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.
#3: What Shadow goes to prison for
In the book: He assaulted someone who stole from him. More specifically, he was the getaway driver for a petty robbery (set up by Laura) and Shadow’s two co-conspirator’s tried to cut him out of the deal. So he beat them up.
On the show: Laura convinces Shadow to help her rob the casino she’s worked at for eight years. It obviously goes wrong. How and why are left a mystery, but I’m guessing a god or two got in the way.
#4: Laura and Audrey meet again
In the book: This never happens.
On the show: This is one of my favorite scenes in the episode. Audrey and Laura, bound by years of friendship and loathing, trapped in a bathroom together while the former is full of rage and terror and the latter empty of emotion (and embalming fluid). It’s messy and uncomfortable and hilariously human all at the same time. I think it speaks a lot to Audrey’s conflicted feelings that despite her anger at Laura and terror that her former best friend is in her house looking to sew her arm back on, Audrey decides to help her anyway. I would honestly watch an entire show of these two on a road trip while they worked through their problems.
#5: Laura’s run in with Anubis
In the book: Again, this doesn’t happen.
On the show: Starz continues to find interesting ways to expand the role of the gods so audiences are all on the same page come battle time. Having Anubis and Laura spar over whether or not she’d get in the hot tub to oblivion was another great character moment. Why Anubis and Thoth choose to assist Laura on her journey to find Shadow is yet to be seen, but whether Mr. Wednesday intervened or Anubis is simply intrigued by one of his charges getting away, I look forward to seeing how it plays out.
Odds & Ends:
– In the novel, Laura has her faults, but being suicidally depressed (and consequently a self-destructive bitch) is not one of them. But you don’t have to be a hollow shell of a person to cheat. Why the show chose to weigh Laura down with this kind of baggage instead of simply allowing her to become lonely and screw up her life remains a mystery.
– Clearly, Mr. Wednesday was keeping an eye on Laura. Birds. Birds everywhere.
– In the novel. Laura rescues Shadow from Technical Boy’s goons at a later date. My guess is this is not the last time Laura will tangle with the Spooks before the things come to a head.
– Eagle Point, Indiana is a real place (but the casino she works at isn’t) so Laura was commuting hour or more to her place of employment, based on cursory Google Maps search
– It appears in the show they’re taking Laura’s death out of her hands. Literally. Originally she knocks the gearshift mid-blowjob and that’s what causes the wreck.
– Within the narrative of the novel, Laura cheats on Shadow not because she’s fundamentally broken and unable to wait for her husband, but because she feels Robbie is “alive” in a way Shadow is not. Robbie is fun where Shadow is stoic. A less dramatic, but far more common line of reasoning.
– I love that working in an Egyptian-themed casino was enough “belief” for Anubis to show up for Laura.