Often, you think that you know someone, and know that person very well, indeed.
That is one thing that I have discovered in being with the same person for over 10 years now: I think I know him, but then I learn something new about him, such as the fact that he is not in fact allergic to reading and is capable of reading a book every now and again…who knew?
It is the same when watching a television show. You think you know a particular character and then wham…he surprises you, and you see him in a whole new light.
This can even be true after only, say…seven episodes of said TV show.
I mean, you think you know your really tall, loud and foul mouthed, drunk leprechauns who are obsessed with their gold coins.
But then, you watch the seventh episode.
And you see your leprechaun in a new light.
(And no, I am not seeing light because the leprechaun has a new, shiny gold coin.)
The leprechaun in question is still really tall, loud and foul mouthed. And I don’t think he will quit drinking any time soon.
But now the leprechaun has a new, softer side. Dare I say, a more human side? That makes him actually…someone to relate to?
So, in case you are confused, I am talking about the second to last (sniff, boo) episode of season 1 of the show American Gods.
It was an unexpected episode, in many ways, letting us get to know someone, who, up until this point, had been somewhat of a minor character, although his dialog (the phrase “dead wife” still makes me giggle) had been pretty spectacular.
But, after this episode, the leprechaun in question (aka Mad Sweeney) has become a pretty significant part of the story. And now I love him even more.
So, let us begin with the recap and review of season 1, episode 7 of American Gods, titled A Prayer for Mad Sweeney.
And, as always:
The year is 1721, and we are introduced to a young Irish woman by the name of Essie McGowan. Essie lives in Ireland, and works as a servant for a wealthy family. Essie grew up listening to tales of leprechauns and fairies that were passed on to her by her grandmother. She passes these tales on to the younger generation, and leaves offerings for the leprechauns and fairies, even into adulthood.
Essie falls in love with the son of her employer. The young man gives Essie a piece of family jewelry, and promises to marry her. However, her employer notices Essie wearing the jewelry, and Essie is accused of theft. The young man of the house remains silent, and Essie is brought before a judge.
Essie is branded a thief by the judge, and sentenced to indentured servitude in the Carolinas. Essie sets sail for the Americas, and the trip is a difficult one.
However, the captain of the ship falls in love with Essie during the difficult voyage. Essie convinces the captain to return to London, and the two marry. However, once the captain sets sail for his next voyage, Essie turns to a life of thievery. She also remembers the old tales of leprechauns and fairies, and continues to leave offerings for the creatures. Her blessings continue to multipy.
Eventually, Essie neglects to leave offerings for the leprechauns and fairies, and her luck runs out. She is caught by authorities, and sentenced to hang.
While she is waiting in her cell, Essie speaks with a mysterious stranger in the neighboring cell. She and the strangers speak of the possibilities that life in the Americas may bring. The next morning, the stranger is gone, but Essie’s luck turns again, as she seduces the prison ward, and becomes pregnant, avoiding a death by hanging.
Once again, Essie is shipped off to America. She is employed by a kind widower as a maid and a nurse to his young children. Essie raises both the widower’s children and her own child, telling them tales of the fairies and leprechauns. She continues to leave offerings for the creatures.
Essie marries the widower. At first this is an act to end the indentured servitude, but she grows to love the man, and they spend many years as a happily married couple. Essie continues to keep her traditions from her home country, but finds that the people in her new home have no interest in her stories. She begins to keep the tales to herself, as she has no audience for them.
One night, Essie is sitting on her front porch, peeling apples. Mad Sweeney approaches the old woman, and thanks her for her years of faith, and for bringing him into the new world. Essie passes away, and Mad Sweeney offers her comfort in her last moments.
In the present, Laura, Sweeney and Salim continue to make their way to Kentucky, in the hopes of resurrecting Laura. Sweeney lets it slip to Laura that the Gods are gathering at some place called The House on the Rock, and Laura passes this information to Salim. Laura sets Salim free, and he makes his way to The House on the Rock, in the hopes of reuniting with the jinn.
Sweeney and Laura steal an ice cream truck so that they may continue on their travels. As Laura is driving the truck, she swerves to avoid hitting a rabbit in the middle of the road. The truck flips over, sending Laura flying through the windshield. Sweeney’s coin leaves her body, and Laura returns to becoming a cold, dead corpse.
Sweeney retrieves the coin and walks away from Laura. However, he is overcome by a memory: it turns out that he caused the accident that resulted in Laura’s first death, and had acted under the orders of Wednesday.
