American Gods season 2, episode 7 is a masterpiece of television, flipping the script on what we’ve come to expect from this season.
In what is perhaps the best episode of the series, American Gods season 2, episode 7, “Treasure of the Sun,” sews up the tale of Mad Sweeney. The show has always been stellar at lifting passages from the novel and breathing new life into them on screen. This homage to Mad Sweeney is no different.
Over the course of 15 episodes, the passing mentions and tasks carried out by Mad Sweeney in Neil Gaiman’s novel have transformed into a character who we, as viewers have latched onto as the voice of reason, the anchor in the whirlwind of this battle. Which is not an easy ask for a leprechaun who is drunk and angry most of the time.
But leave it to Pablo Schreiber to infuse this character with heart, honor, and enough pathos to make even the hardest of critics melt in his presence.
Here our two writers attempt to reconcile their feelings about Mad Sweeney’s journey, how it will inform Shadow and Laura’s journey, and honor the fallen king.
‘American Gods’ season 2, episode 7 in conversation
Brittany: The long-dreaded day has finally arrived. And I must say for a good, long (longer than it probably should have been) while, I thought, “Maybe they won’t kill him!” But alas, tis his fate to die by the spear.
Natalie: I really thought they might let him live and I’m not ready to say this is his last episode. There are other characters that die in the books that I believe will live. Bilquis, maybe even Laura.
But I’m just so… not… okay.
Brittany: From top to bottom the episode was brilliantly stitched together. Shadow finding Sweeney under the bridge, then being able to witness the madness taking over through the cuts to different stories, and then to have it all culminate in what we expected, but still managing to pull off some semblance of an element of surprise — wow.
Natalie: It’s a masterpiece of an episode. Am I allowed to still hate it?
Brittany: Absolutely, because I’m right there with you.
Natalie: The bridge death is book canon. I need to ask if, when you saw that shot, you thought he was dead, and we would get the story in flashback.
Brittany: When the shot opened, I was definitely in that frame of mind. Especially given the knowledge that we would be flashing back the entire episode (from teasers and production stills) I knew we’d be piecing together a story. Perhaps in the form of a eulogy for poor old Mad Sweeney.
I am happy that we didn’t though because I think Sweeney’s scenes with Shadow here and later, plus the conversation with Salim, were absolute treasures. And we were also handed another bit of a twist on some book canon with the final $20 that takes him to his death.
Natalie: Yes, the $20 ticket out of here became incredibly subverted. They definitely played in a ton of, “You think you know? You know NOTHING!”
Brittany: It’s incredible the marrying of the two that this episode especially does.
Natalie: Well, this character grew so exponentially from page to screen. It’s only right that his story does too.
Brittany: What did you think about Sweeney saying how he pissed Laura off fine and that she would be running back to Shadow? He’s clearly given up; his luck is gone. What more is left for him but to warn Shadow.
Natalie: I think that Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney is the single greatest adaptation and growth of a piece of Neil Gaiman’s brain in any external work that I don’t know what to do with myself, and that’s probably going to be my answer for a lot of questions.
Brittany: I think that’s pretty much where I am landing as well. The expansion of his story, in particular his interactions with so many characters, especially Laura. Which is why finding him here like this, with the only person she would choose over him and what he does for Shadow, the warning, is so telling of a layer of his character I never anticipated getting to. The flashbacks only aid that.
Natalie: His love for Laura isn’t selfish and never has been. Which makes it all the worse.
Natalie: And I am just more than anything so devastated that they left things the way they did and that she is RIGHT OUTSIDE THE HOUSE when he dies. But I am absolutely sure their story isn’t done.
Brittany: That was not fair or fun. What if she thinks she takes Shadow’s blood, but it is actually Sweeney’s because he is covered in it? IMAGINE.
Natalie: Even if he is dead, I think she will have to come to terms with what he did for her. And realize it was true. Imagine if she KNOWINGLY takes Sweeney’s blood in front of Shadow…or if Shadow pieces it together and tells her to take Sweeney’s.
