‘American Gods’ Season 1 Episode 7 Recap: Prayer for Mad Sweeney

American Gods Season 1 Episode 7 John Richardson and Emily Browning
Peter Cockett as John Richardson and Emily Browning as Essie Macgowan in ‘American Gods’ season 1 episode 7 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Starz’ American Gods season one episode seven shifts the focus from Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday’s roadtrip to the backstory of Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber). The June 11, 2017 episode begins with an old Decca record playing at a funeral home as Mr. Jacquel aka Anubis (Christopher Obi) prepares a body. The funeral home’s co-owner Mr. Ibis aka Thoth (Demore Barnes) suggests they relax and finish the body tomorrow, but Mr. Jacquel warns him two dead women will be coming in in the morning and will need the table. They’re not dead yet, but will be soon.

Mr. Ibis opens a large book, dips his pen in the well, and begins to write. We discover he’s the narrator who has been telling the stories which begin each of the season one episodes. In this episode, his story unfolds in 1721 and reveals the Americas were a dumping ground, a “forgetting place.” The Americas were a symbol of clemency for those in trouble with the law, with crowded ships bringing criminals to America where they were sold as indentured servants. It was better than being in an English prison, and it was possible to be set free once your debt was paid.

Mr. Ibis writes about the life of Essie Macgowan (Emily Browning) who loved tales of leprechauns as a young girl. A flashback shows the young Essie waiting for her father’s ship to arrive, listening to stories of fairies and leprechauns. She’s told the merry folk live on a nearby hill, and that leprechauns have no time for anything but guarding their gold.

As she grows up, Essie continues the job of leaving gifts for the fairy folk so that her family will be blessed. She passes the stories on to young children from the village, including a particularly disturbing story about being lost in the fog and hearing a banging noise. She recalls not knowing how to get home but remembered to give an offering to a leprechaun and in the morning, the bread was gone and she was once again back in familiar territory.

Essie, an intelligent and beautiful young woman, is ambitious and saves her money to use to ask a favor of a leprechaun. She leaves a coin for the leprechaun and then back in town, she makes love to a handsome boy named Bartholomew (Jake Manley). He gives her a necklace, promising to marry her when he returns at Christmas. Unfortunately, one of her fellow servants is jealous of Essie and Bartholomew’s relationship and tells their mistress. The mistress believes Essie stole the necklace from her son and when she asks Bartholomew if he gave it freely to Essie, he denies ever doing so.

Essie’s hauled into court and sentenced to hanging, but then the judge changes his mind and offers her a trip to America and seven years as an indentured servant instead.

Despite the lack of food, Essie always remembers to leave the leprechauns what she can while on board the ship. A twist of fate means Essie doesn’t wind up in America. She makes her way into the captain’s bed and returns with him to London.

They’re married and happy for eight weeks until he has to set sail for America once more. He promises to return quickly, regretting being called away. Essie, however, packs up his valuables once he’s gone and leaves. If people think she’s a thief, she’ll become one.

The episode transitions to contemporary times as Salim (Omid Abtahi), Laura, and Mad Sweeney cruise down the road in Salim’s taxi. They stop to stretch their legs at a ranch where Tatanka Ska, the sacred White Buffalo, was born in June 2008. A massive statue was erected in its honor and it’s now a tourist attraction. The buffalo and the ranch’s owner were killed by a lightning strike exactly one year after Tatanka Ska’s, and Mad Sweeney thinks they got what they deserved for putting a god in a petting zoo.

Salim needs time to pray and invites Laura to join him. Flies swirl around Laura’s head as Salim says he loves his god.

Laura suggests to Mad Sweeney that they let Salim go, but Mad Sweeney refuses. He’s only on this side trip because of the coin he wants that’s currently inside Laura’s body, otherwise he’d be heading to House on the Rock. Unfortunately, Mad Sweeney revealed too much and Laura tells Salim to head to House on the Rock to find his Jinn. Salim takes off after calling Mad Sweeney an unpleasant creature.

Laura and Mad Sweeney need a ride so they steal an ice cream truck and get back on the road.

And we return now to the story of Essie Macgowan who has become quite proficient at stealing. She makes a life for herself, adopts a kitten, and finds a new handsome young man to spend time with. However, she forgets to set out the nightly offering to the leprechauns and her luck runs out. She’s caught in the act of stealing and hauled once more before the judge. The sentence this time is death without the possibility of a trip to the Americas, and she’s taken to Newgate Prison to await hanging.

Locked in her cell, the man in the next cell, Mad Sweeney, warns Essie to only eat the bread. He somehow knows she doesn’t belong there and he’s certain he shouldn’t be in jail, but he got in a bar fight and that’s what landed him in trouble with the law. When she reveals she’s sentenced to be hung, he says to make sure she gives them a messy death to clean up. She explains that she’s not eligible to sail to America because she’s a repeat offender, and he suggests she could try and bribe her way free. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any gold to share with her to help her out and she’s penniless at this point. They exchange stories and Essie says in the Americas anyone can be anything and be happy. She just wants a home and someone kind.

