In a series with literal gods and creatures of myth, a dead zombie wife has stood out. Laura Moon's death is really the event that kicked off American Gods
but since her magical resurrection Shadow's wife has only grown in complexity. Mean and self-serving but charismatic and intelligent, Laura is a wonderful enigma. She is far from the most likable character on TV, female or otherwise, but Laura Moon might just the best character on TV currently.
American Gods Recap: Who Really Killed Laura Moon?>>>
The delightful thing about Laura is how many classic storytelling conventions she defies as a character. Laura begins American Gods as the ultimate example of the women in refrigerators trope. Laura is introduced solely as main character Shadow's wife and barely after the audience gets to know that she exists she is killed off to further Shadow's emotional and physical journey. Yet Laura doesn't stay dead, at least not really. Thanks to the magic that exists in American Gods and the "gifting" of a coin by her husband, Laura is revived. Laura's body might technically still be rotting but she is walking and talking in American Gods, revealing herself to be anything but the perfect wife to Shadow.
Typically the female characters who have died as a part of the women in refrigerators trope are saintly figures. They either were perfect in life or are remembered for only their good qualities after death, making their demise the ultimately tragedy. They were so innocent and pure that it makes those they left behind hurt even more keenly. Shadow was deeply in love with Laura but American Gods has done almost everything possible to prove that Laura wasn't really worthy of that love.
Laura cheated on Shadow after he went to prison for a crime that she manipulated him into committing. In life Laura showed none of the same warmth and affection for Shadow that he gave her, keeping him around out of what appears to be convenience. Now that Laura is alive again she is using and abusing everyone around to make sure that stays the case. Laura's only real interest in Shadow seems to be that he made her heart beat again when she kissed him after death.
Laura is no way a likable character, but she is somewhat empathetic. In her standalone episode "Git Gone" it was established that Laura suffered from depression before and after she met Shadow. Laura is a deeply unhappy and confused person. This depression doesn't excuse Laura's actions but it does explain them. Laura's depression is a part of what makes Laura so interesting. She is not a likable character but she is an infinitely watchable character.
The Perfect Imperfect Heroine
There is a big breadth of difference when it comes to a character being unwatchable and unlikable. A character can certainly be both at the same time. TV is littered with characters who are so insufferable it can make the entire series around them unbearable. Yet there is something particularly special when a character is unlikable, and is meant to be taken as such, but you still want to watch them be a bad person. This type of role is usually one that is filled by men. Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White are all classic TV characters who fit this antihero mold and they are all men.
There aren't many antiheroines on TV or otherwise. Olivia Pope from Scandal is probably the closest approximation but it took six seasons or so for Olivia to really start to have a dark turn. Scandal let the audience fall in love with a heroic Olivia before they started corrupting her. Laura is introduced bluntly with all her unlikable warts present. The first time the audience sees Laura is at her funeral, where it is revealed she was sleeping with Shadow's best friend. From that moment the punches have really just kept coming with Laura.
American Gods has offered an unflinching look at Laura Moon. There has been no effort to round out her edges or to make it seem she is just misunderstood. Laura is a bad person but thanks to the writing and Emily Browning's excellent performance the audience understands why Laura is so awful. It is a fully fledged and flawed depiction of a human being that female characters usually don't receive. There have certainly been unlikable and empathetic female characters on TV but they are usually "bitchy" quip factories. Laura has her funny moments but she is rude and brash. American Gods doesn't want you to like Laura but that doesn't stop you from enjoying her. It is refreshing take for any character but especially a female one.
What do you make of Laura? Is she too unlikable to be enjoyable? Do you think she is even that unlikable? Can you think of any other characters like Laura?
(Image courtesy of Starz)