Brittany: Oh, that is good.
Natalie: I’m going to throw myself off that damn bridge.
Brittany: Tragic, but good. I’ll be handcuffed to you.
Natalie: I hate this!!!!! Why do we even watch television?
Natalie: Shadow witnesses Sweeney talking to himself about Laura, “The further you get from her, the worse your luck gets.” And throughout the episode Laura is traveling back to Cairo.
A) Why is she returning to Cairo? Shadow? or Sweeney? Fate? Or something else? It’s like a weird circular chase. Laura is chasing Shadow, Sweeney is chasing Laura, but Laura will realize that it’s Sweeney she needed to be chasing?
B) Do you think there is a trajectory of Sweeney’s luck as she crosses the states and gets nearer?
Brittany: A) Well, Laura can still see Shadow’s light, so I think she truly believes in the possibility that he is the key to this whole second shot at life business. That his blood and belief in their love is going to be enough to save her, even if she is getting further removed from what brought them together in the first place. Was it ever even love for her?
And this chase on the surface looks cartoonish but eventually someone is going to crash into that familiar tree we all keep passing as we try to get these three in the same place.
Oh wow. Well, now that I can contextualize these series of events under that lens, I think that Sweeney’s luck begins to improve as Laura gets closer. But, unfortunately, improves in the sense that he has the guts to carry out turning completely on Wednesday and confessing his deeds to Shadow.
But I actually think the luck returned just enough to make Shadow turn like that and take Sweeney’s life. It wasn’t an accident. It was luck and fate shaking hands.
Natalie: Enough luck and fate to die in his own battle.
Brittany: He definitely did not owe a battle after that. The stories of Mad Sweeney will live on though.
But which one? All of them?
Natalie: Sometimes we’ll remember him one way, sometimes another.
Brittany: But they will all steer towards always that he would be undone and abandoned west of the sunrise and that a dead woman’s bauble sealed his fate.
Natalie: I think it would have been nice if he had a bit of kindness before the end.
Brittany: He is free from the madness. His debt paid, battle fought.
Natalie: He got one over on Wednesday, for sure. I feel like the Laura reunion has to happen. Remember, in the book, he lives after death for a while in a weird way. He attends his own wake. But his circumstance of death was very different.
Brittany: Do you think they will give him a wake here or will something else happen?
Natalie: I don’t know. There are so many factors here that I don’t see how anything can remain the same – especially for Shadow.
Brittany: With Salim around, maybe some homage to the man will be paid. He cares too much.
Natalie: Good old tender moral compass Salim.
Brittany: And as for where Shadow is at right now… well…
Natalie: From the start of the episode, Shadow is a bit weirded out by Wednesday being like “well, if Sweeney’s dying, that means we are close! Yay!”
Brittany: “Watch this magic trick with the tree. Guard my stick.” Shadow here is still behaving under this blind commitment to Wednesday. He still takes the pride (maybe?) of being Wednesday’s boy.
And I really didn’t notice how Wednesday codes his language with Shadow until this episode. Notably after Sweeney tries to caution Shadow at the end about leaning into how good it feels to be under Wednesday’s wing.
Looking back now, when The Jinn stops talking after Shadow brings Sweeney back and Wednesday says, “Shadow is my eyes and ears you can speak freely in front of him,” followed by dismissing everyone for a private show and tell with Shadow. Everyone in that room knows what’s up.
Shadow is not getting anything special here. Wednesday is just laying it on a bit thick to keep his boy close.
Natalie: It makes me sick, honestly.
Brittany:: Sick as that leftover potato salad he’s been carrying around for a day and a half.
Natalie: He is, to use the show’s language. Suchhhhh a fucking c**nt. But the thing is, they’re getting more obvious with that now. They’re making it so clear that he’s toxic.
Natalie: By giving all these outside views… and that makes me ask like… HOW can Shadow possibly continue willingly?
