American Gods S1E7: A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

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Prayer for Mad Sweeney

Warning: Spoilers


This episode is unlike the others we’ve had this season; it’s completely devoted to Mad Sweeney, and his American Story. Except, really, the story isn’t completely about him–Laura is involved–or a version of her is, at least.


We start with Anubis working in the funeral home, while Mr. Ibis brings him a beer. Apparently there is a story he is just itching to tell, so he goes to his office and begins to write, starting out in 1721. We learn about indentured servitude, where people would be sold to the American colonies for a set number of years and then given freedom–not a bad deal, really, especially since most of the people who were given such sentences would have hung or languished in prison, otherwise. We get one glimpse of Sweeney there, but quickly go back to Ireland, where we meet our main protagonist of the episode, a woman by the name of Essie MacGowan. She was raised on tales of fairies and leprechauns, and as a result she always leaves a gift for them at night. As an adult she looks just like Laura, but with red hair–so it could be easily assumed that Laura is a reincarnation of Essie. [Note: Essie means “Star” while of course, Laura ended up marrying the Moon. So many celestial bodies here!]


Essie works in a rich family’s household where she continues to tell the stories that were passed on to her, and always leaves out food for the fairy folk. One particular night she leaves out bread, a lock of her own hair, and a gold coin–one that should look very familiar to us. It seems she wanted the love of the young man in the household she served, and due to her devotion to the leprechauns, it was granted. They have a sweet moment, and the young man provides her a trinket to show her his love.

However, when his mother finds out, he denies providing it to Essie, and she’s branded a thief. (The fae-folk are fickle–they take, and they give.)


She ends up being sent to America, but she still provides a food offering on the voyage. So as luck would have it, the sea captain comes to visit her and Essie manages to seduce him. They get married, and he decides to take her back to England with him.  Once he leaves for his next voyage, though, she disappears into the night, stealing everything in the house before she does. As Mr. Ibis says, “The world branded her a thief–so that is what she became.” I think it’s a great look into what women had to do back in this time period–there was very little legitimate work, especially if someone had been branded a criminal. So if you were accused of something that would follow you all your life, why not become that? At least you would now be what they said you are–you reclaim yourself, in a way.


Back in the present with our taxi trio, we see them stop again to let Salim pray, this time at the site of where a white buffalo was born, called a Tatanka Ska by Native Americans.

While Laura watches on, Sweeney goes to have a conversation with one of Mr. Wednesday’s ravens, who is clearly annoyed that Sweeney isn’t keeping up his end of whatever deal they made–the leprechaun says he is going to Wisconsin, though. After a small bit of discussion, they decide to let Salim go off to find his Jinn, much to Sweeney’s annoyance. As they are without transportation again, Laura steals an ice cream truck–hey, she’s got to keep her body cold, somehow. They still aren’t heading to Wisconsin, though–it seems Sweeney lied. Laura might get resurrected if they head to Kentucky, so to Kentucky they go.


Back in old England, we see Essie has become a very good shoplifter, but she also starts to forget to leave gifts–so is it any surprise she gets unlucky, and is caught?

This time she is sentenced to hang, and in prison the man in the cell next to her is none other than Mad Sweeney. They have a lovely discussion about what they want from life. She leaves her offering again, and when she wakes in the morning, Sweeney is no longer there. Her luck is with her once more, and she manages to get the warden to impregnate her, so she’s put on a ship to America once more.


This time, things go much better for her; she becomes a wet nurse to a tobacco farmer who recently lost his wife, who is kinder than most of the men she’s encountered before, and after some time they end up marrying. It’s a good life, but he dies after ten years. Still, Essie’s luck continues to hold and despite the world changing, she continues to hold onto her beliefs, even if she can’t tell the stories, any longer. When it’s time for her to die, Sweeney comes for her.


Back on the road to Kentucky, things are actually going well with Laura and Sweeney–he promises he’s going to find a way to raise her, and explains he ran away from his own death, once, so he owes a death in battle.

It’s nice to see these two getting along, but considering how Sweeney was associated with a woman who looked like Laura, it makes sense, now, doesn’t it? Of course, none of this can go well forever, as a rabbit runs into the path of the truck [Note: I think that rabbit belonged to someone who is showing up next week], causing Laura to crash. Her skin peels away and the coin bounces out of her heart, causing her to die once more.


And Sweeney, dear Sweeney…when he comes to from the wreck, and sees Laura laying there, he flashes back to the last time he saw her like this–when he caused the wreck that ended her life. Mr. Wednesday asked for it, and Sweeney did it. It’s clear now he never really wanted to, so much of his anger towards her was more directed towards himself. So instead of running, of taking his precious coin and leaving…he puts it back within her, and for his trouble, gets punched in the face. Ha! They get back on the road, without another word.


The episode ends with Essie and Sweeney talking on her porch before he takes her to the afterlife. The reason that he’s in America is because of people like her–people who believe, deeply, in what he stood for, and what he is. It’s why Sweeney cares for Laura, a woman who goes from unbeliever to believer with such casual ease it’s in direct opposition to Essie. And still their passion and need to survive is the same. I think that, out of all, is what Sweeney was drawn to,. andAnd what may change his allegiances, in the end.


So someone pray for Mad Sweeney–he needs it.

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