Note: Spoilers to follow for “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”, the latest episode of American Gods. I have read the book, but I will not mention any spoilers from that.
So this is more of what I expected to happen. In the book, a “Coming to America” story is told of Essie Tregowan, a woman from Cornwall who brings her belief of Cornish pixies and fairies to the New World. It’s one story among several, with not really a direct connection to Laura Moon at all.
Here, her name is changed to Essie MacGowan and made Irish, bringing beliefs of Irish folklore and leprechauns across the ocean. The setup is clear and the final moments crystallizing the connection even more. Whether or not Essie is actually the ancestor of Laura, whether or not she really looked like her, and whether or not Laura is even Irish, it doesn’t matter.
The coin was a gift from Essie, and then a gift to Shadow, and then a gift to Laura. So it connects back directly by gifts, and the implication is clear: Laura reminds Mad Sweeney of the old Irish gal and her ilk that brought him to new shores. But the story is another reflection of the same old story; people bring magic to America and then forget about it. Mad Sweeney is dying slowly, like everyone else, thus his willingness to do dirty work for Wednesday.
The final note of his decision to cause the accident that killed Laura is tied into his desire for redemption, despite everything. But who is the King of America?
The twisting back of the main storyline is wavering, tossing away Salim for no real reason other than he had to go. Although I liked the three’s rapport, Salim ultimately seemed to do very little in the story of Sweeney and Laura. The legend of Mad Sweeney is centuries old, about an old Irish king driven mad by a curse and forced to wander the Earth until he died. That certainly tracks with this take on the character, even if it’s a kind of composite; after all, the word leprechaun literally means “small body,” and that’s not the version in the show.
I found the overall story of Essie to be authentic and true to the tale from the book, tying into the overall new storyline of “Laura and Sweeney, Frenemies” well. But what was the rabbit? There’s the obvious connection to Easter, but I don’t know about all that, since this storyline is invented for the show.
Surprisingly, this elaboration of a short tale works well expanded, far more than the one completely invented last week. I suppose it makes sense, tied so closely as it to Neil Gaiman’s words, but it does make me a bit worried about the show’s capability to handle new material. Overall, a strong episode that was quite enjoyable and filled with interesting themes. Let’s just hope the season finale fulfills the high expectations built up so far.
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