And listen, the damn potato salad is a masterpiece in how it ties into the madness and hallucinations of Sweeney.
Brittany: There are people who are in so far over their heads speaking out against Wednesday, cautioning Shadow from making the same mistakes and nothing is sinking in. The only thing that causes any sort of visceral, genuine reaction out of him is when Sweeney takes his coin.
The rest just sort of washes over him.
Natalie: Is Shadow brainwashed or very, very stupid? Again, this element of how hard Shadow is getting played is not such a harsh theme in the novel. Because inside Shadow’s head is a much sweeter and calmer place. The 360-degree view changes so much.
Brittany: It really pushes me want to side with Nancy a bit. Is he a bit stupid? He is being played, no ifs ands or buts about it.
But can he truly be missing EVERYTHING? Is there something bigger at work that we are not privy to yet? I would really like to reread the book up until this point, I’ve been checking out passages again here and there. But to give it this entire new scope is interesting. All these years later and things keep changing with each episode/reread. It’s maddening.
But not as maddening as banshees, I’d guess.
Natalie: This was a great twist – the whole episode we have the Madness of Mad Sweeney wreaking havoc on his psyche. Of course these innocent mourners are his mind playing tricks, says everyone.
How did you feel about him sharing his story with Bilquis and Salim? Why these characters? The two most connected to love, do you think? Or something else?
Brittany: Love, yes. But also, these are two beings who are choosing to linger around Wednesday with no real ties to this war. They are building out new stories for themselves as well in this particular moment.
Bilquis is finding new worship by taking up the Bible, Salim is navigating a new chapter of his life where he tries to find a way to build a life with an immortal being. I think they are both open to hearing him and seeing the version of himself that he wants to remember. There is some kind of kinship there since they aren’t looking for anything from Sweeney. He doesn’t need to push them one way or the other. Though he does have that touching moment with Salim. The softest we’ve seen Mad Sweeney… ever?
Natalie: I found his meeting with Bilquis very interesting in how he witnesses her new practice – transforming Christian worship into sensuality – and she says “we adapt, all of us do” – and he says “some more than others.”
There’s an ongoing thread that Sweeney cannot, or will not, change. He won’t find tricky ways to draw strength or worship. And given what we have seen about what some gods have stooped to, it makes me feel like this is about honor for him.
That he may be the most noble of them all – he is not grifting or cheating his worship.
And his stories aren’t something he promotes about himself either.
Brittany: I don’t think he would even know where new worship would come from. He knows what he isn’t – a small man on a cereal box. But he also is not entirely sure who he was only that it was Not Great™.
Natalie: He starts to piece it together, after Bilquis does a very obvious Horniness Check and is like, “Nope, taken, let’s chat instead.”
Brittany: And she even says to him that she has heard many tales, but wants to hear his story, thinking that she can get to the core of who he is. But that man is a hard nut to crack. Plus, he keeps going to sleep.
Natalie: It’s a mood, having feelings is tiring. Side note: I love him, and I don’t want him to be dead.
Brittany: He is on a slab. I think he is gone. No better place to die than in a funeral home.
Natalie: It doesn’t mean I don’t want him to be dead!!!
Brittany: With Bilquis we get the fortune’s warning and then with Ibis we get a much more impactful story that cuts closer to the core of the mythology. But before we get to his story with Ibis, I do want to talk a bit about how soft he is with Salim a bit more.
Because this tone that Schreiber takes with him Whoa boy. I cannot handle it.
Natalie: Tell me all your feels
Brittany: That photo is rude, and I’d like to report it to the appropriate feelings authorities.
But anyway, he does not want Salim, an innocent, to die at Wednesday’s hand when things get rough. The Jinn owes the All Father something, Salim could become collateral damage in this fight. Salim doubles down on his resolve saying that Mad Sweeney must know nothing of love, because he cannot explain why he stays with the Jinn, only that it is out of love.
But this shift in Sweeney’s language (no raised voice, no cursing) settles him to a place where he is ready to remember. And he whispers that line, Natalie. HE WHISPERS IT. When has this man whispered?