Overcome with guilt, Sweeney places the coin back inside Laura. She springs back to life, punching Sweeney. Laura flips the ice cream truck back over, and the two continue on their journey.
Well, that was different.
No New Gods.
And a large part of the episode was one of the Coming to America stories, that are normally only a few minutes long, and don’t have a huge effect on the rest of the episode.
But different does not always mean bad, and that was the case with this episode.
Of course, we still have our “Eermahgerd award” this week. That is one thing that isn’t different.
And of course, there is no question in regards to who wins that award this week. I mean, duh, right?
So I will present it again…
Two weeks in a row…how about that?
Mad respect (again, see what I did there?)
In some ways, Mad was still the over-sized, obnoxious leprechaun that we have grown to know and love throughout the this first season.
He cursed out a bird, while taking a leak in the bushes. The epitome of class, right? Of course it’s classy, he cursed in Gaelic!
(And there is just something sexy about hearing someone speak Gaelic, even if that person is likely telling you what you can do with your nether regions, and insulting your mother and fifth cousins eight times removed, to boot.)
He was still in pursuit of his gold coin, as he has been since the first episode.
And the “but” part is the interesting part.
We learn some more about said over-sized leprechaun’s origins.
Turns out, loud, obnoxious leprechauns have feelings too!
They are capable of helping a woman who becomes lost in the fog.
They are capable of providing company to a woman who is imprisoned and soon to be hung for a petty crime that really did not deserve a harsh punishment.
They can follow a frightened woman into a new country, and provide her the comfort of the tales and traditions of her homeland, as she tries to assimilate into new, unfamiliar territory.
Most importantly, the loud, obnoxious leprechaun also provides comfort to a dying woman in her last moments, thanking her for her belief in him, and letting her know that she was not crazy, and that her belief in such creatures was in fact valid.
The shot of Mad Sweeney approaching Essie right before she passed away just gave me all kinds of feels. All. The. Feels.
And speaking of which…
Let’s talk about Essie McGowan for a moment.
And let us also talk about Laura Moon some more.
If we talk about Essie, we need to also talk about Laura. And this is not just because Emily Browning plays both characters in the series, although she is doing a fantastic job with both characters, and I love her for it.
Both Essie and Laura do invoke a certain amount of sympathy. Laura because it is clear that she was not a happy person in life, and it took death for her to finally appreciate what she had, and Essie because she was a servant for a wealthy family and received a raw deal.
I do find Essie to be a bit more likable than Laura, even though the two are actually similar (more on that in a minute.)
As I stated above, Essie did receive a raw deal: she was falsely accused of theft, and abandoned by the man who had promised to marry her. This started a cycle of theft and jail sentences, and even a proposed death by hanging.
As a result, Essie was forced to flee her homeland, and attempt to make her home in a new and strange country. Essie was able to carve out a life for herself, as she was a survivor, determined to make something for herself, no matter the circumstances.
Laura was also abandoned, although the abandonment was not voluntary, as Shadow was forced to go to prison, due to a crime that would not have been committed if it wasn’t for the wishes of Laura. Laura is also a survivor, as she literally beat death. She is determined to make something of this new life she has been granted, just as Essie was determined to make something of her new life.
Essie believed in leprechauns and fairies, which shaped her life. Laura does not believe in anything, although her husband has become her reason for wanting to live. This belief is important to both women, and is the driving force for Laura and Essie’s actions.
And we have one minor technicality…
Mad Sweeney was responsible for the accident that took Laura’s life. He may have provided comfort for Essie, but he was responsible for ending Laura’s life.
Obviously, Sweeney feels guilt for his part in Laura’s death. But is something more at play?
Is there some sort of relationship between Essie and Laura?
Is Laura descended from Essie? Or could she be some kind of reincarnation of Essie?
This is the first time we have seen Sweeney show some kind of remorse and thought for someone besides himself. It is likely that the guilt he feels is legitimate.
But could there be something more at play here? Has Sweeney recognized the resemblance between Essie and Laura, making him feel some sort of attachment to Laura, because he believes that she is Essie’s reincarnation?
Fascinating questions, and they provide much more depth to characters who had previously been comic relief. And hopefully future episodes will explore this connection, and possibly answer these questions.
Well, that’s it for A Prayer for Mad Sweeney. Join me next week as we review and dissect the season finale (sniff), titled Come to Jesus.
Tune in next week…
Same bat time, same bat channel!