and the organization of the calendar. These associations led him to become further associated with wisdom and magic and the record keeper who wrote the Book of the Dead. Thus, he’s the guy recording the stories of our gods’ arrivals in this country.
As for Laura and Shadow’s story, it’s highly symbolic that their relationship began and was ended in a casino. Gambling obviously represents risk-taking and taking chances, which they do, both on each other and on their future. As it turns out, neither exactly pays out.
But more than that, casinos are full of games, and as we’ve discussed before, games are a symbol of war and struggle. But what makes the games in a casino different from, say, a round of checkers is that the two sides from the outset are not presumed to be equal: the house always has an advantage. It’s an unfair fight, not unlike a fight against an omnipotent god. And yet, Laura and Shadow naively think they have a chance. They never had a chance.
As for other elements that I noticed, the most striking is the ethereal glow that Shadow is surrounded in as seen through Laura’s eyes. Through the process of death, Laura has very literally been transformed, and she sees the world in a new way, understanding how much she took for granted in her relationship with her devoted husband. The light around him represents her new appreciation of his goodness and purity of being.
Light is one of — if not the most — basic symbols. From The Complete Dictionary of Symbols: “A metaphor for the spirit and the divinity, symbolizing inner enlightenment and the presence of a cosmic power of ultimate goodness and truth. By extension, light is a symbol of immortality, eternity, paradise, pure being, revelation, wisdom, intellect, majesty, joy and life itself.”
Shadow Moon — whose name is associated with elements of darkness — is the light of Laura’s “life,” such as it is. He is her opposite: good, true, alive.
We also had a pair of animals that represent death and the underworld in this episode: Laura’s cat and the many, many flies throughout the episode.
Because they are so common, cats have many symbolic connotations, including beneficent ones. In Ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped and regarded as guardians of mankind, for instance. But cats more often represent cunning, transformation, and female power and malice. And cats — black cats in particular — often served as symbols of darkness and death. So it is interesting that the events ultimately leading to Laura’s death originate in the death of her one faithful companion, her cat. Her cat’s death is an omen of her own.
But the flies that buzz throughout the episode are a much more obvious symbol of death. Flies are associated with rot and pestilence. From The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols: “Their ceaseless buzzing, whirling around and stinging make flies unbearable. They breed from corruption and decay, carry the germs of the foulest diseases and breach all defences against them.”
The flies are what inspire Laura to try killing herself at the beginning of the episode, which culminates in a multitude of flies in that motel room, suggesting that no matter how much magic might be animating her, or how much paint is applied to her, Laura’s still dead and her flesh is still rotting.
There’s one more interesting association with flies that we should not overlook: the fly is one of the forms that the shapeshifting Norse trickster god Loki sometimes assumes.
Loki is a difficult character to pin down; he’s both a Norse god, and not … he certainly goes around making trouble for the more honorable gods. He’s the father of a number of dark forces, including Hel, the goddess of the underworld; Jormungandr, the serpent that kills Thor; and Fenrir, the wolf who kills Odin. It is said that at the end of the world, Loki will “utter a diabolical laugh of triumph.” In the Norse myths he is portrayed as a coward and a schemer with a strong nihilistic streak.
And we’ve already met him on the show:
So, are those flies that pester Laura and follow her after her death merely a harbinger of her fate or are they a mischievous god leading her towards her destiny?
American Gods aired on Starz on Sundays at 8/9 p.m. Bzzzzt.