American Gods Season 2, Episode 7 recap: Mad Sweeney’s true identity

American Gods -- Courtesy of STARZ -- Acquired via STARZ
American Gods -- Courtesy of STARZ -- Acquired via STARZ /

Mad Sweeney was once a fierce King of Ireland in the seventh episode of American Gods Season 2.

If you didn’t already know, a few episodes of American Gods Season 2 were leaked online a few weeks ago, including this one and Sweeney fans have been worrying about it for a while now. The finale wasn’t one of the leaks so everyone who watched it ahead of time has been waiting anxiously to know the end while those who finally watched it last night are now on the panic wagon about them. We’re all on the same page now.

I’m just going to spill the beans for everyone (sorry, spoilers!) that hasn’t read the book and tell you that Sweeney dies in the novel “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman early on in Chapter 8. The series, however, extended his lifespan and kept him on for a number of reasons, but after this most recent episode, fans are worried that the show has chosen to follow the same path as the novel and kill everyone’s favorite leprechaun.

Sweeney is the primary focus of this episode, diving far into the past before the “Mad” went into the name Mad Sweeney, living as a prime example of what Wednesday and the other Gods are so afraid of. The opening scene is a homage to Sweeney’s final moment in the original book where Shadow finds him lying under a bridge and hands him a twenty-dollar bill which he then uses to buy a bottle of whiskey. Next time Shadow sees him in the book, he’s dead, possibly from drinking himself to death.

The show copies this scene up to a point, with some questions about Laura and Wednesday thrown in the mix. Despite having the word “mad” in his name, Sweeney’s never shown his madness until now as he starts to show signs of mental deterioration. He’s heart-broken over Laura leaving him in New Orleans and his job as Wednesday’s errand boy continues to eat away at him.

American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ
American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ /

Laura gets some advice and Gungir gets fixed

As much as I would love to completely focus on Sweeney, and never even think about Wednesday or how stupid Shadow is acting again, I feel like I have to at least mention what the other characters are doing. Nothing new is happening with the Old Gods and their slow-going war except long conversations about their ranks and Wednesday being his usual whimsical self.

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The life tree has grown phenomenally large and Wednesday uses one of its branches to fully repair his spear, Gungnir, so it’s ready for war. Shadow briefly mentions Sweeney’s poor condition to Wednesday and the others, but no one seems to care.

Meanwhile, Laura is sitting in one of Mama-Ji’s diners and gets some vague advice from the Destroyer herself. Upon listening to Laura describe her voodoo resurrection potion and its need for blood infused with love, she claims Laura already holds the answer in her heart. Only her power isn’t love but destruction. She then leaves Laura with the address to Ibis’ funeral parlor in Cairo.

This is the second time one of the Gods believed or mistook Laura for having a deadly power. Bilquis thought Laura was a war goddess when she first saw her and now Mama-Ji says she’s a destroyer like herself.

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American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ
American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ /

Mad Sweeney tells his many stories

After he drags himself over to the funeral parlor, the first thing Sweeney sees when he gets there are three screeching Banshees, Irish spirits that foretell death, disguised as crying widows. They wail the entire episode but only Sweeney can hear them, everyone else thinks they’re just widows in mourning.

Sweeney plays a game of musical chairs as he pops in and out of each room, talking to different people while downing bottles of whiskey in between. The first person he seeks out is Wednesday to tell him he’s no longer running errands for him. Next, he visits Bilquis, who has taken up reciting sermons as if they were audio porn as a priest in the mortuary church, gathering worshipers much more smoothly than she ever did scrolling through dating apps.

After the service, Sweeney tells the Queen of Sheba about his past, telling a story about a clairvoyant woman who foretold his downfall at the hands of a dead woman’s bauble, but he stops the story midway because it wasn’t right.

