As much as Ian McShane is an effortless scene stealer in American Gods, as Mr Wednesday, there's one other character that has the chops and charisma to bring the scene chewing appetite: Mad Sweeney. So, to seemingly have an entire episode dedicated to the Irish bruiser is something to give all your gold for, surely.
While A Prayer For Mad Sweeney is something of an origin for the enigmatic leprechaun, his tale actually revolves around Irish gal, Essie. The mechanics of mortal's sacrifice before those being worshipped will give something back is revisited as Essie's offerings (or lack thereof) bring both tragedy and triumph. Even if told with American God's signature whimsy, there's still something evocative about Essie's plight. Damned by men early on, she almost makes it to the New World before cossying up to the ship's captain and returning. In spite of his eloquence, Mr Ibis is a little damning and for the fist time America is described as something of a dumping ground for unwanted souls, rather than the brave new world. So it goes that we observe Mad Sweeney on the periphery of Essie's tribulations, from the Emerald Isle to peace, in the continental dumping ground of America. For fans of Sweeney, the episode may be something bitter/sweet. While he is served well come the end of the episode, there's not much of the elusive leprechaun we know and love.
It's true that a fraction of the episode is in present day, but it's here that we get to see the Mad Sweeney we've become accustomed to. For all his bluster, it's still delightful to watch as he bristles against the rest of the ensemble. The abrupt responses like, "That's what ya get for puttin' a god in a petting zoo," and "I got business after this business," allude to the harder shell that's calcified around a more tender heart. Once freed, Salim offers "You're an unpleasant creature!" Which maybe true, but there's more to Mad Sweeney than he's let most know.
4* - They're After Me Unlucky Charms
Other Episodes in American Gods - Season 1: