American Gods episode 7 ‘Prayer for Mad Sweeney’ (recap)

This week’s episode took a pause from the main storyline of Shadow and Mr. Wednesday to reflect on Mad Sweeney and his past. Mr. Ibis narrates and takes us back to early America to tell the tale of immigrant Essie MacGowan, also played by Emily Browning. Essie was an Irish indentured servant who worked for a wealthy family bringing her tales of faeries and leprechauns to the children of the house. Leaving a bit of food or bowl of cream near the window every night, Essie kept luck on her side. Her luck changed when she was accused of stealing and set for transport to South Carolina to work as a prisoner. In the bowels of the ship full of others sick and dying, and as she starved, Essie spared a crumb for the leprechauns. The ship captain took a liking to Essie and married her on their return to England.

We start to see similarities between Essie MacGowan and Laura Moon in their decisions to ruin things just when they are on the right track. It was such a clever choice for Browning to play both characters. The tale told belonged to Essie but it has everything to do with Mad Sweeney.

In today’s story, Laura, Salim and Sweeney continue on their journey to find the one who will resurrect Laura for good so Sweeney can get his coin back (the same lucky coin that’s keeping Laura somewhat alive). Either finding pity for Salim, who is looking for his Jinn, or just to irritate Sweeney, Laura lets slip that their ultimate destination where he can find the Jinn is in Wisconsin. Salim flees so Laura and Sweeney acquire an ice cream truck for their new mode of transport.

Essie’s story turns tragic when she again takes her newfound life as the captain’s wife for granted to leave him and get caught stealing (this time she really did it). As she is jailed and waits for the gallows, it’s the first time Mad Sweeney appears to her, as her cell mate. He doesn’t reveal himself as her leprechaun but her fate sort of changes for the better by his presence. Impregnated by her captors, she is shown mercy and is allowed to live but only to suffer again on another filthy ship for months at sea back to America. As a wet nurse, she marries a widower and continues to leave out food for the leprechauns and faeries and passes the tradition onto her children making Mad Sweeney’s place in America permanent this time. He appears to her again when Essie is an old woman and she understands now who he is.

Laura and Sweeney’s journey hits another bump (err, rabbit) in the road when their truck flips sending Laura flying and splaying her body out on the road. Mad Sweeney finds her body and his lucky gold coin dislodged and laying on the ground. He’s now free to take his luck and carry on but feels he has an obligation to her now. Sweeney returns the coin to her chest bringing Laura back to life.

Knowing that this is the second to last episode of the season, I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed taking this side quest. There are so many questions we have about this story that they can’t possibly sum up in episode 8. I think we are all hoping that next week’s finale offers some satisfaction and not just a cliffhanger for the next season.

American Gods airs on Sundays on Starz.

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