Monday, June 12, 2017

A Prayer for Mad Sweeney

This week's American Gods, like the Shadow/Laura history episode of a few weeks ago, pushed pause on the ongoing story line to try something different. Mostly.

We did get one major revelation in the continuing narrative, that Mad Sweeney was responsible for the crash that originally killed Laura, acting under orders to take her out. We also saw he has decidedly mixed feelings about it, given that in Laura's second major driving accident, Sweeney could have made off with his coin and been done with her; instead, he restored her to life. Why he did that is open to a bit of interpretation. Was he acting out of guilt? Out of some long-running sense of obligation to her family line (connecting to this week's "Coming to America" tale)?

That "Coming to America" tale made up the bulk of this episode. It was by far the longest, most-involved of these self-contained stories we've had. It featured both Emily Browning (taking on a role other than Laura) and Pablo Schreiber (playing a younger and softer version of Mad Sweeney, though only the title of the episode truly says that). Was Browning's double casting meant to hint at a meaningful connection to present-day events? Or was it simply a matter of practicality, using a main cast membe rather than having a guest star be the focus of an entire episode? Don't look to the book for clues; again, this was a newly invented part of the story for the television screen.

Because so much time was devoted to this back story, it's safe to assume it's a rather important piece of the larger American Gods tapestry. I suspect just what that is will be open to some debate among fans. I'll offer up this possible interpretation: this week seemed to be saying "gods are people too." Or, at least, leprechauns are. Mad Sweeney too was "transported" to America against his will. There's more emotion churning within him than greed and belligerence -- he can be forgiving, kind, and remorseful.

And while this little stand-alone tale may indeed have this larger meaning (and was well told), it was a little odd that this was how the series chose to spend the hour when only one more episode remains in the season. I felt like the timing made it more challenging to just settle in and enjoy it for what it was.

I'd grade the episode a B+. Still quite good, but an example of how great this series has been that it actually seemed like one of the weaker hours.

No comments: