Starz’s American Gods season two episode seven, the season’s penultimate episode, fills in the backstory of fan favorite Mad Sweeney (played by Pablo Schreiber). Sweeney’s the focus of episode seven which ends with one of the series’ most shocking moments.
“Treasure of the Sun” beings with Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) walking down the middle of the road on the outskirts of Cairo. He’s been sent to find Mad Sweeney, and he locates the unlucky leprechaun by the side of the road. He assumes he’s dead, but Sweeney’s just sleeping one off. A comparison to trolls hanging out under bridges leads to a confession from Mad Sweeney that he’s actually not sure whether he is a troll or a leprechaun.
Talking to himself in sort of a drunken daze, Sweeney confirms the further he gets from Laura Moon (or “dead wife” as he not so lovingly calls her), the unluckier he becomes. He’s a mixed bag of emotions (alternately giddy and in tears) and seems to have nearly given up on life.
Shadow tries to draw Laura’s location out of Mad Sweeney, but he won’t reveal it until Shadow hands over $20 to pay for booze at the nearest bar. Sweeney says the last time he saw Laura was in New Orleans and he assumed she was traveling to Cairo to reunite with Shadow.
Sweeney whispers in Shadow’s ear, “This is gallows ground you’re walking, and there’s a rope around your neck and a raven-bird on each shoulder waiting for your eyes.”
Shadow arrives back at Mr. Ibis’ funeral home as Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes), Wednesday (Ian McShane), and The Jinn (Mousa Kraish) are discussing which Old Gods are on their side. The Jinn’s of the opinion Bilquis isn’t but Wednesday believes she’ll fight for them when the time comes. Shadow informs the group he just found Mad Sweeney and he’s in bad shape. Wednesday takes that news as a sign Sweeney’s in the perfect state to join their cause.
When it’s only Wednesday and Shadow, Wednesday completes the mending of Gungnir which is now covered in magical runes. Shadow’s given the sword and told to guard it with his life. “Wars are coming, Shadow. I have a big role for you,” says Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey) threatens to call the health department if Laura (Emily Browning) doesn’t leave the Motel America diner. Laura reminds her she’s capable of ripping off limbs and not to be outdone, Mama-Ji allows Laura to see her in her form as Kali the Destroyer, consumed by fire and brandishing a sword. She only wants a little respect from Laura and in turn she can provide a little help. Laura describes what she needs: two drops of blood infused with love.
Mama-Ji tells Laura she doesn’t need that voodoo magic to heal. The power’s already in her heart, given to her by Mad Sweeney. “What? Like the power of love?” asks Laura. “No, the power to destroy,” replies Mama-Ji.
Mama-Ji slides Laura a note. Laura hits the road, hitchhiking her way toward Shadow’s light.
Mad Sweeney arrives at the funeral home where he believes he sees a banshee. He greets Salim (Omid Abtahi) at the door with, “Morning, pillow biter,” which Salim takes in stride. Inside the funeral home, Mad Sweeney is convinced he hears the wailing of banshees. Salim tries to explain it’s just women outside mourning the loss of a husband and father, but that explanation doesn’t appease Sweeney.
Mad Sweeney enters the parlor where Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) is leading a service. After the service, Bilquis and Mad Sweeney discuss his past and he claims not to remember much. She places her hand on him and announces that she won’t have him, but she will have his confession.
Mad Sweeney remembers a woman who had the sight and as they made love, she told him he’d be undone west of the sunrise and that a dead woman would seal his fate. After that, the fairy folks’ stories changed and the leprechauns began being described as greedy little green men. As he recalls the stories and the various ways they described his death, Bilquis reminds him they’re not true. “You didn’t die that way and her fortune didn’t come true,” says Bilquis.
Mad Sweeney’s no longer sure of the truth.
Bilquis confesses the version she heard said he had a wife.
Mad Sweeney’s reunions continue. Up next, a meeting with Wednesday leads to Mad Sweeney declaring he’s quitting. Wednesday claims they have a contract Mad Sweeney hasn’t fulfilled. But an angry Mad Sweeney reminds him he killed the dead wife as requested and then she stole his coin. That should more than pay off any debt he owes Wednesday.
