American Gods is a Starz series based on the 2001 novel of the same name by fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. The basic premise (if you could say such a thing about a Neil Gaiman novel) is that believing in gods will manifest those gods into reality. The novel is about the lead-up to a war in America between the old gods and the new ones. It’s also the ruiner of my entire life. See, they just announced in April of this year that the show is being canceled after three seasons, although they’re leaving open the possibility of a movie (there will never be a movie). Meaning that after reading and loving the book, I got to watch and (mostly) love the show right up until they ripped it away from me. Given that it was based on a long-ago completed novel, you’d imagine I wouldn’t have any unanswered questions to keep me up at night. You’d be wrong.
I have questions. Questions like:
What Was With Laura Moon’s Purgatory Song?
Laura Moon (played by Emily Browning) having an expanded role in the TV adaptation was one of my favorite things about the show. In the book, Laura, wife of the protagonist Shadow Moon (simultaneously the coolest and lamest name in all of literary history), dies in a car crash before the novel begins. Said car crash was caused by her decision to pleasure Shadow’s best friend while he’s driving as they discuss the need to end their affair because Shadow will be coming home from jail soon. Gaiman likes to start by jumping into the deep end.
Now since Laura is dead at the beginning of season one, you might think that’s when we get to see her travel through purgatory. I’m not trying to make our relationship combative, but again, you’d be wrong. Because before her funeral, her widowed husband meets and agrees to work for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday–and gets into a full bar brawl with Wednesday’s man Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber). This is Mad Sweeney (he’s a leprechaun).
This is important, so I’m going to do it again. This is Mad Sweeney.
(Have I mentioned that my friends describe my taste in men as “will ruin your credit?” Not sure why I brought that up here.)
The bar fight results in Shadow Moon winning Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin, which he places on Laura’s casket, which eventually leads to her reanimation. Note I did not say “resurrection” because she’s not exactly alive.
She’s mostly just a magical-leprechaun-coin-powered corpse walking around trying to reunite with her husband. The coin and its properties then set up the classic love story: boy meets girl whose rapidly decaying corpse houses his magical coin; boy agrees to help girl achieve real resurrection in order to get his coin back; boy takes girl on god-powered road trip; love; the end. Except it should maybe be “road trip, boy and girl die, girl goes to purgatory, love, the end?” I’ll actually be expanding on the “both of these people die” thing in later questions, but since we’re in purgatory, I have to ask: What the hell with Laura’s song? While in purgatory, learning about how not everything is her fault and she should have been better cared for, Laura repeatedly hears a song the show calls “Schweiger’s Requiem of Balder.” That’s not a real song, but Balder is one of Odin’s sons, and the show is about gods, and someone in purgatory tells her that it means she creates fierce friends and enemies and has a great destiny.
Here’s the thing about all of that: it doesn’t mean anything when it doesn’t reference an actual song. Is it about Laura’s antagonistic relationship with Mr. Wednesday? (Odin. He’s Odin. Obviously. Wednesday is Odin’s day.) Or her marriage to Odin’s son, Shadow (also, obviously)? Season three included plenty that the song could have been alluding to, but allusions only work when they’re based on other real works. Introducing a made-up reference doesn’t answer any questions, nor can you use it to actually foreshadow events. You told us there was a song with this name, then you introduce the idea of Laura wanting to kill Wednesday in the following episode? Where were you going with this and why? What does any of it even mean? And once you’ve answered that:
Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon End Up Together, Right?
On most shows, death would be a major hindrance to a love story, but American Gods doesn’t have time for hindrances. As part of Sweeney’s plan to get his coin back, he takes Laura to two voodoo saints in New Orleans who perform a ceremony to create a resurrection potion, during which Laura and Sweeney bone. FINALLY. It’s great. But the potion isn’t completely finished because it requires two drops of blood infused with love. (You could get your love-infused blood at Trader Joe’s, but I prefer to infuse at home. Helps you control the spice.) So Laura sets out to find Shadow, because she’s very out of touch with her feelings.
By the time she gets her shit together and goes back to find Sweeney, he’s been killed. By Shadow. Who was defending Wednesday. God, there’s a lot of terrible in those sentences. But again, Laura is dead as this is happening, so Sweeney’s death does not rule out the possibility of a joyful reunion. Laura decides to do the reasonable thing, and GIVE UP THE COIN SO THAT SWEENEY WILL COME BACK TO LIFE EVEN THOUGH SHE’LL BE DEAD. This is not one of the main questions that need to be asked, but why would you do that, Laura? You’ve met actual gods, you have to know there’s another way. Especially because giving up the coin doesn’t even bring Mad Sweeney back from the dead!
Upshot: both of them are just dead in a mausoleum, not being in love or having hot make-out sessions. Laura has to jet off to purgatory to learn about how her dad was a creep, while we don’t know what Sweeney’s even doing because Pablo Schreiber had to go be a judge on MasterChef or something (Editor’s Note: We’ve repeatedly told Emily that Pablo Schreiber took the lead role on the adaptation of the video game Halo. We have no idea why she’s not able to understand that.) Also while she’s in purgatory learning about her dad and a made-up song? This happens.
OK, so you have to let them be in love, right? That is a being-in-love montage, which means I deserve to get to see them be in love. I was devoted to this show. I’ve earned it. Leading to my next question:
Is This What My Love And Devotion Have Gotten Me?
There should be an easy way to make them in love, right? There’s magic and gods and the afterlife, and you’ve already got most of a resurrection potion, so why not? They both come back from the dead, admit they love each other, and ride off into the sunset or just as far away from Wednesday as possible. Did I get that?
Hell no, I didn’t (this in fact does not qualify as an unanswered question. The answer is stupidly clear). Laura, because of the magic potion mixed with Sweeney’s love blood, does come back from purgatory fully alive. Mad Sweeney gets cremated and put into a box. Then the show ends. I mean, some other stuff happens and they try to get a Replacement Leprechaun to fill in for Sweeney, but it’s not the same. Not even having Julia Sweeney (no relation) show up made it the same.
I have in no way recovered from the loss, and therefore will work through my grief in a series of rapid-fire questions.
Why Do You Want To Hurt Me?
He knew all of the worst things about her, and he fell in love with her anyway. Couldn’t you have just figured out a way to make that work? Your characters are literal *gods* and you insist on inflicting this heartache?
Was This Necessary?
“It was always your fault too.”
Can You At Least Tell Me How I Offended You?
I can only assume that if the writers of the show came up with these characters, they were doing it for me specifically. Both the enemies-to-reluctant-allies-to-even-more-reluctant-boning partners part, but also the part where the physical and emotional journey uncovers a greater depth in both characters and helps you to understand why they are who they are and how they’re ultimately great for each other? The writers clearly were thinking about me when they wrote that. Only instead of allowing these two deeply flawed characters to be in love and work on self-improvement while still accepting themselves and each other, they killed off Sweeney and left Laura to be reminded with “every beat of [her] heart that [she] was truly loved by someone?” WAS THAT ALSO JUST FOR ME? BECAUSE I INSULTED YOU OR SLEPT WITH YOUR DAD OR SOMETHING? SO YOU HAD TO BREAK MY HEART INTO A MILLION PIECES? AND LEAVE ME WITH NO SOLACE?
So farewell, I guess, American Gods and your unanswered questions. You broke me in ways I did not expect, but you did give me that one episode where Mad Sweeney was shirtless a lot. We’re far from even, but at this point, it’s best we just move on.