Natalie: And he asks, “Would the Jinn kill you if Wednesday asked?” This is after Wednesday is like finish Laura FFS. He’s clearly Working Through Some Shit and remembering his love and what it meant – rationalizing it with the love he feels now. It’s the clearest thing to him and allows him to make the choice to choose to fight for love instead of following Wednesday on a battle he doesn’t believe in or care about.
Brittany: Exactly. What causes him to get to this place of calm? Is it part of his processing? Because after this we get a bit more revived Sweeney giving Shadow one last out.
To quote you earlier: UUUUGGGGGggggggghhhhhhhhuuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh.
Natalie: Doing tasks that go against his heart. Brittany!!! I hate this!!!! Give him back.
Brittany: He grew up so fast.
Natalie: I am Here to be Sad.
Brittany: It doesn’t get any easier does it? Do we want to dive into the mind of the Mad King?
Natalie: In terms of the flashbacks, how reliable do you think they are?
Brittany: I think there are elements of each that ring true. The fortune read in the first, the madness that drove him to the volatile state in the woods, the first look at him trying to convince his wife of that the Gray Monks are coming to drive him out building on what he told Bilquis that some do not adapt, etc. It’s actually the story that came with the help of Ibis that I am most uncertain of.
Natalie: Once again, Ibis is making me side eye him.
Brittany: Right, how much of his influence from Wednesday is driving Sweeney to this version of the story?
Natalie: I think first and foremost I was interested in the real history of Ireland and the way it became such a deeply Christian country – how the church spun these stories about the old traditions to make them fit into the new order they wanted to bring to power.
And Sweeney, who wasn’t Sweeney then, shows this lack of willingness to, as Game of Thrones would say, bend the knee. Even as a man, he could not adapt to survive, and that is a special quality in a way. A heroic, noble, very stupid and dangerous quality.
In short, Sweeney’s a Gryffindor.
Brittany: That tracks.
Natalie: The leprechaun, the hill-spirit, the pagan warrior, the madman, and the great and golden king.
Brittany: I think no matter what version of the flashbacks we look at the same themes track. He is noble to a fault like you say. He loses everything for honor. Even in the face of Wednesday. When they talk in the kitchen and Sweeney tries to quit.
Wednesday says that Sweeney had nothing of value. But Sweeney’s value is his nature.
He isn’t what Wednesday will make of him because there is no unmaking of Sweeney.
Natalie: OUCH. BRITTANY.
But yes. What we see is pieces of the real legend of Buile Shuibhne, who, in short, wouldn’t allow the church to build on or take over his traditional lands. The church is meant to be the good guy in this story, which, lol.
Sweeney goes to try drive them out, his wife tries to stop him, and he gets very angry and throws a holy book in the lake (an otter brings it back). But he is cursed by a monk who later is known as St. Ronan. He has this curse laid upon him, condemning him to wander, lost, purposeless, and fly around the world naked, and to meet his death by spearpoint.
He constantly broke “truces” he never agreed to, and then on the big day, the curse started going crazy on him and turning him into a bird. He freaked out and ran away, and then became deranged from the shame and dishonor.
Neil Gaiman had all of this in mind when he first wrote Sweeney, but the time with him is limited. On the show, the whole first season we see references to his history. In his cursing, mostly. Or throwaway lines. And they absolutely captured my attention in an very fixated way.
Brittany: If this series was a house, the throwaway lines to his fate or his ties to Wednesday or his “I was a King,” always struck me as moments where I wanted to go down that hallway and into that room where they came from. In season 1 we went in the room with “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney.”
And here in season 2, we found a little hole in the ceiling of the back closet that led to this beautiful attic of history. I’m so happy we were given the chance to sort through some of the boxes.
Natalie: Before we delve too far about our lovely Pablo Sweeney’s personal flashbacks, I wanted to ask: what do you make of his overall value to the show in terms of giving him a whole backstory episode once per season?
