Liz: When you think of death, you think of oblivion. Eternity. Finality. The last thing your living eyes see is blood, or blinding light, or impenetrable blackness. Then whatever remains of you plunges into the beyond. There is a blank space when it comes to imagining what could be on the other side of a gravestone … or is there?
Depends on what you believe.
Maybe you believe in an otherworldly light that your spectral self walks into, like the cover image of so many books in the spiritual section of Barnes & Noble. Maybe you believe you will forever haunt the shadows of the empty house where you used to do reprehensible things. Maybe you believe that the jackal god Anubis will restore your flesh with paint and embalming fluid until he can send you plummeting into a dark chasm. Maybe you believe that there is absolutely nothing.
Believing in nothing is dangerous.
Alyse: It’s hard for me to have a lot of sympathy for Laura. Even before the car accident, she seems dead inside, working a shitty job at a shitty casino, where a machine is taking away the only joy she gets from her job. Her suicide attempt doesn't even seem like a cry for help (who would help, her cat?). Rather, it just looks like she was bored and looking for a way to a new existence. She finds that in Shadow.
Liz: Shadow and Laura’s relationship is terminally one-sided. He would undertake the impossible and the illegal for her, while she only sees him as a blur of sweaty biceps, heavy breathing and a hastily unzipped zip fly, a repeat one-night stand bathed in the lurid glow of vintage cartoons. She gets off on physical ecstasy that dissolves with the sunrise. The wedding is a halfhearted affair in the ominous shadow of the church’s cemetery. She only ever wanted to get into his faded jeans. There is no connection past the sex and suspicious requests for bug spray. She is his life, but he’s just her after-hours afterparty.
The casino Laura works at is terribly ironic. 26th Dynasty. Even the uniforms are an echo of ancient Egypt dressed up for the gaudy streets of Vegas, Cleopatra beads for the serving girls and bowties with the Eye of Ra for the card dealers. However non-canonical this place is, it belongs in a neo-epic about ancient deities mingling among the new in a flash of neon.
Alyse: I think that Laura loved Shadow even before her death, or at least as much as she knew how to love. I believe her telling him she isn't happy, but that it had nothing to do with him. It is quite depressing to see the disparity between the two.
Liz: For someone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, you may be surprised when you see your mangled body lying lifeless on hot asphalt. You may be even more surprised when the highway melts away into a windswept desert with all the vastness of the universe. Standing beneath strange galaxies incandescent with green and gold, you somehow still don’t believe you are where you are in the sands of time or or that you’re facing the grim reaper who will determine your fate by ripping your beating heart out.
You don’t even believe in your doom. The only thing that exists to you is a leather suitcase and an aerosol can of Git-Gone bug spray that you used to get high off of alone in your hot tub (by the way, that was almost how you died). There are no gilded gates of Paradise for you, but your soulless wraith couldn’t even enter the gates of hell until some unknown force takes you on a ride that would make Disneyland jealous.
Alyse: Laura isn't any different dead than she was alive. Detached, cold and unhappy, she isn't going to let anyone push her around—not even Death. I found it very interesting that when Laura and Shadow talked about the afterlife, she describes herself as an atheist, but does not use the word “atheist.” As an atheist myself, I took the absence of the word to mean that Laura didn’t arrive at that conclusion through logic and thought, but she gave up on hoping for something more. That pisses off Jacquel!
Liz: Laura’s reanimated existence is like a gaping wound. It is all empty streets and and empty houses and an empty ribcage stitched up where the coroner had made a ghastly Y-incision. She is nothing more than a mass of necrotic tissue ambling down the road like a zombie movie extra. By the way, from severed arms to postmortem scars, the gore in this episode is so masterfully done that it creeps me out as much as watching a medical documentary with actual surgical procedures. That is my type of praise.
Close your eyes for a moment and remember the midnight ambush that happened after Technical Boy’s limo disappeared into the night. Shadow nearly slipped into the underworld himself in that gory spectacle of blood and rain that showered the streetlamp-lit darkness with sprays of red and a torrent of silver glitter, the bright brevity of life and the cold continuity of nature. Someone cut him down from the noose he was hanging from. Someone too dead to die again emerged from the massacre of that tech teen’s henchmen with her dismembered right arm in her hands.
Alyse: This segment was my favorite of the episode. I love how freaked out Audrey is, especially compared to Laura’s own nonchalantness. It is a fascinating character study for Audrey. Her best friend—who died while giving her husband a blow job—comes back from the dead. That is a lot to process. Audrey has nothing to lose at this point, so she has no problem telling Laura the truth: that she tried to fuck Shadow on Laura’s grave out of revenge (“Seems fair,” Laura tells her); that Laura never loved Shadow as anything more than a pet (“I love him now,” Laura says emotionlessly); and that Laura’s obit was lazy because Laura was lazy.
Also, is it just me, or does the scene in which Laura attacks Techno Boy’s goons seem eerily similar to the Vikings' slaughter in the first episode? Is this hinting that Laura is a now a goddess?
Liz: Some gods display their power in a savage circus of hammers swinging and eyes aflame and unmentionable ways of devouring someone who called the wrong escort service. However, in some, it reveals itself as a divine majesty that emanates from every material and immaterial aspect of their being. It silently commands respect with the god’s very presence. It is in a walk, a gesture, a glance, even the surrounding books and statuary. If the Jacquel & Ibis Funeral Parlor was alive, it would be a character foil for the flagrant 26th Dynasty Casino. The place is as stately and dignified as its founders’ impeccably tailored black suits.
Sunlight somehow filters in through the gloom. The juxtaposition of darkness and light a theme that illuminates this entire episode, and nowhere is it more obvious than the shady crevices of the funeral home set alight by a supernatural glare. Whether these are just beams of sunlight tricking Laura’s dead eyes is unknown.
Alyse: Again, not having read the book, I don’t know much about these two. It seems like this has happened to Jacquel before, that he has “lost” one of his dead. He and Ibis seem to have a whole system set up for prepping the newly undead for reentry into life.