Wednesday wonders why Mad Sweeney doesn’t just take the coin, but Mad Sweeney can’t do that because his code of honor forbids it. The coin must be returned freely. They argue over whether Sweeney’s in love with Laura, and Wednesday warns him to get over it.
Wednesday demands Mad Sweeney finish the job he’s contracted to do: kill Laura Moon.
Mad Sweeney drinks, sulks, and then screams at the banshees gathered outside the funeral home. He has a flashback to existing off eating ants to get by. In the flashback a woman he believes is a witch walks toward him through the forest, holding the hand of a little girl. She says she’s his wife and he smiles as he recognizes his family. When Sweeney doesn’t remember his daughter’s name, his wife says to her, “Remember the boundaries of your father’s mind have grown thin since he left us.”
The little girl introduces herself as Moira and Sweeney digs into the bread they’ve brought. He pauses to wonder why his wife’s dressed in rags. He asks about the beautiful dress she wore when they danced at their wedding, and she gently reminds him they lost everything, including their castle, his lands, and his title. The war was lost and because Sweeney abandoned their allies, he was cursed by the bishop.
Back to current events and Salim takes a seat outside the funeral home next to Mad Sweeney. Salim admits he’s only in town because The Jinn is there, and The Jinn’s there because he owes Wednesday. The conversation returns to the women in black, and Sweeney remains convinced they’re banshees. Salim’s equally convinced they’re women in mourning.
Mad Sweeney suggests Salim leave before the war starts. The Jinn has to stay but Salim shouldn’t give up his life for someone who’s going to live forever. Salim, however, believes that’s how love works.
Sweeney wonders if The Jinn would kill Salim if Wednesday asks. “I can’t explain love to someone who has never felt it,” says Salim. “Oh, I felt it. I had a family. I had a wife; I had a kingdom,” replies Sweeney, adding, “I’m starting to remember now.”
Another flashback shows Sweeney’s wife, Eorann (Clare McConnell), attempting to make Sweeney listen to reason. Sweeney stands firm in his belief the monks will ruin everything they touch. Eorann tries to get him to understand the world changes. She’s pregnant and soon he’ll be a dad, and she wants him to change with his family. She simply wants him to make alliances not enemies so they can live a long life together.
They kiss and Sweeney hears the bells in the church toll. Eorann doesn’t react but the sound is driving Sweeney mad. Enraged once again, he stalks off determined to stop the monks from building churches on his land.
Mad Sweeney recalls the events of that day and provides the details to Salim. Sweeney found Bishop Ronan, threw his prayer book into the lake, and then speared one of his priests. He was cursed by Bishop Ronan to become mad and die by the spear.
Sweeney heard banshees on the battlefield and knew he would die that night. He left the battlefield and lost his family and his mind. (Sweeney’s story is lifted from the Irish tale of Suibhne mac Colmai, king of Dal nAraidi. Suibhne exited the Battle of Mag Rath and began wandering, eventually earning the name Suibne Geilt or Mad Sweeney.)
A while later Mad Sweeney visits Shadow in his room. Sweeney warns Shadow not to let Laura near Wednesday. He also warns him that he’ll fall out of favor with Wednesday, as everyone does. “There’s always a cost with him. You just haven’t paid it yet,” says Sweeney.
Shadow’s dismissive of Sweeney’s warning, prompting Sweeney to act. He picks up Shadow’s coin and makes it disappear. Shadow demands its return but Sweeney refuses until Shadow makes a promise. Sweeney listens to the banshees wail and tells Shadow it means someone here will be dying soon. “When the time comes, don’t get in the f**king way,” says Sweeney. He wants Shadow to promise that, even though Shadow doesn’t understand what Sweeney’s talking about.
Shadow promises and Sweeney returns his coin. Sweeney then confesses that Wednesday and the gods are not heroes.
Mr. Ibis writes as Sweeney downs yet another beer. Mr. Ibis is putting pen to paper to tell Sweeney’s story, advising Sweeney he’s aware he has a lot of stories inside his head. Mr. Ibis calls what he’s writing “imaginative re-creations,” and the current story he’s working on is Sweeney’s earliest story. It concerns Sweeney fighting off all the gods who entered Ireland.
Another flashback shows Sweeney at war with the gods who’ve come from foreign lands. The war changed when the church arrived and twisted their stories into tales of fairies and saints and dead kings. Mr. Ibis reveals the story he’s writing is about the ancient race of gods in Ireland.
