On the one hand, American Gods Season 1 Episode 7 was an impeccably crafted hour, filled with strong performances and some great development for Mad Sweeney.
On the other hand, American Gods Season 1 Episode 6 left off with such a massive cliffhanger that it felt a little weird to abandon ship with Wednesday/Shadow's storyline completely.
Especially it being the penultimate installment of the season and all.
I guess that's the benefit of having gotten an extremely early Season 2 renewal.
Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were aware that they could take creative risks aplenty with the first season and not run the possibility of getting canceled without moving the story far enough along to engage viewers adequately.
First, the obvious: "A Prayer for Mad Sweeney" was an excellent showcase for both Emily Browning and Pablo Schreiber.
Their chemistry and relationship continues to be one of my favorite aspects of the series.
Particularly because, knowing the book's original source material, it's a change that I never would have expected to see. Yet it works so damn well.
Essie MacGowan is an altered version of a character from the book. To have Browning pull double duty and play both characters was a stroke of genius.
The extremely stereotypical Irish hair/make-up for Browning as Essie was a bit silly – was I the only one distracted by how much Essie looked like a living Raggedy Ann doll? – but there's no denying the deeper parallels between Laura and the Irishwoman several hundred years older than her.
Both were ambitious women, unsatisfied with their given lots in life.
For Laura, that ambition and dissatisfaction eventually led her husband to jail and to her own death. For Essie, that ambition led her to be arrested and transported to America (twice).
Both also had unhealthy relationships with sex. For Laura, that was evidenced by her seemingly unenthusiastic affair with a smitten Robbie.
For Essie, that was marked by her propensity for seducing men in positions of power in order to save herself – something she managed to finally overcome when she came to America and married the widower Richardson.
Malice draped in pretty can get away with murder.Mr. Ibis
Now, that's nothing against either of them.
In fact, I think they're two of the more complex and intriguing female characters I've come across lately.
Beyond being a captivating and well-acted portrait of a complicated woman experiencing drastic highs and lows in her life – really, all of Essie's scenes felt like a short film – "A Prayer for Mad Sweeney" served as a backstory for the very tall leprechaun.
As Sweeney explained to Laura, he was once a king "who became a bird" when he fled from a bloody battle after foreseeing his death.
Clearly, this was a decision that has haunted Sweeney, and the vibe I got was that he's been trying to make amends for that action for his entire life.
I owe a battle.
This show doesn't generally take the time to explain things clearly, so it wasn't immediately obvious what, exactly, that all had to do with Wednesday to begin with.
Was the initial battle that Sweeney abandoned another Wednesday-led battle? Is that why he's tied to Wednesday, serving now as his "lackey," for lack of a better description? Unclear.
What was made startling clear on this hour: That Wednesday had Sweeney orchestrate Laura's gruesome car crash death. Twist!
This big plot development was unveiled during what was arguably one of the hour's best scenes – the aftermath of the ice cream truck crash.
Having stolen an ice cream truck and released the djinn-pursuing Salim from his role as the third road trip partner, Laura and Sweeney were en route towards Kentucky once again.
Sweeney goofed by giving up the name of where the gods were congregated – House on the Rock in Wisconsin.
On the bright side, that's a major location in the book, so it seems we're bound to see Salim again (assuming he successfully makes it over there).
If anything, at least Salim got to go out on a memorable line:
You are an unpleasant creature!Salim [to Mad Sweeney]
Unfortunately, post-Sweeney's soul baring moment, a mysterious white rabbit darts into the road and causes Laura to crash the truck, ejecting herself out of the car – and the magic/resurrecting gold coin from her stitched body.
I say "mysterious" because it seemed clear that the rabbit was some god or at least an animal minion of a god, much like Wednesday's ravens. Who was trying to kill Laura – again?
While it seemed obvious that Sweeney would be thrilled to get the coin back without too much of a fuss, he surprisingly ended up doing the right thing in the end, returning the coin to Laura's body and reanimating her so they could continue on to get her resurrected properly.
The show has successfully expanded Sweeney's character and Schreiber's performance really brings him to life. He's one of the more complex and complicated ones on the show.
I think Sweeney summed his own character up pretty solidly in his final moment with Essie:
Essie: You have done me many a good turn.
Mad Sweeney: Good and ill. We're like the wind. We blows both ways.
In the present – At this point, I have to wonder whether Sweeney has a soft spot for Laura, or if he's just attempting to assuage his guilt for doing Wednesday's dirty work and ending her life.
I am, however, a little bit uneasy about what the early reveal of Wednesday's nefarious motives means for the rest of the season or the rest of the show at large.
Now that we know Wednesday doesn't have Shadow's best interests at heart, will it color our perception of their adventures going forward? I can only answer for myself, but: Yeah, probably.
Shit's about to get weird(er).
- Demore Barnes has the most perfect voice for narration. It's so relaxing and soothing!
- The mix of Ibis/Anubis '60s tunes playing in their funeral parlor over the Essie scenes (mixed with some original scoring) was perfection. So eclectic and weird, and yet so very fitting.
- Is Laura meant to be Essie's descendant? I wonder...
- The fake Irish accents weren't terrible – but you can definitely tell that neither Emily Browning or Pablo Schreiber is Irish in the least.
- I appreciated this hour almost entirely for the absolutely stunning seaside landscape shots of Ireland.
- The entire exchange where Laura steals the ice cream truck was absolutely hilarious, but the way Browning delivered her dialogue so sweetly/matter-of-factly may have been my favorite part:
Ice Cream Truck Man: Can I help you with something, ma'am?
Laura: Yes! I've always wanted to steal a car. So I'm going to steal yours.
What did you think of "A Prayer for Mad Sweeney"? Share your thoughts by commenting below, and remember that you can watch American Gods online anytime here at TV Fanatic.
Caralynn Lippo is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.