So Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) are having to speed-up their road trip a little bit…but then again, you’d think that killing a god who betrayed you with the very sword he made you as new gods are breathing down your neck would necessitate a change-in-plans. Meanwhile…back at the taxi…Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), Laura Moon (Emily Browning) and Salim (Omid Abtahi) are done “off-roading” and now making their way to House-on-the-Rock, Wisconsin, for the endgame. So that’s where we find ourselves going into the seventh and penultimate episode of American Gods: Prayer for Mad Sweeney.
But first, just in case you’re new around here, a quick disclaimer…
This isn’t a “formal review”…but it does cover some themes and “takeaways” involving major plotlines and developments from the episode. If you’re not familiar with the book or the show, you definitely want to keep that warning in mind. If you are a fan of the novel or have some idea of what’s ahead, then spoilers probably aren’t that big of an issue for you but there may be some visual surprises or subtle changes that you might want to avoid until you see them for yourself.
So here’s what STARZ has to say about Prayer for Mad Sweeney:
Her brief reunion with Shadow over far too quickly, Laura turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life, and back to Shadow. Mad Sweeney’s long, winding, and often tragic past is explored.
Overall Takeaway: I’m going to have to take the “Jekyll/Hyde” approach when it comes to this episode: as an acting showcase for Browning, I found this episode to be exceptional. I would watch a three-hour movie of Essie Macgowan’s life apart from American Gods as long as Browning was attached…that’s how impressed I was with her performance on a number of levels because this is an Emmy nomination audition tape waiting to happen. Browning’s Macgowan (with a backstory fleshed-out more here than her counterpart’s in the novel) is a woman burned by a society and system that that gave little care or concern to Irish women of a lower social class. So she did what she needed to do (as “a rare token of ambition”) to not only survive but carve-out a decent life for herself…and fuck your judgment. But even tough there were times when she wavered, her faith in the “magical creatures” of her childhood (particularly leprechauns) was ever-present and undeniable. Her strength of faith carried with her to the Americas, where she would spend her life faithful and telling the tales of her faith…until no one wanted to hear the stories anymore. It’s when we finally see Mad Sweeney approach a now-elderly Macgowan on her doorstep that it’s finally confirmed what we pretty much knew all along. He was her leprechaun…she was how he came to the Americas. A beautiful story that’s even more impressive when you consider that it was told in less than fifty minutes.
That’s because the rest of the time was spent with what was my problem was this episode: as an American Gods episode, it left me feeling…eh. Maybe I was expecting more with this being the last episode before the season finale and that this is one of those “eye of the storms” before the holy shit really hits the fan. I’m not sure, but I do know that I didn’t really get anything out of the Mad Sweeney/Laura/Salim scenes. It felt like a repetition of themes and dialogues from the previous episode, and the removal of Salim from the dynamic was handled a little too abruptly. Even The Big Revelation at the end where we learn that Mad Sweeney and Mr. Wednesday had some say in Laura’s car (non-) accident wasn’t even enough to make-up for the subtle “been there, done that” feeling I had during these scenes.
Spare Parts: This was a difficult episode to do a Spare Parts with because it’s almost a mini-movie (minus the “now” scenes) that you have to see for yourself in its entirety to truly appreciate. That makes it difficult to pick it apart and do it justice, but here are a few random thoughts and observations I grabbed along the way…
● The astronaut crucified on the cross during the opening credits will never stop being disturbing-as-shit.
● Nice to get a glimpse at what’s going on at the Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) / Anubis (Chris Obi) Funeral Home and Metaphysical ‘Chop-Shop’…and Ibis has one of those voices you’d listen to recite the 2017 federal tax codes.
● “Intelligence has never been uncommon among women…” – Ibis
● American Gods continues with their great song selection, utilizing Runaway Sue and Daddy’s Home in disturbingly effective ways.
● “That’s what you get for putting god in a petting zoo.” -Mad Sweeney
● After Laura ends her debate with Mad Sweeney over whether or not to let Salim go by freeing him of his obligation and telling him where to find his Jinn, an elated Salim looks at Mad Sweeney and says, ” You…are an unpleasant creature.” It’s both a funny and empowering moment for Salim, because you realize that in his world that’s the equivalent of him saying, “Fuck you, you fuckitty fuck-fuck!” to Mad Sweeney…and you can tell he enjoyed it!
● “Trust me…’ya don’t want this one hittin’ ‘ya.” -Mad Sweeney, in the understatement of the episode.
● “Her wide skirts capable of concealing a multitude of sins.” -Ibis, in reference to Macgowan
● “We’re in prison, love. All we have to do is tell tales.” -“Prisoner” to Macgowan
● “In America, anyone can be anything they insist upon.” -Macgowan to “Prisoner”
● “Now I’d be content to be content.” -Macgowan to “Prisoner”
● “I was a king once.” -Mad Sweeney to Laura
● “General Mills did the rest.” -Mad Sweeney to Laura
● “I owe a battle.” -Mad Sweeney to Laura, trying to explain why his running from battle earlier in his life obligates him to Wednesday’s war now.
● “I’ve done worse than that.” -Mad Sweeney to Laura, registering about a 9 on the foreshadowing scale.
● Silly rabbit! Major ice cream truck accidents are for leprechauns and dead women!
● In that moment of The Big Revelation, we see a moment of redemption in Mad Sweeney…but is it enough to atone for his sins and the revelations still to come? Mad Sweeney thought Shadow fought him hard the first time they went at it…just imagine what will happen when this truth comes out.
● “Will you take my hand, Essie Macgowan?” -Mad Sweeney to Macgowan…one last time.
So the drumbeats of war are getting louder and the everyone is getting into position. Before battle, Wednesday looks to recruit Ostara/Easter, Goddess of the Dawn (Kristin Chenoweth) with some help from Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones). For Mad Sweeney and Laura, all roads lead to Jesus (Jeremy Davies) and the hope for a resurrection. Be here next week when I take a look at the American Gods season finale, Come to Jesus: