Each week, Uproxx will be hosting the American Gods Book Club. This is a safe space where readers of Neil Gaiman’s massive novel can come to dissect the changes to the series and debate what will happen next, all without fear they’ll accidentally spoil something for non-readers.
Tonight was the night. The first three episodes have differentiated from the source material by slightly tweaking events or moving plot points up and down a sliding scale of character narrative. But “Git Gone” is the first episode in which most of the story is new whether you’ve read American Gods or not. Outside of the interludes, Gaiman’s novel tends to stick close to protagonist Shadow Moon. Readers know little about Laura outside of Shadow’s unreliable narrative of his wife and what Laura says to her husband once she catches up to him.
That kind of narrow POV doesn’t work for television, so it makes sense Starz and Bryan Fuller would branch out to fill in the holes of Laura’s story. But does it work? For the most part, yes. Though some of the changes made to the core of Laura and Shadow’s relationship didn’t sit well for me. Let’s dive in!
#1: How Laura and Shadow Meet
In the book: Shadow is set up with Laura on a blind ‘double date’ by his best friend, Robbie Burton. Shadow works at the gym, Laura is a travel agent. Their lives are benign and average.
On the show: Shadow comes into the Egyptian-themed casino where Laura is working and tries to con his way into a blackjack win. Of course, in the novel, Laura is not card dealer, so this is a pretty serious change that does well in establishing this new version of Laura as empty, detached, and broken. While the change of venue and employment might be more traditionally entertaining to watch, there was something to be said of Laura just being a small-town girl with a normal job and a normal life making a go of it with her bookish weightlifter husband that she loved.
#2: The development of Laura and Shadow’s relationship
In the book: Shadow adores Laura and, as far as he can tell, the feeling is mutual. The narrative glosses over most of their courtship. But one of the standout moments is how Shadow got his nickname, ‘Puppy.’ Laura desperately wanted to get a puppy, but the landlord forbids pets. In a moment of playfulness, Shadow declared he could do anything a puppy could do: adore her, sniff her crotch, lick her face, pee on the carpet. Whatever she wanted. Laura shrieks and giggles in delight as Shadow starts to lick her nose (can you even imagine the TV version of Laura being delighted?). From then on he was her Puppy.
On the show: Another sour note for me. Shadow and Laura have a much more toxic relationship on the show, and the advent of the Shadow’s nickname falls prey to this dark change. With Laura “believing in nothing” she declares herself not to be Shadow’s lost puppy and he has to stop looking at her with (I assume) pity. There’s never a definitive moment where the nickname sticks to Shadow, but Robbie derisively states Laura never loved Shadow like a husband, but like he was a pet.