This week, A.K.A. “The Laura Episode”, we go off-book and get to know Laura Moon, and how she came to be sitting on Shadow’s bed, several days after her death.
“I like to shuffle.”
We open in an Egyptian-themed casino where Laura is a blackjack dealer. We really get a sense here of the mundane routine of her life, as we watch her come home after a long shift, let the cat out, make herself a single hard-boiled egg, and read while she eats it. She kills a fly with bug spray and gets an idea. She strips down to her underwear and climbs into her hot tub, closing the cover over herself. She fogs the small space with bug spray in an impromptu suicide attempt. She chickens out at the last minute and throws the cover open, choking on the fumes.
“Finish your drink, play one more hand, then leave.”
Back at the casino, Laura’s table is empty and Shadow sits down. He makes a poor attempt at snappy patter to distract her as he cases the joint. He does some sleight-of-hand with his chips as the waitress returns with his drink. Laura notices, but lets him get away with it. He continues with his banter and Laura interrupts. “Don’t do it. This isn’t 80’s Vegas. They won’t just break your hands and walk away.” She points out all of the cameras. Shadow is intrigued by her. She deals another hand. “Ooh, bad luck,” she purrs, as she takes his chips. He leaves.
“I thought you were kind of a dick. You’re very cocky. And kind of unlucky.”
As she leaves, Shadow is waiting for her in the parking lot. “Why’d you help me?” She says he’s a lousy thief; she saw him coming a mile away. He says next time, no one will see him coming, and he tries to recruit her as an “inside man.” He flatters and cajoles, planting the seed in her mind, and you can see her turning it over. She tries to leave, and he convinces her to take him home with her. It’s fun to see Shadow being cute and flirty. His confidence is sexy.
“With skills like that, you could do magic.”
When Laura wakes up, Shadow is hanging out in her kitchen with coffee that he’s made himself. She’s a little cold and annoyed. He continues the banter from the previous night. He shows her a card trick and, like Shadow, she can’t resist a con. “Show me,” she grins.
We flash forward through time, showing Shadow and Laura spending more time together, including with Robbie and Audrey. Audrey mentions the way Shadow looks at Laura. “In ten years, Robbie has never once looked at me that way.”
“All I know is, there’s more than I know.”
Shadow and Laura have a conversation about the afterlife. Shadow is fairly open-minded about everything, but Laura is a cynic and believes in nothing. Perhaps Shadow’s current state is her influence. Their talk of the afterlife is interspersed with brief glimpses of their wedding. We see the origin of Shadow’s nickname:
Laura: “Don’t look at me like that.”
Shadow: “Like what?”
Laura: “It’s like you’re a lost puppy.”
The daily grind
We are treated to a montage of Shadow and Laura’s daily lives, post-wedding. Laura is becoming increasingly bored and despondent, and Shadow is oblivious. She glances with longing at the hot tub one morning. “I’m going to the store after work. Need anything?” Shadow asks. “No. Wait. Yes. Bug spray,” Laura says, ominously.
“I need you to sit…”
Laura wakes Shadow up to talk. “Are we pregnant?” he asks hopefully. Nope. She’s just decided they need to go through with robbing the casino, and she has a plan. Shadow is incredulous. He’s happy with the way things are.
Laura’s pretty harsh. She tries to pull the “you’re too good for me” card, and Shadow tells her that he’s not that guy any more – not a thief. She says she has the perfect plan, and that he won’t get caught. Spoiler: He gets caught.
“Somebody fucked us.”
Laura’s still convinced that her plan was foolproof, and that Shadow – or somebody – screwed it up somehow. He won’t let her take a deal that puts both of them in prison, but out much earlier. He spares her. He’s been given six years – three with good behavior. She says she can wait for him. Spoiler: She can’t.
Cue the “Shadow is in prison” montage, where we see Robbie and Audrey helping Laura through things. She’s no happier. On the day she comes home to find her cat dead, Robbie comes over to bury it for her, and Laura is drunk. He invites her to come crash with them for the night, and she declines. She plays tough, and Robbie hugs her, saying he misses Shadow, too. The hug turns into a kiss, which turns into more.
The next day, Robbie wanders over to see her again, and Laura is unamused. After making it clear that it was a one-time thing, and that she’s waiting for Shadow, she lets him in for round two of many to come.
“I felt differently then.”
Cut to the day of Laura’s accident. She’s on the phone with Shadow while Robbie literally lounges naked in their bed, dejected. “Get dressed,” she orders. As they drive, Robbie makes a lot of noise about leaving Audrey and them being together. Laura is not receptive. As “The Weight” by The Band comes on the radio, Laura offers Robbie a “final goodbye.”
After the accident, Laura finds herself in the desert with a rather grumpy Anubis, awaiting judgment. It seems as if Anubis is taking care of equal-opportunity grim reaper/judging duties, these days. She slaps his hand away when he tries to pluck her heart, and tells him not to bother – her heart is not light.
“You will go into the darkness, and I will forget ever having met you.”
Anubis accepts this, and she asks where she’s going. We see an image of a hot tub with a can of bug spray on it. “In life, you believed in nothing. Now you will go to nothing. You will be done. There will be darkness,” he intones. “And peace?” she asks, without much hope. “There will be darkness,” he repeats. She refuses, and he says she can’t go back – her body is already decomposing. He gets nasty with her. As he’s lecturing and preparing to shove her into the hot tub / eternal darkness, she gets snatched away by an unseen force, just as she’s telling Anubis to fuck himself.
