Last week’s episode of American Gods felt like one of those moments where you leave your house, and when you’re halfway through where you’re going you realise you’ve forgotten your wallet. So you have to go back for it. I’m not sure if I wrote that, but if I didn’t I thought something like that.
This week’s episode is quite similar. It’s another sideplot, there’s no Shadow or Wednesday at all in this episode! Not even a small glimpse. It always takes guts for a show to be like “Hey, let’s forget about the main characters and do something with secondary characters.” And this week it works because this entire episode is my favourite Coming to America segment. The one about Essie Tregowan.
Or well, to be fair I should say Essie McGowan. Her name has changed because her background is slightly different. She’s Irish now, instead of Cornish. And surprisingly enough she’s played by Emily Browning. I’m guessing this was done to imply that her character is a distant ancestor of Laura’s.
It also changes one important thing. In the book Essie meets Cousin Jack, a piskie. But here she meets none other than Mad Sweeney, and that makes things more interesting. It’s one of those “Ok, let’s streamline the story” choices that only work to enhance it.
This segment took almost all of the episode! Sure there were also parts on the present, focused on Laura, Sweeney and Salim (in a lesser degree than these two) but it’s all framed as one of Mr Ibis’ stories. All of the episode is shown in the different aspect ration that the Coming to America segments have.
“Her world branded Essie McGowan a thief. So a thief she became”
There are more changes in her story, other than her background. The circumstances that led Essie to her transportation to the colonies are different, and slightly more tragic and unfair than in the book. The circumstances that get her caught after evading transportation change too.
The coolest part of this, is the scene where Essie is in jail and Mad Sweeney talks to her. That conversation mirrors some that Laura and Sweeney have in the present and it’s also interesting for another reason. Up until this point we’ve only seen Sweeney being a prick to people. But this time he’s different, he cares. But that might be because she believes.
No matter how many changes her character has had, the most important one is that Essie has always believed in the stories her grandmother told her. But having the thing she believes in appear to her to check in on her is a nice touch.
Another cool thing on this segment is that the songs we hear come straight out of the 50s and 60s. It feels weird in the beginning, but then I realised. Mr Ibis is writing/narrating this, and he’s listening to those same songs as he does that! I thought that was a nice touch.
“You have done me many a good turn.”
“Good and ill. We’re like the wind. We blow both ways.”
This episode we spend more time in the present than in the past. We still see what Sweeeney, Laura and Salim are up to. Though Salim leaves soon to the House on the Rock (which will be part of season 2) and Laura and Sweeney end up getting a new ride.
Still, the present parts of the episode answered some questions I had. Sweeney was always particularly hostile to Laura, but he was also hostile to everyone, so I wondered if there was something behind that. And his whole conversation with the crow was also strange. Strange in the sense that Wednesday didn’t seem too happy about Laura being back.
This episode gave answers about those things. And that makes the character even more interesting. Sweeney has always made a big deal of him wanting his coin back, but when he has a chance he doesn’t seem happy, and he just starts cursing. As Gaeilge!
I wondered about this. So I asked a friend who speaks it and he told me he’s cursing in Old/Middle Irish and he told me what he was saying. It all boils down to him being fed up of this shit and that he’s not evil. He also told directed me to the old tale behind the character, which made me understand why the battle he mentions was a big deal. Thanks for all of that Sam!
When I saw this episode was called ‘A Prayer for Mad Sweeney’ I thought it was going to deal with a different event. I’m happy it didn’t do that. Especially because we also got Fionnula Flanagan in this episode! And that’s always an extra.
Next week we’ll get the season finale. I’m really curious about what’s going to go down. We’ll finally get to see Easter though, that’s going to be cool.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.