His Coming to America was a whole centrally focused episode. And then this is another whole centrally focused story. Have we seen this personal dedication to any other character? Are any even comparable?
Brittany: Dedicating an episode in season 1 felt right since we had other Coming to America stories. I thought perhaps this was the series’ way of giving Sweeney his due all at once. So, as the show continued, and the energy between him and Laura kept getting more and more charged, I started to look at him less as a “cautionary tale” to play off of Shadow and more as someone whose perspective of this situation I valued.
It does slightly feel unbalanced, but that is perhaps due to the fact that he is now gone. The scales won’t exactly tip in favor of his story anymore. But look how much we have to carry with us.
Natalie: The one that always stuck with me was – asking Laura for his coin back and promising to leave her alone – “I swear by the years I spent in the fucking trees.” We saw some of that in “Treasure of the Sun.” The different stages of his madness, his curse, his rule.
And I can’t help remember his wailing cursing at the end of Prayer, in Gaelic… translated to… “Why is this bullshit happening to me!? Haven’t I suffered enough?! I’m not evil!! I’m not!!”
I would like him to be alive and have nice things, Brittany.
Brittany: It goes to show how carefully this character’s arc was crafted over two seasons.
Natalie: I guess when you hire Pablo and start seeing how he reads on screen as this character
You lean the hell in.
Brittany: I think we said it a few times in season 1, but he really captured our attention right off the bat.
Natalie: Oh yeah, from the jump. I was not prepared. At all. Never in a million years did I think this would be the best part of the show. But I think it’s crucial to go back to day one here because Sweeney warned Shadow. Instantly.
Sweeney was following because he couldn’t find his own path. But he really tried to steer Shadow off of it. Immediately.
Brittany: And he tells Shadow as much when he goes to talk to him. He says, “I watched you sign your life away.” But I also think in that later moment he is imparting some final wisdom to Shadow — although with Shadow’s track record, I doubt he’ll remember it.
When he explains the hoard to Shadow and how it works.
Natalie: Yup. He is trying hard to help in whatever way he can. What is it about Ibis’s handling that made you feel iffy?
Brittany: From what we’ve seen over the last two weeks, Ibis is not in the business of helping people crossover peacefully from one life to the next. He is in the business of making sure that history repeats itself.
Natalie: Is Sweeney really the only person in this bar who wants to actually help people be decent? He’s honestly becoming kind of inspirational and that’s just depressing.
Brittany: For Sweeney, getting that tale out of his head and possibly pushing Sweeney to lean into certain elemental connections, sets Sweeney up on a platter for Wednesday and seals his fate as it was cursed upon him in whatever version of the story you wish to believe — death by spear.
Natalie: There is an element of sort of gaslighting him into tying his fate to Wednesday. But he’s been aware for a long time how much it sucked. He had just resigned himself to not finding anything more meaningful.
But man, literally as Shadow is doing his compact – taking those drinks – in the pilot – Sweeney is sitting there saying “He’s a hustler. He’s playing you.” As Wednesday speaks. And obviously Sweeney knows how and why – he killed Laura!
But what I want to know is how Wednesday snagged Sweeney. How he got him in Shadow’s shoes. And when he realized that he hated it and it sucked. Because that’s clearly a journey that happened pre-series or pre-book. How Sweeney became Wednesday’s man.
He had to have believed in it initially, and again this episode has him telling Shadow he knows how it feels.
Brittany: Well, there is one more episode, but I don’t think we’re going to get that tied up.
Natalie: Yes, I don’t think we will see it, but we do see him leaning into this idea with Shadow in this one.
Brittany: He was promised a battle. Some way to fight for presumably honor and glory. Which is what he wanted restored. Wednesday is in the business of rallying people for war, he could definitely pull one over on Sweeney, especially at his lowest. I bet it sounded good.
Natalie: Absolutely. And by today, we have them arguing over the kitchen table – “you may not have a code of honor, but I do.” Not to mention Wednesday knows that he loves Laura. Dirty laundry is getting extremely aired and the show does a great job of loading it with the stains of the past.
