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.