I’ve never read a book in my goddamn life and I’m not starting now.
Of all the books I’d read and devoured at various times throughout my youth and coming of age, Neil Gaiman…oddly wasn’t one of them. Which is weird. He ticks a lot of my buttons, the few things of his I have read were pretty enjoyable, but it just never became a consistent thing. I certainly never read American Gods, even though every fucking thing about it is exactly up my alley. I dunno. These things happen.
So part of the fun of watching the series has been wondering how much was in the book and how much was added to the show. From what I gather, it’s a fairly amusing combination of the two: the book’s structure already lent episodically anyway, so Fuller and Green’s material intermingling with it was a match made in Heaven. As someone with no real familiarity with the source material, the entire thing feels really organic. Things I mused might’ve been added, weren’t. Things I were confident HAD to have been part of the book…weren’t. American Gods is something even better than a great adaptation of a great novel: it’s a great TV show all its own.
So naturally, when I’m assigned to review an episode, I get the one that’s almost all original content; “Git Gone”.
Another amusing thing, too? I fucking love zombies.
Not zombie hordes, though. George Romero is a genius, nobody can dispute this, but I’ve never been that interested in either the plague/disease zombies or the old, ancient voodoo zombies. The mindless, animalistic husk of former man and woman doesn’t jive me for whatever reason. Purely a subjective thing. Never liked vampires much either, really, particularly modern takes on the vampire. But if there’s one thing I do love, it’s the really shitty, sentient faux-vampire zombie. The zombies who are more or less sentient but rather than have the handsome curse of being tortured and sexy, they’re immortal but have to eat gross brains just to sustain themselves and they’re not nearly as glamorous in any capacity. One of my favorite scripts of mine I’ve written stars a Shitty Zombie. I love iZombie because it’s populated entirely by Shitty Zombies. I fucking love Shitty Zombies.
Which is my way of saying that Laura Moon shitting embalming fluid into a toilet is the zenith of zombie storytelling to me. Pretty much everything about her character pre-revival was exquisite, and we’ll get to that, but I am being dead serious when I say the awkward, pseudo-reconciliation between Laura and Audrey while she’s blowing chunks of embalming fluid out of her asshole into the toilet has been the highlight of the entire series up to this point. The lack of dignity of the Shitty Zombie only emphasizes the fact that losing one’s life does not, strictly, rob one of his or her humanity. And I appreciate that: in a culture that values our life after death rather than our life as lived, it’s always nice for stories to portray death as not vastly different from one’s own life as is, and how that can empower us.
Of course, at its core, “Git Gone” is a love story: largely between Laura and Jacquel. As much as the story is about her marriage to (and genuine love for) Shadow Moon, death is always looming over Laura. From her casino workplace’s Anubis imagery, to chasing suicide with the Git Gone bugspray, and eventually meeting Jacquel in the afterlife, as antagonistic as she initially is, her true love throughout the entire episode is death. Jacquel is impartial but warm as he is to all mortals, so it’s something of a one sided, confused romance. But it was the arc that truly resonated with me throughout the episode, and continued to cement Jacquel as my favorite character (though nothing will ever top the warm chuckle of a “bullshit middle name”). It’s not the most overt love story, nor is it strictly a mutual one, but Laura finding a revitalized happiness and purpose in death feels warmer and more authentic than a lot of romantic arcs while still feeling full of a flawed, genuine, human love. Maybe I’m just morbid.
I also really enjoyed seeing Shadow, pre-incarceration. Without Mr. Wednesday to be the overt and playful one of the duo, Shadow steps up and takes advantage of his lack of baggage found in the rest of the series to be bright, lighthearted, but still with enough of an edge that makes him more intriguing than milquetoast. Ricky Whittle is so charming in the role it’s hard to believe it took as long as it did for Shadow and Laura to get married (and it didn’t take long), and it makes Shadow in the prior episodes hit that much harder when you realize what kind of man he really was. Whether or not Shadow slowly returns to the man he was seems up in the air, but the surreal nature of the series only feels that much more powerful now that we’ve seen Shadow chilling with the neighbors and cooking on the grill. Though I will say, I actually really liked how odd it felt to hear Robbie use the name “Shadow” when he, Laura, and Audrey all have normal names and he doesn’t find this weird. Not sarcasm; I love that kind of casual weird shit.
Speaking of, Robbie and Audrey are really great. While Robbie is not quite the acting stretch for Dane Cook as his Detention character, a straightlaced authoritarian, was, nobody can deny that Dane Cook is perfectly cast for this role…and although Cook jokes are easy to make, he deserves a lot of credit for showing just the right level of emotional discomfort as the reality of his and Laura’s relationship dawns on him. Robbie feels like a person, and not just a cipher written to lean on the personal quirks of the actor. Betty Gilpin had one of the most memorable moments in “The Bone Orchard”, and Audrey’s reactions to Laura returning to life far too casually are absolutely incredible. The only reason Gilpin isn’t the series MVP is because you could really give that title to ANYONE, but that doesn’t diminish the glorious humanity and combination of frustration and comedy that comes with Audrey trying to deal with the drama of their friendship. In a universe of gods, Audrey is truly larger than life.
“Git Gone” is a fantastic story. Emily Browning gets the chance to be the focus and she gives Laura Moon a depth and shade that allows her to be much more than we may’ve expected her to be, both for good AND for bad. Discarding the Somewhere in America sequence in order to focus on Laura’s story, “Git Gone” would crumble if not for the strength of the writing, the vulnerability of the performance, and the confidence that this was absolutely the story to tell at this time. In this episode, you’re taken on a surreal, whimsical, and occasionally warmly grounded flirtation with death that happens to also be a wonderfully warm, sarcastic, and dangerous love story. For a story that’s crafted wholecloth and inserted within the skeleton of a pre-established story, all the cogs fit so perfectly in place that I doubt I would’ve noticed.