Title: A Prayer For Mad Sweeney
Director: Adam Kane
Writers: based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, created by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, written by Maria Melnik
Starring: Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber, Jonathan Tucker, Demore Barnes, Betty Gilpin, Siobhan Fallon Mogan, Beth Grant
Episode length: 60 minutes
This week’s episode of American Gods was one of the most unusual yet, unusual because of the decision by the show’s creators to have this as the next to the last episode of the season, and because of its normalcy, and apparently having little to do with what we come to think is the series’ main narrative. Most of the episode was composed of a story being narrated while being written in the journal of Mr. Ibis/Anubis. The story told was an enjoyable sort of narrative which told about the subject’s lifelong belief in magical creatures and her faithful adherence to following the traditions of how to win the favor of Leprechauns in particular. As we already know these ‘Gods’ only thrive when they are believed in, the more the better.
The story took us back to 1712 and related a story about the life of an Irish woman named Essie McGowan. Emily Browning did double duty this week as Essie and Laura. The story told was an enjoyable sort of narrative which told about the subject’s belief in magical creatures and her faithful adherence to following the traditions of how to win the favor of Leprechauns in particular. It follows her life, complete with the ups and downs her bouts of good fortune and bad.
Although the sort of story I thoroughly enjoy it seemed to have nothing to do with what is going with the series so far. I shrugged and just enjoyed it for what it was, a recounting of the life of the woman and how eventually it came to an end. There was no sign of Shadow or Mr. Wednesday anywhere to be seen. The theme of the story seemed to be mostly concerned with Essie’s fortunes both good and bad. She has a natural instinct as an opportunist, nearly tot the point of being a sociopath. It also seems natural she learns how to use her charms and lady parts to get what she wants and even to save her life on occasion.
Falsely accused and convicted of being a thief, in self-fulfilling prophecy sort of way she later actually does become a thief and has good luck until she begins to forget her habit of providing for the unseen magical creatures she loved as a child. Her charms serve her well on several occasions until she finally finds herself ‘transported’ to America for her crimes to work as an indentured slave. even this ends well for her and she has a good life until her death. It’s not Anubis that comes for her when it’s her time, it’s none other than Mad Sweeney who talks about America as the land where no one has time for magic anymore.
I’m not sure I fully grasped the point of using up nearly the entire episode on telling a story that seemed to have no relation to the narrative being told by the series, but it was a charming tale in the manner that period pieces can be and an enjoyable one. It also seemed a strange choice to title the episode with the name of Sweeney, since the story seemed to have little to do with his character except he does appear in it briefly as the prisoner in the adjoining cell when Essie is tossed into prison. I also failed to see any sort of parallel with Laura’s journey it might have going on.
Here’s a recap of what happened in the rest of the episode (*warning spoilers follow*)
Laura (Emily Browning), Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and Salim (Omid Abtahi) continue on their journey together and are shown stopped at a tourist stop featuring a huge statue of a white buffalo who represents the great spirit worshiped by the Dakotas. It’s the same white bison with the flaming eyes that appeared in Shadow’s dreams/visions and it occurred to me it might be a clue as to his true identity If he is the Buffalo or Great Spirt wouldn’t that make him an old and also a new American God at the same time? He would represent a way to bridge the two factions if he were, would he not?
Anyway, Sweeney and Laura decide to turn Salim loose and he rides off happy he will finally find his Jinn. Laura and Sweeney decide to steal a vehicle to complete the last leg of their journey. They end up stealing an ice cream truck. They are shown driving along with her at the wheel with the AC turned up all the way and the ice cream freezers supplying extra coolness for the journey.
All’s well until Laura spots a rabbit in the road and swerves to avoid hitting it, and they crash. She is thrown through the window and the impact of hitting the pavement causes her sewn-together skin to burst its seams. The coin that enables her animation and strength is tossed out of her and lands on the road, returning to her to being just another corpse.
Sweeny wakes up and realizes what has happened and inspects the scene. He spots the coin on the road and he expresses his joy at recovering it in silence but there is no mistaking his happiness at having it back. he starts to walk away but has moments hesitation before continuing. he flashes back to Laura’s original accident that caused her death in the first place, and he is seen talking to a raven and saying “Tell him it’s done”, so it is implicit that Mr. Wednesday has been pulling the strings for a long time and wanted Laura dead way back then.
Something in him causes him to change his mind about just leaving her and he places the coin on her exposed ribcage and as soon as it touches her she springs back to life, She punches him because he’s in such close proximity and then casually grabs a jacket to conceal her bust skin. She casually rights the truck back on its wheels and begins to bust Sweeney’s balls about getting a move on because she’s eager to resume their journey.
It was a strange episode by virtue of it being so out of the norm for this series, but it was still enjoyable and entertaining, It raises more questions than it answered about what’s going on, but that is pretty much the norm for this series. It would seem to indicate we should expect the unexpected for next week’s season finale, and if you didn’t know that already you haven’t been paying attention.