I wonder what it is about the character Laura Moon that makes the writers of American Gods decide to throw their story telling format out the window? In the penultimate episode of the season, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”, the audience gets the sweet and often sad story of how the beloved character Mad Sweeney made his way to America. As he journeys with Laura Moon towards the gathering of Gods, we learn that gold coins aren’t the only secrets he has up his sleeve.
The episode opens in Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel’s funeral home. As Mr. Ibis works on to ready a body for display, Mr. Jacquel enters and informs him that he should finish quickly, as they will have two new bodies coming in.Mr. Jacquel also appears to display a gift for foresight, as he tells Mr. Ibis that he has a story that he must get out. mr Ibis then proceeds into another room and begins to pen the “Coming to America” story of Essie McGowan, an Irish woman who believes in fairies, leprechauns, and the like, and brings Mad Sweeney with her as she comes to America.
As the episode unfolds we watch, simultaneously, the stories of Essie McGowan, who avoids punishment for a crime she didn’t commit, by agreeing to be transported to America to become an indentured servant. She never makes it to America, though, catching the eye of the ships captain and going back to London with him to become his bride. Yet, he is barely out the door when Essie decides to live up to her new reputation and become a thief. She steals all she can and leaves to live her life anew in London.
Unfortunately, as her riches grow, her offerings to the fairies decrease and eventually she is caught. As she waits to face her punishment, she bonds with the man being held in the cell next to her. It is Mad Sweeney. Determined to live, Essie seduces the prison warden, who impregnates her. she is able to use her newfound pregnancy to request mercy and, rather than face the gallows, Essie is sent once again to America to become an indentured servant.
In America, Essie becomes a wet nurse to the recently widowed Master of the plantation she works on, and is able to seduce him as well. The two marry, have a child and live many happy years together until his death. After which, Essie takes over the plantation and runs it successfully for many years, always giving an offering to the fairies and telling the children stories of them. But after some time, the children no longer want to hear the stories of the fairies, finding them too frightening. There is no room for her gods in this world.
Now an old woman, Essie sits on her porch and sees Mad Sweeney approach her. He calls upon her and reveals his true nature to her. Essie passes away, happy to go with the creatures she felt had given her so much throughout her life.
Simultaneously, we also watch the story of Laura Moon in the present day. After a short pit stop to pray, Laura manages to find out the location of the gods meeting from Mad Sweeney. She tells Salim where it is and allows him to leave to find the Djinn. Mad Sweeney is none too happy about any of this, but Laura seems unconcerned. The unlikely allies, steal an ice cream truck and continue on their journey to find a means of resurrecting her. As they drive, Laura swerves to avoid a bunny in the road, sending the truck hurtling and spinning down the road. Laura is tossed out of the front window and the coin dislodges from her chest.
Mad Sweeney finds the coin and considers taking off with it. As he doesn’t, the scene, eerily reminiscent of Laura’s first death, flashes back to that night and the audience learns that Mad Sweeney may have had orders from Wednesday to make sure that accident happened. He is visibly torn over the decision to walk away with his coin but eventually decides to place the coin back in her chest. She thanks him with a swift punch to the face upon her second resurrection.
Alive again, and seemingly unaware of her previous dead state, Laura rolls the truck back on to it’s wheels, gets in the drivers seat and orders Sweeney to get in. They take off down the road, no closer allies, yet inextricably tied to one another.
American Gods is nothing if not surprising. Despite having read the books, I can never predict exactly how the next episode, or even how the next scene, will play out. You couldn’t have told me that the penultimate episode of the season wouldn’t feature Shadow or Wednesday at all. You couldn’t have convinced me that I’d have more than a passing interest in a “Coming to America” story that encompassed more than half of the episode. Yet, American Gods continues it’s trend of telling an offbeat, colorful, and unpredictable story.
I found myself wondering if the decision to use the same actress that plays Laura, to portray Essie McGowan would come full circle and reveal some kind of familial connection. I found myself wondering if the physical and personal similarities between the two woman was something that Mad Sweeney was aware of, and whether that had any effect on how he treated her.
This may be my shortest review yet. The episode was sweet and fun to watch but did little to progress the overall plot of the story forward. The greatest revelation of the episode was the reveal that Mad Sweeney was there the nigh Laura was killed. How involved Sweeney was in her demise remains to be seen. Did he simply watch over to make sure that everything happened as planned? Of did he use his own brand of magic to make sure that gear shift moved? Either way if only confirms a theory that many had upon seeing the two ravens following Laura around since episode 4. Wednesday wanted Laura out of the way.
Other than that, there’s not much to say. The episode was straightforward and easy to follow. Salim is on his own to find his Djinn and the bunny in the road seems to very likely point to some intervention on the part of the goddess Ostara. I enjoyed the episode, ti was a nice breather from everything else we’ve had thus far, but I’m ready to get back in to it.