Brittany: This scene is also a great shot of the future that Shadow is warned about. No matter how you try to plea with Wednesday, to make it clear you upheld your end of whatever deal you struck, he’ll always have the heel of his boot against your head. Shadow could be like the Jinn, miserable, but in service accepting of the terms of their agreement.
More likely, he is going to be like Sweeney, the errand boy who gets nothing he is promised. But Shadow hasn’t been promised anything! Not even that! What is he doing?
Natalie: Why doesn’t Shadow take the hint? None of his actions make sense to me right now. The book, fine. Shadow is really kept in the dark and his mind is very pure. This? What is he DOING?
Brittany: I think building Sweeney out in contrast to Shadow was such a good move on the series’ part. Because the first few episodes I was 100% team Shadow. Ricky Whittle captures everything I love about Shadow Moon in those opening moments. But now, he still does, but everything is slightly skewed. I like where this is going, but I’m also incredibly frustrated.
It’s not a bad thing, more surprising, I’d say.
Natalie: What’s so telling me about the intention is that episodes like this one, we are meant to not be on his side. We are meant to know he’s wrong and deluded. That’s a bold choice.
Brittany: Talk about flipping the script.
Natalie: It certainly lends sustainability. But means that our hero isn’t quite as lovable.
Brittany: Right! What do you mean I won’t be on Shadow’s side by the end of season 2! – me, if you told me all this season 1, episode 3. This is still very much the boy who doesn’t know if he made it snow. And it needs to be the boy who has literal leprechaun blood on his hands who takes a stand.
And I think as a fan of the book, as we mentioned earlier, it adds a layer to our reading. But for viewers coming in clean, I can see how this would be a no brainer perspective to have.
Natalie: I think that this is the turning point that really matters. Right here, right now. He knows Wednesday had Laura killed. He knows Sweeney and Laura have a thing.
Will he condemn Laura for her past indiscretions and this one and go for Wednesday? Can Wednesday spin it for his own good? Or will he rebel and then find he can’t break away?
Brittany: A mixture. I do not think he will condemn Laura. I do, however, think Wednesday can spin it and make it out to be about his fate or some other mumbo jumbo he thinks up without actually giving Shadow the truth.
Thor was enough soul-bearing for Wednesday this season. And Shadow may find that unacceptable, he may once again throw Wednesday’s words back at him only to find that this time, there isn’t a fun heist on the other side.
Natalie: Sweeney’s flashbacks go in reverse chronological order. His post-madness when he allegedly was killed (though we know he wasn’t) – then the true madness with his wife and child, visiting.
The one he remembers when talking to Salim, maybe that one is the purest. The argument between him and his queen about the Grey Monks. Before everything goes south.
In it, she says “Listen to one who doesn’t want anything from you but a very long life.” And I think that’s a huge moment and a huge reason for being. Sweeney is honest and honorable and exhausted and infuriated by all these game players.
Brittany: Twisting stories to make their desires fit the narrative.
Natalie: Manipulation is his poison. He can’t keep a secret worth a damn. Shadow needs a party in his corner with the same motivations as Queen Eorann. And the thing is, Sweeney did not listen. And he clearly struggles with that. With compromise when his gut tells him something is wrong. Even when someone only wants his best.
I am sure he wishes he wasn’t this way, and he is trying to help Shadow and Laura.
They can trust him, but they won’t, and it is tragic – like the curse of Cassandra. True prophecies that no one will believe.
Brittany: Oddly, and hear me out, this reminds me of a Sue Sylvester quote.
“There’s not much of a difference between a stadium full of cheering fans and an angry crowd screaming abuse at you” – Laura and Shadow are only hearing the abuse, but really Sweeney is cheering for them to just open their eyes and take a hold of what is in front of them.
It’s a stretch. But it’s where I’m at.
Natalie: Yeah, I see it.
