My god. For a whole episode, the series almost flashed back to the quality of its first season.
What did we get for it? The Secret Origin of Mad Sweeney.
Here’s what we know about Mad Sweeney so far: he’s a leprechaun who owes Odin/Wednesday something. Wednesday uses him as hired help like he more or less does everyone else. He hates Wednesday and urges everyone not to trust the wily old man. Wednesday promised him a big battle. He has access to a large collection of gold coins. Laura has his lucky coin keeping her sort of alive. His life sucks as a result. And that’s about it.
To be fair, that’s actually about as much as Sweeney remembers about himself. What happened?
Over the course of this episode, Sweeney remembers. Mortal belief in this universe, we need to remember, shapes gods more than anything else. If Mad Sweeney is what he is, it is because that’s what people believe he is. Shadow may not take Sweeney’s advice to avoid Wednesday, but Shadow and Wednesday aren’t the only ones hanging around Ibis’s funeral home. And some of the other gods, they remember things.
Bilquis, for example, remembers a story Mad Sweeney tells differently. He remembers a good night with some unknown girl with nice…assets. Bilquis remembers he had a wife and a kid.
Then Sweeney remembers his wife.
Say, why is Bilquis still hanging around the funeral home? The others don’t trust her.
Sweeney’s memory is jogged some more when Mr. Ibis, chronicler of the gods in America, reminds Sweeney he was a king.
That might have come up before.
What didn’t come up before is Sweeney’s other name: Lugh. Who is Lugh? He’s an Irish war god.
Now, as Sweeney remembers some unknown person cursing him, he puts it all together. As he explains to Shadow, he was a war god. He defended Ireland from all manner of invading gods. Then “Mother Church” showed up. And when Lugh/Sweeney attacked them, a bishop cursed him. From there, the Church influenced Irish belief, reducing the old Celtic gods to fairies and leprechauns. Lugh had battled the Formorians, including his own one-eyed grandfather (and doesn’t that sound familiar). Now all he had was the “treasure of the sun,” a magical place where he stores his coins and only he can access.
Since Wednesday isn’t going to deliver that battle where Sweeney can redeem himself any time soon, Mad Sweeney will have to do it himself. And there’s only one way to do that. He’ll have to pick a fight.
See, Wednesday got his spear back, even using a twig from the new World Tree to finish the repair job. Shadow, as Wednesday’s bodyguard, gets to hold onto the thing. At a dinner, Sweeney demands the spear. Shadow won’t give it up. Sweeney says he was the one who killed Laura and he slept with her in New Orleans. Wednesday told him to do the former. Shadow is upset, but still won’t give up the spear. Sweeney tries to take it. They fight, in a rougher manner than the more balletic moves seen in Sweeney’s flashbacks, and finally, Shadow skewers Mad Sweeney with the spear.
And before he dies, Sweeney sends the repaired spear to the treasure of the sun. You know, the place only Mad Sweeney can access.
Maybe be nicer to leprechauns in the future, folks. They’re tricky guys when they want to be.