Series Issues: American Gods says A Prayer for Mad Sweeney

Spoilers might spill out of a freshly revived corpse.

American Gods Season 1 2017

(Source: Starz)

American Gods devoted their episode this week to the story of Essie MacGowan. Her name is different in the book, but the story rings mostly the same. There might be some extra nuances added. The biggest one as we see the young irish lass growing up and believing in folk tales, is that she gets to be played by Emily Browning, aka Laura Moon. Whether or not this is just a coincidence or will it mean something later on, it’s not revealed.

Essie is full of tales of the old folk, for which she leaves something to eat in the window every night. She’s always spouting tales of warning, specially of the Leprechaun. At some point, she’s noticed by the young master of the house, with whom he has an affair. He’s bound for Oxford, but promises to come back. He seals the promise with a small medallion, which is later discovered by one of the maids who tells on Essie. She’s soon falsely accused of thievery.

Here we learn of the old ways in which the New World was populated. One of the possible alternatives to a crime punishable by the gallows was Transportation: you were sent on a prison boat to the colonies in the New World. Then you had to pay your passage by serving years to a master as an indented servant. After years of servitude, you’d become free and you’d settle somewhere there.

Essie is given that chance twice. The first time, she doesn’t expect to survive even the trip. It’s the Captain’s folly that saves her as he decides to make her his bride. Of course, even then Essie has been keeping with the old custom of leaving food overnight, but if we’re to believe that it is the luck of the Leprechaun that is giving her good fortune… Well, she’s surviving by basically stealing and sharing her bed.

She’s not however, portrayed as wicked, she’s after all surviving in a world where she’s been dealt a rather strange set of cards. By the time she returns to London, her mind is set about not staying with her “saviour”. The next time the Captain is out to sea, she’s off to grab and steal what she can to get by. Of course the moment that she forgets to leave a gift to the fairy folk, she’s once again caught.

It is in prison that she meets someone over the wall, someone that could be Mad Sweeney before he was Mad Sweeney. Our Leprechaun seems to have had a mortal origin. Essie doesn’t get to see his face, but in the morning after having left a gift of bread, she’s given a hint from the prison guard. A better meal, and the statement that there might be an alternative as she’s got time before her trial.

After letting the guard have his way with her, she ends up pregnant and given the alternative of Transportation again.

Back in the present, Laura learns their destination from Mad Sweeney during a stop by a white buffalo statue. She eagerly tells Salim so he no longer has to be tied to them. Sweeney is mad, but not mad enough to let Laura kill its driver over an ice cream truck. He’s at least got the sense to be the one knocking him out before Laura knocks him into another century. Not that Laura was intent on hitting the poor kid anyways.

american-gods-s1e7-prayer-for-mad-sweeney

(Source: Starz)

Up the road, a bunny crosses the road and Laura has to swerve, causing the truck to tumble. As a result she goes flying out the window, splatters on the pavement and the gold coin goes flying out of her. She’s instantly dead. Again.

We get a weird moment in which we see Mad Sweeney in the past and back again in the different time where Laura seems to have fallen from a sportcar instead. Mad Sweeney is also there, but dressed differently. Then he turns to one of of Grimnir’s crows and screams at the bird to “tell him that it is done, as the scene has changed back to the original one. What are we supposed to take from this scene?

In the past, Essie has ended up married to the plantation owner that bought her life service. She’s got kids and loses her husband to fever. As a plantation owner she prospers but never forgets to leave something good for the old folk. By the time we see her again, she has grown old and now looks identical to her grandmother. She still tries to tell tales, but the children of Virginia are too scared. She stops and lets time go by until one night, it’s Mad Sweeney who comes a calling to take her soul.

Back in the middle of the road, Sweeney puts Laura back together and reluctantly drops the coin back in so she can regain her life. Does she realize that happened? Are we seeing a softer side of him?

Highs/Lows/FolkTales:

  • Unless we’re taking a hard departure from the book, the tale of Essie MacGowan is a one-shot. That being said, this episode should really bear her name instead.
  • Was Essie MacGowan lucky or unlucky? She had to become a thief and she had to fuck a lot of men, some that she wanted to but who fuck her over and some that she had to just to escape a darker fate. Was she really lucky or just barely enough to survive?
  • Is there some sort of link between Essie and Laura? I dare say no. I think this is basically two women in their most unlucky of situations, escaping their fate by the skin of their teeth. The fact that Sweeney in involve seems to give them both their worst luck and some strange, almost sarcastic, barely good luck in the last minute.
  • Mr. Ibis is the person writing the stories in the book with the old style quill.
  • They stop right by the white buffalo statue, evidently a reference to the buffalo with fire eyes that Shadow has seen in visions.
  • Salim now knows the meeting place of the Old Gods. You wonder if he’s meant to run into the Jinn again.
  • The crows that keep showing up to Mad Sweeney have to be either Thought or Memory delivering messages or just making sure that Sweeney doesn’t stray from the path.
  • We learn very little of Mad Sweeney. He used to collect/deliver gold for a king? Or he was a king himself? Perhaps none/all of these are true.
  • Is Laura really on her way to be resurrected? Or is she getting played?

That will do for now.

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