Let’s talk about Laura Moon.
As much as I love Neil Gaiman’s novel, it doesn’t do much to get into the character of Laura Moon. She’s Shadow’s wife, and she’s a walking corpse that shows up from time to time to talk to her still-living husband, looking increasingly pathetic, and little if anything that we see tells us much about who she is or what she thinks. Granted, the novel is Shadow’s story, and he’s living up to his name by not being much of a character either, the only difference being for Shadow, Gaiman did it on purpose.
As such, the creators of the TV version of the novel are free to fully develop Laura as they see fit, and the entirety of the fourth episode is filling in her life, how she met Shadow, why she cheated on him with Robbie, what happened when she died, and then filling in the details of everything that happened to her up until the end of episode three when Shadow comes face-t0-face with the wife who he left buried a few states back and who calls him by the pet name “puppy”.
For what it is worth, Gaiman’s novel lays out how Shadow and Laura met in a short section. Shadow’s best friend Robbie had a wife, Audrey, who set up Shadow with her best friend Laura on a blind date and the two really hit it off. Shadow told Laura he’d be her “puppy” because she wanted a puppy but their landlord wouldn’t let them. That was about it.
None of that happens in the TV version. Instead, we see Laura is a desperately sad and depressed person. She wants more out of life than she’s been granted, working as a blackjack dealer at a small casino with an Egyptian theme. She’s not even allowed the pleasure of shuffling the cards herself. One day Shadow came in with plans to rob the place by pulling his coin tricks with the casino’s chips, Laura spotted him, and warned him off. He met her outside, they went back to her place, and so forth.
But the life before Shadow was one of mind-numbing routine. Work an eight hour shift at the casino. Come home to a cat that she apparently leaves the TV on for. It’s always Woody Woodpecker. She even tries to kill herself with a hot tub and bug spray, but doesn’t quite succeed. The excitement of having a thief for a boyfriend and then a husband really excites her.
Then Shadow meets Robbie, a somewhat douche-y muscle head type who owns a gym (the role Dane Cook was born to play!), and while he’s perfectly happy having a job and living with Laura, she’s back where she started and wants Shadow to rob the casino with a plan she came up with. When the plan doesn’t work, he won’t let her take any part of the fall and if she will just wait until he’s out of prison. She says she will wait.
I feel for Shadow here. The “puppy” name comes from how much he adores Laura, but she wants more while he’s content to just be with her. Living in a cardboard box with Laura would be fine with him. That’s not good enough for her. She wants more. I’ve been there, man.
She also can’t wait. She hooks up with Robbie when he comes over to bury the cat when it dies suddenly. Laura didn’t even like the cat that much. She still loves Shadow, refuses to leave Shadow for Robbie, and then she dies…and meets Anubis. Considering Laura is a pretty firm atheist who knows full well how the feather-weighing is going to go, all Anubis will give her is a dark box. There will be darkness. There is no guarantee there will be peace. Then she’s yanked back to life by Mad Sweeney’s coin. She keeps spewing embalming fluid, but we do see she was around when Shadow popped up in various places. Ironically, for a guy named “Shadow,” he gives off a bright light to her. He’s like the sun.
Who saved Shadow from the Technical Boy’s faceless minions when they lynched him? Laura did. She’s apparently massively strong and pain doesn’t hurt anymore. Her body can be damaged, but she doesn’t feel pain, leading to this potentially iconic shot of her as she stumbles down a suburban street carrying her own arm:
She sees Audrey again, and after the initial freak-out, the two former friends get to talking, and while Audrey is still clearly pissed at Laura for sleeping with Robbie, she also tries to reconnect Laura’s arm and even offers to drive her somewhere.
Actually, I think Audrey is rather awesome.
But then the pair run into Anubis and Mr. Ibis. Anubis remembers Laura. The two fix her up a bit at their funeral home, make her look more alive, and let her know that, yeah, her body is still rotting but she has a mission and it may lighten her heart enough to get into a decent afterlife.
Emily Browning really conveys well the various moods Laura goes through, the depression, the need for excitement, the shock at how hard she can kick someone in the crotch, and the worry about what Shadow may do when the two meet again. Considering the previous show I did for Mondays was A Series of Unfortunate Events, I was a little surprised to find out Browning played the role of Violet Baudelaire in the movie version with Jim Carrey. But now that Laura is a more fleshed-out character, I’m as interested in her journey as I am Shadow’s. Good for American Gods.