We cut to Laura crawling out of her own grave. She sees a strange light in the distance and starts walking. She sees Shadow being hung by Technical Boy and the goons, and she goes ballistic and singlehandedly slaughters the lynch mob. She’s able to leap onto Shadow’s rope and break it with her bare hands, cutting him down. One of the goons hits her with a crowbar and she loses her right arm – it falls off at the shoulder. She hides in the darkness as Shadow escapes.
Laura hilariously walks home in broad daylight, barefoot, covered in blood, and carrying her own severed arm. She cleans up, and as she’s packing a few things, she sees the weird light again. She hides from it in her now-empty hot tub.
“I needed craft supplies.”
We next see Laura trying to sew herself back together in Audrey’s house, alone, and discovering a scrapbook Audrey made for Shadow’s homecoming. Audrey discovers that Laura has broken in, and does not react well, as one can imagine.
“It’s so much easier grieving someone when you’re glad they’re dead.”
Laura uses Audrey’s toilet. They chat about how Laura is/was dead, and now is “something else.” Audrey asks what the last thing Laura remembers before she dies was. “Oh,” Laura says, as she realizes what Audrey is getting at. She asks if Robbie is dead, and Audrey sinks into the bathtub. Laura asks if everyone knows the tawdry circumstances of their deaths, and Audrey says yes, she may have mentioned it to people. Several times.
Audrey reveals where she had Robbie’s penis buried. “It’s vulgar. I’m a vulgar woman. Anger and grief have really just…made me vulgar.” Good old Audrey, though, she sews Laura’s arm back on, even as she’s scolding Laura for having an affair with her husband.
“I know you’re pissed at me right now, but I kind of need to borrow your car.”
As Audrey drives, Laura reads her own obituary, to her disgust. “Well, you had a shitty obituary because you had a shitty life. You were shitty,” Audrey says. “I was not that shitty!” Laura snaps. Audrey asks what the hell she intends to have happen when she finds Shadow, and remarks that Shadow deserves better.
“You, I remember.”
Audrey slams on the brakes as they nearly hit a man and a dog, crossing the road. It’s Anubis, in disguise, and Ibis. The two kidnap Laura to a medical lab of sorts, where they clean her up and make her presentable. She submits to their machinations. Ibis explains aloud that care and maintenance is now required for her dead body, as it can no longer tend to itself.
“However,” Anubis says snidely, “there is nothing we can do to lighten your heavy heart.” They seem to be recruiting her to distract Shadow from what he’s doing with Mr. Wednesday, but as they are Old Gods, perhaps she’s being kept “alive,” to help keep Shadow alive. Anubis continues: “When you are done, I will complete my task, and deliver you into darkness.”
- Laura leaves the TV on for her cat, who watches it. It’s old Woody Woodpecker cartoons.
- The episode’s title comes from the can of bug spray Laura uses to attempt suicide.
- It’s nitpicky, but would the bug spray have worked after having been submerged in the hot tub?
- It has been established that they lived in Eagle Point, Indiana. Therefore, it must be an Indian Casino or Riverboat Casino?
- It seems funny that Anubis goes through the rigmarole of weighing people’s hearts. Keen-eyed viewers would have noticed that his robes give him away – in the previous episode, whilst judging the ultimately worthy Mrs. Fadil, Anubis wore white robes. In this episode while judging Laura, his robes were black. Showmanship, I suppose. I can’t think of a “judgment day” tradition where there isn’t an element of showmanship. Simply going wherever one deserves to go would be too easy.
- Laura resurrects more or less immediately after Shadow throws Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin on her grave. She has just enough time to dig out and save Shadow as he’s accosted leaving her grave site.
- As Laura and Audrey chat, a fly lands on Laura’s neck. Nice touch. She is, after all, a corpse.
- When Laura enters the lab with Ibis and Anubis, Mr. Ibis is holding her severed arm. Did Audrey’s sewing job not hold up for even a few minutes?
- Ibis is a bit whimsical and fun. In Egyptian lore, he represented wisdom, knowledge, and writing.
- Once she’s waiting in Shadow’s room, Laura hangs a fly strip that quickly fills. To keep them from landing on her, no doubt.
- Since her death, Laura always sees Shadow as bathed in light.
- This is the first episode that has gone “off book”, and author Neil Gaiman has said it is his favorite, because he got to be “surprised and delighted” by what transpired.
Quoth Mr. Wednesday:
Mr. Wednesday didn’t appear in this week’s episode, but here are a couple of my favorite quotes.
“The best drinks have self-defining names. Order a Manhattan, God knows what you’re going to get, but you order a gin and tonic, jack and coke, it’s not just a name, it’s a command.” Shadow, on the art of drink-ordering.
“Let’s get a drink.”
“Drinks are free inside.”
“Drinks are shit inside. Let’s go somewhere.”
“I don’t want to go somewhere. I want to go home.”
“Then take me the fuck home.” – How Shadow picks up Laura. She does, in fact, take him the fuck home, and to Shadow’s surprise and delight, she likes it a little rough.
“Does Shadow know?”
“Yeah, he knows. I tried to fuck him. On your grave. Seemed only fair.”
“Yeah, that does seem fair,” Laura nods. – Laura and Audrey on whether or not Shadow knows about the affair.
Join us next week for Season 1, Episode 5: Lemon Scented You.
All images: Sweatpants & Coffee / Emily Parker