Even though she was given very little food, Essie leaves an offering out for the leprechauns before going to sleep. She wakes the next morning, freezing cold and with the warden entering her cell. The warden of Newgate walks in with a full tray of tasty-looking food and proclaims she has 12 weeks before the sentence is delivered. He confesses he thinks she’s pretty and reveals there’s a way she might be able to save herself from the gallows. She smiles and they have sex, apparently repeatedly as 12 weeks later she is pregnant and escapes the gallows. She’s once again shipped off to the Americas, but this time it’s for life.

After a terrifying voyage, Essie and her baby land in Norfolk, Virginia where her indentureship is bought by a tobacco farmer named John Richardson (Peter Cockett). He needs a wet nurse/maid because his wife just died after giving birth to their baby. Essie’s charged with raising her baby and John’s, and she passes her stories along to these little ones as they grow up.

American Gods Season 1 Episode 7
Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning in ‘American Gods’ season 1 episode 7 (Photo Credit: Starz)

And back to contemporary happenings we go, with Laura driving the ice cream truck while Mad Sweeney shivers from the cold beside her. She calls him a baby as he tries to keep warm while she has the air conditioner cranked up.

Mad Sweeney offers her an ice cream, but she reminds him her stomach is sewn up. He assures her she’ll be resurrected soon and adds that the guy who’s doing it isn’t going to do it for gold. He then tosses a few gold coins out the window, which prompts Laura to ask how much gold he actually has. Mad Sweeney reveals he was once a king and then a bird, and then Mother Church turned them all into saints, trolls, and fairies. He adds, “Then General Mills did the rest.” Laura wants to know why he is so anxious to get to Mr. Wednesday’s meeting and he says it’s because Wednesday is preparing for war.

Mad Sweeney reveals there was a time when he was meant to go to war. A flashback shows us Mad Sweeney next to a huge fire in a pit as he explains to Laura he looked into the fire and saw his death on the eve of battle. His vision showed him the land was on fire all around him and he knew he was going to die if he stayed. He didn’t and avoided his death, but now he owes a battle.

A white rabbit runs in front of the ice cream truck and Laura loses control when she swerves to avoid it. Ice cream flies all over the truck as it rolls over multiple times before landing on its side. The crash causes Mad Sweeney’s special gold coin to be dislodged from her body, and Laura – autopsy stitches now open – lies twisted on her back in the middle of the road.

Returning to the time of Essie, she continues to keep the stories of fairy folk and leprechauns alive. The children believe because she believes, and even Mr. Richardson is taken with her stories. One night after the children are put to bed, he makes a sexual advance which she rebuffs. She claims he’s taking advantage of a poor widow woman who isn’t free to wed because an indentured servant cannot marry. She claims she has feelings for him, but she’s hurt because he can’t possibly feel the same way. Her story works and Mr. Richardson asks her to marry him.

They wed and it’s only then that she kisses him. They seem happy enough and have a baby boy they name John. Soon all three children head off to school, each with a little something extra to leave out for the leprechaun to make sure they return home safely.

The narrator informs us John Richardson and Essie were married for 10 years when John passed away after suffering from a fever. Essie took care of the farm, always leaving bread out for the leprechaun. She lived a long, happy life, passing her stories on to her grandchildren. However, her old stories were too scary for the young ones and there came a point where she kept them all to herself.

Back to contemporary times, Laura lies dead in the middle of the road while Mad Sweeney is able to walk away from the crash. He spots his magical gold coin and is about to walk away with it when he stops short. He has a vision of the black crow landing nearby at night, and he tells it to tell “him” it’s done, meaning Laura is dead and not coming back. In reality, he pauses on the road and looks back at Laura’s body. He screams at the heavens before placing a few of Laura’s organs back in her chest and reinserting the gold coin. She instantly awakens and hits him right on the nose, knocking him down. She’s not in the least bit thankful as she returns to the crashed truck and with one arm sets it back on its wheels. She yells at Mad Sweeney to get inside, even honking at him when he doesn’t move quickly enough.

The episode’s final flashback reveals Mad Sweeney paying Essie a visit on her last evening on earth, calling her name and startling her awake as she slumbers in a chair on her porch. She’s happy to see an Irishman and he laments the fact no one in the Americas leaves out milk or bread for leprechauns. He confesses she and a few others are the reason he’s in America, a place without magic or fairies. He flips a coin and it disappears, and then he asks if she’ll take his hand. She does, rising to her feet.

The narrator continues the story, saying Essie’s body was still warm when she was found dead. He closes the book as the camera pans to a lighthouse on a hill, waves lapping at the nearby shore.

More on American Gods:
American Gods Season 1 Episode 1 The Bone Orchard Recap
American Gods Season 1 Episode 2 The Secret of Spoon Recap
American Gods Season 1 Episode 3 Head Full of Snow Recap
American Gods Season 1 Episode 4 Git Gone Recap
American Gods Season 1 Episode 5 Lemon Scented You Recap
American Gods Season 1 Episode 6 A Murder of Gods Recap
American Gods Season 1 Episode 8 Come to Jesus Recap