REVIEW: American Gods, S1 Ep 7 – A Prayer for Mad Sweeney

American Gods, S1 Ep 7 – A Prayer for Mad Sweeney

The penultimate episode of American Gods season one made the interesting decision of focusing on the journey of a couple of supporting characters and bringing one of the “Coming to America” vignettes to unusual prominence.

American Gods, S1 Ep 7 – A Prayer for Mad SweeneyMad Sweeney is the god in the spotlight in this installment. The leprechaun’s history and powers are explored also through the life of an 18th century Irish girl named Essie McGowan (also played by Emily Browning). This bit of casting was inspired because it helps draw parallels between Laura Moon and Essie, two women who struggle to make the most of their circumstances and don’t always make the best decisions. It also links their fates to that of Mad Sweeney himself. This was also the most in-depth vignette so far, since we’ve never spent this much time with any “Coming to America” flashback character. Browning does an excellent job of playing both roles distinctly while also giving both characters a certain somber quality, a sad resignation to the hardships of life as well as natural adaptability and resourcefulness.

The scenes of Essie’s life were beautifully shot, and American Gods continues to experiment with various genres. This time it tried its hand at costume drama and did it well while being consistent with the theme of the power of belief. The costumes and sets were vivid and the scenes on the transport ship were as harrowing as could be expected. The consequences of Essie’s faith and her leaving small but simple gifts to the faerie folk even after her arrival in the new world were another interesting origin story for the Celtic deities who made their way to America.

American Gods, S1 Ep 7 – A Prayer for Mad SweeneyThough most of the episode had little to do with the main plot, one important revelation is made. It turns out that Mad Sweeney had a role to play in Laura’s death and this was done on Wednesday’s orders. Some of the guilt from this sordid act (and perhaps because Laura may have reminded him of Essie McGowan? We can’t be sure) led to him deciding to restore the gold coin to her after their catastrophic car crash. He gets a punch in the face as thanks but I can’t say he doesn’t deserve it. There is definitely more of them in the show than there were in the books, and I’m curious to see how much more their roles will be expanded.

So their strange, hostile little road trip continues. I’m a little sad that they let Salim go so soon. The dynamic he had with the two very bitter characters was refreshing. With so much left to happen on the show before it concludes its first season, I doubt that we will see him again but I still hope that this will not be his final appearance.

While hardly a chapter that moves the plot forward significantly, this episode of American Gods still boasted of intriguing explorations of Mad Sweeney and Laura as well as more reflection on the importance of faith. Everything is tied into the meeting of the gods in next week’s finale.