American Gods (Episode 4)

After last week's cliffhanger ending which saw Shadow come face to face with his resurrected wife we are treated this episode to an extended flashback telling the story of their relationship and leading us right back up to the same point. It seems strange to say but this is perhaps the oddest episode so far, eschewing the historical vignettes, the first half largely bereft of supernatural qualities, and with the main plot being sidelined in favour of filling in background details. Episode 4 is really the story of Laura Moon, who we meet working at a casino when her future husband Shadow walks in. Their relationship gets off to a passionate start and shortly after they are married. However, it is clear that Laura is quite troubled (having attempted to commit suicide before meeting Shadow) and we get the uneasy appreciation of seeing their relationship from her perspective. It is an unusual episode since we know exactly what is going to happen from the preceding instalments (i.e. Shadow will be arrested, Laura will be unfaithful and eventually killed), but they do a good job of keeping you interested as things unfold.

Although the show has always had one eye on character, this episode is all about establishing the relationship between Shadow and Laura. As we've come to expect there is a great subtlety about how they give information, such as the shot showing Laura arriving at work, emphasising the monotony of her life, and the brief glimpse we see of the hot tub later referencing her earlier suicide attempt. The episode also featured some of the funniest and most horrific scenes thus far. The dark, off-colour, humour reached new heights this week with what essentially amounted to a re-animated corpse evacuating her bowels of embalming fluid while her former friend watches on in horror. The zombie special effects and make-up were exceptional. If there was one problem with the show it was that it felt a little like a filler episode. The story of Shadow and Mr. Wednesday was put on hold, we saw few of the gods we've been introduced to. It makes perfect sense to do things this way of course as Laura's story works as a standalone episode better than it would intercut into the rest of the drama, but I was hoping for a little bit of progression. Another little reference I liked was the flies that seem to constantly interrupt scenes throughout. Some reference to Beelzebub, or simply to death? Especially, macabre was the mounting number of flies when Laura is sitting in the room at the end, keeping you aware if you had forgotten that she is actually dead.