His next companion is Salim, who gets an earful of a different story where Sweeney says he was once a king cursed by a monk when he fled a battle. He had a wife, Eorann, and a daughter, Moira, who he had forgotten as a byproduct of the curse. However, this doesn’t appear to be the full story either and he begins growing frustrated with his inability to remember.

American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ
American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ /

The Horde and the true history of Mad Sweeney

As the night goes on, and the Banshees continue to wail, Sweeney becomes convinced that death is coming for him. He pays a type of farewell visit to Shadow Moon, neatly wrapping it up in their original connection, coin tricks.

When Mad Sweeney and Shadow Moon met in the very first episode of American Gods, Shadow questioned how Sweeney could pull coins out of thin air but never got an answer. Now, on the eve of his suspected death, Sweeney finally tells him. He doesn’t pull them out of mid-air but pulls them out of the Horde, the space where the sun’s treasures lie.

He begs Shadow to leave and never come back but of course, Shadow Moon remains blinded against all reason. Is anyone else sick of Shadow’s ignorance? I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so blind to the most obvious things happening in front of him.

It’s not like Wednesday is mind-blowingly charming or even a good liar. He barely puts on an effort to hide his true colors, and yet Shadow prefers to be like Chris from Get Out who continues to stick around a horrible house filled with horrible people even after someone literally screams in his face to “get out.”

When he speaks to Ibis, the keeper of all stories past and present, Sweeney finally starts to remember the truth about his past. He wasn’t always a leprechaun nor was he always known as Mad Sweeney, but once upon a time, he was Lamfada the most important and powerful God of Ireland.

For those who don’t know Irish mythology, Lamfada or Lugh is the most prominent God in Ireland’s history and a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Not just a God, but a King among Gods, the God of the sun, art, craft, and civilization. He was the defender of all Ireland before the Christians ran the pagans out and his power dwelled down into that of a meager leprechaun.

When other Gods started invading Ireland, Sweeney/Lamfada would run them out and one of these invaders was none other than Odin himself, but Sweeney defeated him. He didn’t just defeat him, he killed him, cut his head clean off with a spear, and in doing so was struck with a poisonous madness.

As we learned from before, Gods don’t die completely unless they have no believers or commit suicide so of course, Odin/Grimnir didn’t stay dead but was reincarnated into a new version, Mr. Wednesday.

American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ
American Gods — Courtesy of STARZ — Acquired via STARZ /

A tragic end

By the end of the night, Sweeney is ready to follow the Banshees wail just as he did on the battlefield and tries to end Odin’s life for a second time, however, Shadow finally has the opportunity to be a proper bodyguard and he doesn’t waste it. He regretfully pierces Sweeney with Gungnir, killing him.

Before he dies, Sweeney sends Gungir into the Horde where no one can ever get it, giving Wednesday two fingers, as he does.

He utters his last words of “I used to be a king” before dying, and I’m not going to lie, I teared up a bit. Knowing the backstory to such a tragic character makes those final words not just devastating but demoralizing.

Dying at the hands of someone like Shadow Moon who doesn’t even think for himself, but is a puppet to the Gods, says all that’s needed to say about Sweeney’s life. A once mighty King of the Gods turned into the small green creature people jokingly dress up as on St. Patrick’s Day, forgotten as all destroyed religions become over time. But even beaten and bloody with a spear sticking out of his chest, he got his revenge, proving himself to be more of a king than Odin could ever be.

If Sweeney is really dead I don’t know how I can ever look at Shadow again. The moron killed my leprechaun and continues to defend Wednesday no matter what he does. Didn’t he hate Wednesday not two episodes ago? What happened?

Shadow also knows about Wednesday ordering Laura’s death because Sweeney told him before he died, but Shadow didn’t seem to be convinced but we’ll see how long it takes for the accusation to sink in.

Next. 5 questions we need answered in American Gods Season 2. dark

What did you think of American Gods? How did you feel learning Mad Sweeny’s backstory? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The season finale of American Gods will air Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. ET on Starz.