SPOILER ALERT-Do not read if you have not seen episode seven of American Gods.
Quote of the Week- “Everyone needs a king.”
A Prayer for Mad Sweeney mainly centers on Mad Sweeney, who he is, and how he came to America. The episode switches back and forth between the 1700s and the present day. We are introduced to a character, Essie MacGowan, who appears to possibly be a distant relative of Laura Moon.
The episode opens in the funeral home of Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel. Mr. Ibis starts writing about the life of Essie MacGowan (played by Emily Browning) whose belief in the fairies and leprechauns brought Mad Sweeney to America. Essie is a serving girl in the home of a wealthy Irish landowner. Unfortunately for Essie, she has an affair with the lord of the manor’s son. He gives her a gift, which she is later accused of stealing. She is sentenced to indentured servitude and sent to the Americas.
On-board the ship, she seduces the captain. During her entire time on the ship she never forgot to leave an offering for the leprechauns and fairies. She returns with the captain to London where they marry. They are happy for a while before he has to return to the sea. Essie steals all of his silverware and begins a lucrative life as a thief.
Essie is successful until she forgets to leave an offering for the leprechauns and the fairies. This time, when she is caught, she is sentenced to death. In her cell, she meets a fellow prisoner, Mad Sweeney. They talk of what life would be like in the Americas and that night she leaves an offering for the leprechauns and the fairies. The next day, her fellow prisoner is gone but the warden arrives at her jail cell with delicious food. This starts an affair between Essie and the warden, which ends in her becoming pregnant.
Essie’s sentence is commuted from death to indentured servitude and she is sent to Virginia. In Virginia, her contract is bought by a landowner whose wife died after giving birth to their baby. He needs a wet nurse. Essie nurses both her child and the landowner’s child. As time passes, she and the landowner grow to love each other and they marry.
As her children grow older, Essie tells them of the fairies and leprechauns. Throughout her new life, she continues to make offerings to the fairies and leprechauns. After her husband’s death, Essie continues to run the farm successfully. When she has grandchildren, she tells them about the fairies and leprechauns. Unfortunately for Essie, grandchildren are afraid of the creatures in her stories.
Although Essie stops telling her grandchildren stories of these creatures, she never stops believing. One night as she sits on the porch rocking, Mad Sweeney comes to her. It is a beautiful moment as he tells her that she and a few others like her had brought him to the new land. He tells her that it is a land with no time for magic and magic folk. He asks her to take his hand. Her family finds her the next morning, dead.
At a rest stop in the present, Laura tells Salim where he will be able to find the Jinn. She releases him from his bargain, so he leaves without Laura and Sweeney. Meanwhile, they steal an ice cream truck for transportation.
On the road, Laura has the air conditioning and the freezer unit going at maximum to preserve her flesh. Oddly, Sweeney tosses gold coins out of the truck as we see a small white rabbit on the side of the road.
As they travel, Laura asks Sweeney what Wednesday is selling that it makes it worthwhile for them to travel to Wisconsin. Sweeney tells her that it is war. Sweeney explains to Laura that he was a king once who had a vision in the fire before battle. In the vision, he died on the battlefield. Instead of going to the battle, he fled. Sweeney’s retelling of his story refers back to an Irish tale about Suibhne mac Colmain, a king who was driven crazy by Saint Ronan’s curse. This revelation by Sweeney prompts Laura to ask him if he is fighting in Wednesday’s war just to die. She also makes an offhand remark about his running errands for Wednesday. Sweeney, with a tear dropping from one eye, answers, ‘yes and so much more.’ We learn later why this exchange affects him as much as it does.
On the road, a white rabbit crosses in front of them. Laura swerves to miss it and the truck overturns. Laura is thrown from the truck and the sutures in her chest are ripped apart. The lucky coin is freed from her chest and rolls onto the road. Sweeney crawls out of the truck and retrieves his coin. As he prepares to walk away, he remembers a similar scene. The scene is of Laura on the road after the accident with her and Robbie. Sweeney is reporting to one of the ravens that the deed is done. We learn that Sweeney was ordered by Wednesday to kill Robbie and Laura.
Sweeney is unable to leave. He starts yelling in a Gaelic dialect before he returns and places his lucky coin back into Laura’s chest. When she awakens and sees Sweeney above her, she assumes the worst and punches him. She lifts the truck back on its wheels and tells Sweeney to get into the truck. They drive off down the road. This last scene is typical of American Gods, it is both sweet and darkly comical at the same time.
In this episode, certain key details about Sweeney were revealed as well as other interesting facts.
- Sweeney was brought to the new world by Essie MacGowan, a person who bears a striking resemblance to Laura.
- Sweeney was ordered by Wednesday to cause the accident that killed Laura and Robbie.
- Sweeney was a king who avoided his death hundreds of years previously, which has somehow indebted him to Wednesday.
- The white rabbit running across the road in front of the truck was not a coincidence.
All of the characters have now been introduced and the stage is set for the season finale next week. I suspect that we will discover that the white rabbit has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland and more to do with the Easter Bunny. Also, when will Shadow learn that Wednesday ordered Sweeney to kill his wife? How will Shadow react?
Click here to join the American Gods conversation on the FoCC forum.