When Sweeney whispers that he was a king, Mr. Ibis corrects him. “You were a god king,” says Mr. Ibis. He was a god of the sun, luck, craft, art, and everything valuable to civilization. He was known as The Shining One and Long Hand for his skill with a spear. A flashback shows Sweeney in action in war – a brutal, vicious warrior who kept his people safe.
His enemies were the Fomorians. The Fomorians were described as mad men, monstrous beings, and the things of nightmares. Sweeney remembers their leader was Balor, Sweeney’s father’s father.
Sweeney’s in anguish when a memory floods him of decapitating Balor. Sweeney’s memory is a tricky thing, and he believes Balor loved him. Mr. Ibis corrects his memory, reminding him Balor knew one of his grandchildren would kill him so he had them all drowned. Only Sweeney survived.
Sweeney doesn’t want to confront this memory and then realizes it wasn’t Balor he killed. He then has a vision of the battle ending as he held aloft Grimnir’s severed head.
Mr. Ibis asks him to remember stories aren’t truer than the truth. Sweeney hands Mr. Ibis the $20 he took from Shadow. He was going to use it on a ride or alcohol, but he no longer needs the cash. When Mr. Ibis asks if Sweeney’s not thinking about tomorrow, Sweeney warns him it’s none of his business.
Elsewhere in the funeral home, Wednesday leads a toast to the coming war, noting the proverbial sh*t is about to hit the fan. He calls the meal their “last supper.”
Sweeney interrupts the gathering, acknowledging he wasn’t invited to join the dinner. Sweeney makes note of the fact they’re eating the banshees’ food, wondering why Wednesday didn’t know any better than to do so. Sweeney warns Salim they’re in debt to the fairies now. Sweeney then addresses Wednesday directly, certain he’s no longer in his debt since he too ate the fairies’ food.
Sweeney walks around the table toward Wednesday, reminding Shadow of his promise not to get in the way. Shadow, ever the attentive bodyguard, reaches for Gungnir and Sweeney warns him it’s between him and Wednesday. Shadow rises from his seat with the spear in his hand. Everyone else is told to clear the room and only Wednesday, Shadow, and Sweeney remain as once again Sweeney claims his debt is cancelled.
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll put the spear down. You’ll leave; you’ll never look on any of us f*cks again,” hisses Sweeney.
Shadow replies, “No one’s dying tonight, Sweeney.”
Shadow continues to hold onto the spear. He punches Sweeney in the face and then takes a swing with the spear. An all-out brawl breaks out and Shadow appears to get the best of Sweeney. Sweeney holds him close and asks if he can feel the poison, saying the poison is Wednesday. Sweeney then drops a bombshell, confessing he caused Laura’s car wreck on Wednesday’s orders. Shadow wants to know why Wednesday would kill Laura and Sweeney says it’s because he uses everybody.
Wednesday has been sitting at the table eating during the fight. When Sweeney divulges his big secret, Wednesday only acknowledges the disclosure by tipping his fork toward Shadow as if to say, yes, it’s as the leprechaun says.
Once again, Sweeney advises Shadow to leave. Shadow refuses, again, adding a “f*ck you” for emphasis. Sweeney then confesses he had sex with Laura which causes Shadow to lash out again.
Shadow leaves Sweeney kneeling after a punch, and Gungnir is now on the ground not far from Sweeney’s hand. Sweeney rises, grabs Odin’s spear, and lunges toward Wednesday. Shadow reacts by grabbing the shaft, sinking to his knees, and whipping around, placing the spear so that Sweeney runs into it. It pierces his chest and Sweeney gasps in pain. He’s been run through by the spear and it finally dawns on Shadow what he’s done. He apologizes and Sweeney says, “You owe me a coin, Moon Shadow.”
Wednesday claims he would have given Sweeney his battle. Before Sweeney dies, he grasps the spear and changes Gungnir into gold coins. He flips off Wednesday and calls him a one-eyed c*nt before falling to the floor.
As he dies, Sweeney says, “I used to be a king.” (This had better not be the end of fan favorite Mad Sweeney! The Sweeney/Laura relationship is one of the show’s most compelling storylines.)
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