December 6, 2022

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American Gods “A Prayer For Mad Sweeney”

Season One, Episode Seven.

How did I not know that I really needed to see Mad Sweeney’s backstory until now?

Yes, much like how Laura was given extended backstory to flesh her character out more than Gaiman’s original book did, it’s time to do something similar for Mad Sweeney.  After a brief interlude where the episode does not immediately start with a “coming to America” tale, we instead get to see Ibis and Jacquel at work in their funeral parlor.  Mostly we see Jacquel working.  But he’s also Anubis and he knows they will be getting two more “customers” very soon and also sees his old friend and partner has something he needs to write down.

What he writes down is, essentially, Mad Sweeney’s story.

Or, perhaps more accurately, Essie McGowen’s story.  Essie grew up in eighteenth century Ireland, and while there, she was told the stories of the fair folks and how to always leave a little something out for the leprechauns to get and/or keep their fortune.

Now, Essie’s story is from Gaiman’s book, but she wasn’t much interested in leprechauns there.  That’s a change to show her connection to Mad Sweeney, who seems to have blessed her as long as she remembered to leave a little milk or bread out for him.  When she forgot was when she was almost hanged as a thief.

By the by, cool trick having Emily Browning playing Laura and Essie.  Two very different characters (and that bright red hair of Essie’s really stands out on a show like this), having two very different experiences with the same leprechaun.  The difference may be Essie still tells and revels in the stories that keep beings like Mad Sweeney strong whereas Laura just sees Mad Sweeney as a pain in the ass.  When Mad Sweeney lets loose where all the gods are going, she simply tells that to Salim and releases him from his vow to drive the two everywhere.  Then she and Sweeney steal an ice cream truck.

Added bonus points to using, of all things, 50s rock for the Essie scenes to set mood and having the same actress as elderly Essie and Essie’s grandma, the woman who taught her the tales in the first place.

We also learn Mad Sweeney was once a king, but had a foreboding vision of his own death if he stayed for a battle, so he fled.  Essie essentially brought him to America, and he’s been here ever since.  What little conscience he seems to posses comes when Laura swerves to avoid an albino bunny and flips the truck.  She goes flying, her autopsy stitching comes open, and the coin comes out.  Mad Sweeney could just take it and go, leaving Laura’s corpse where it lies.  Instead, he puts it back.

He gets a punch in the nose and some verbal abuse for his efforts.

Maybe it doesn’t pay to be an unlucky leprechaun.

Of course, we also learn Mad Sweeney was the one responsible for the car accident that killed Laura in the first place…and he did so at Wednesday’s behest.

That makes Wednesday’s rushing away from Laura in the previous episode mean something more.

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