AMERICAN GODS Review 1.07 “Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

Who's your twin, Dead Wife?

Turns out that Mad Sweeney has a little more heart than he’d like to let on. Make no mistake, he’s still an asshole, but as is the case with most bitter characters of his ilk, there’s more to him than meets the eye. “Prayer for Mad Sweeney” touts itself as a look at his complicated past, but we spend much more time on Essie MacGowan (Tregowan in the novel) and her history. The “Coming to America” tales have all been integral to understanding the gods they depict, and despite the focus not being directly on Mad Sweeney, we know much more about him now than we did last week.

Anyone with sight can tell you that Essie and Laura bear a striking resemblance, but if you’re looking for insight on whether they’re relatives, there’s some reincarnation situation happening, or whatever else could come up in a story about the gods, I’ve got nothing for you. Mad Sweeney, Laura, and Salim are where we take a hard left from the book, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. It just means we’re getting a lot more of a look into smaller characters. Essie falls into that category as well after being a mere mention in the novelization.

Mr. Ibis tells Essie’s story, and by proxy, Mad Sweeney’s. Essie didn’t have the easiest of lives, nor was she the kindest of women, but she paid tribute to the fae folk as she was raised to. As fickle and as fierce as the gods she worshiped, Essie found herself in trouble here and there. In some instances it was because that’s just how the world works. In others because she forgot to care for the very fae that were taking care of her.

Despite the fickleness of the leprechauns, they remain by her side when she forgets them. Essie loses her luck for a moment, finding herself back in a prison cell, but Mad Sweeney occupies the one next to her. The two swap their stories and their wishes, both eventually finding themselves talking about America. Before their discussion she leaves a bit of bread for the fae once again, and the next day is met with an opportunity to escape the gallows. 

After pleading her belly, Essie heads to America once more, bringing more than just a baby along with her. Her baby’s born healthy, and she’s sold to a tobacco farmer. She and the farmer fall in love and live a happy life until he dies. Essie grows old on her farm, raising her children and grandchildren on the stories of the faerie folk. Much like the rest of the Old Gods, their stories start to lose their place in America, and so she stops telling them all together. After a life of loyalty to his kind, Mad Sweeney comes for her in her old age, and (we assume) to the afterlife. Essie doesn’t recognize his voice from the cell next to hers, but he tells her that she and others like her are why he and others like him made their way to America. With that, Essie’s story is over. Unfortunately for Mad Sweeney, he still has much longer to go. 

While the stories of the old world always manage to be interesting, we find out the juicy stuff during present events in “Prayer for Mad Sweeney”. Juicy stuff like Mad Sweeney being the cause of Laura’s death and him being Mr. Wednesday’s errand boy. You know, no big. It’s difficult to tell which portions of the book will be spoilers for the series and which won’t, so I’ll avoid delving into that for now, but suffice to say that Sweeney’s got a fair bit of guilt on his hands. 

Mad Sweeney and Laura Moon both have plenty to feel guilty for. The difference between them is the fact that Sweeney actually feels it. Despite the dead wife’s overall awfulness, Laura shows signs of humanity here and there. Upon discovering the fact that Salim is in love with his Jinn, she frees him from their bargain. Besides, she’s always wanted to steal a car, and an ice cream truck is perfect for that pesky dead problem she seems to be having. That is, until she flips it. 

Laura’s humanity comes back into play when a bunny hippity-hops its way into the road. She swerves, truck flips, and living dead girl’s body isn’t as strong as it was when she first crawled out of the ground. The impact tears open her autopsy scar, and out flies Mad Sweeney’s magic coin. He could have been in the wind with his coin and running from Mr. Wednesday and his war just as he did his own war in the past. Instead, he stays.

Whether it’s his guilt or his previous attachment to Essie Tregowan that led him to save Laura’s “life” we don’t currently know, but save her she did. Unfortunately, since it’s Laura, the only thanks he gets for this choice is a swift punch in the mouth and more snarking from the dead wife. It’s hard to be too frustrated, considering he, you know, killed her. 

At the end of the day, Mad Sweeney’s indiscretions will be the least of everyone’s worries once Mr. Wednesday’s war kicks off. Sweeney and Laura don’t seem to be headed to The House on the Rock, but that seems to be where we’ll be headed in next week’s finale. In the meantime, The New Gods remain a looming (but lately unseen) threat, and The Old Gods make their way to learn Mr. Wednesday’s plan. Sweet and kind Salim is once again on his own, headed to find his Jinn but to likely meet up with many more gods than he bargained for, as he’s driving right into the impending storm. 

Other things worth paying attention to in “Prayer for Mad Sweeney”? That big albino buffalo. His name is Tatanka Ska, and he’s sacred to the Lakota tribe. That cute little bunny that Laura killed herself (again) over also may be of interest. What did you notice? What did you love or hate? Most importantly, what are you hoping to see in the finale? Head to the comments, and for those of you who’ve read the book, please be kind to those just getting involved in the series!