And what I find interesting about the story he tells Bilquis and Salim is that Sweeney accepts his curse – he accepts that he did wrong in confronting Ronan, going against Eorann’s advice. He accepts the punishment, and his fate. But then he becomes a coward and fears it and runs away.
And all of that is what made him what he is. Ultimately, he is looking to make up for the fact that he missed his assigned slot for spear death. He took a number and then left his ticket on the waiting room chair.
To me, wanting to fulfill that prophecy rather than find his own path is an admission that he regrets going against Eorann and doing what he did to Ronan. He thinks he has earned this punishment and wants to see it through honorably.
Why won’t anyone trust him?!!
Brittany: I wish I knew.
Natalie: The bedroom scene just enraged me. Shadow is so cocky about being the spear carrier.
Brittany: Yes, Shadow at his worst. Even as he faces being told that this attitude he has now will quickly fade.
Natalie: If a 6’5” crying leprechaun who hates you shows up in your door and is like please protect your wife from this dude. Why the hell wouldn’t you be like, “Explain everything right now. ”
Instead, Sweeney gets, “Why do you even care?” Like Shadow, honey, do you not have questions?
Brittany: For. Real.
Natalie: Read the room! Can’t you see what this is costing him? Oh man…
Brittany: And Sweeney by the end sees that all of this is hopeless. That he is talking to a brick wall. But he tosses out that one final request — don’t get in the way.
Natalie: No one can say he didn’t try very hard.
Brittany: Even sprinkling on the note that the gods are not the heroes in this story.
Natalie: The $20 passing back and forth is an interesting element as well because that, in the book, we know that’s his “ticket out” – he uses it to get drunk and freeze to death. But he gives it to Ibis, so there is this… well… shadow hanging over — Will he live? How will he die? What are we changing here?
He’s extremely blunt about the gods not being the heroes. Right here. In your face. Thank you.
I would like to award Sweeney one (1) gold star sticker for not slapping Shadow in the face when he gives that warning about being fucked and Shadow is like “spoken like the dog he just kicked.”
Brittany: I felt that the money handoff here was when I took that turn back to thinking, “Oh, he’s going to die and it’s going to be worse than anything I imagined.” That he took that moment to double-down on getting his story set straight. Because Ibis has the line, “stories are truer than the truth.”
Natalie: Yes. Ibis… wow. And I don’t disagree with Ibis there. That is what story is for. But it does feel sinister!
Brittany: And this is, of course, after we get the earliest story of the God King protecting Ireland, Long Hand with his deadly spear, god of luck, the sun, everything of value. Again this tracks, his position of the protector of the people until the madness took him over.
But the story itself, the twisting of Ibis’ words over Sweeney’s memories is what gets under my skin a bit here. Where he tells Sweeney that he is wrong about his feelings of this memory and how he sees it. Bilquis similarly says, that’s not the story you told me when things started getting muddled. But here is comes across as more of an outright declaration of You. Are. Wrong.
Natalie: Leading the witness. In a very nice cravat.
Brittany: Always impeccably tailored. Which unnerves me even more.
Natalie: Sweeney is hyper vulnerable in this moment as well When he says, “What are you writing now?” he has the trembly eyebrows. Like he fears what he can’t make clear. Or is upset he can’t remember.
Brittany: Yes, exactly. He trusts that this is the version he does not want to hear. His voice breaks as he asks.
I think fears what he cannot remember. As if he tucked it away for a reason. Or it was put away by the madness, either way, there is a fear of finding it again.
And he knows that Ibis will tell the story and set it down permanently in ink. Sealing his fate. That is what will carry on since no one is around to verbally speak it.
Heavy stuff happening in that room, so who do can you trust to get it right if you don’t remember yourself?
Natalie: It’s very much a therapy session so I hate that it isn’t Pure and Supportive. “No, that’s not right” – DON’T TELL PEOPLE HOW TO FEEL. I’m boggled by this frankly.
The stories of Lugh and Buile Shuibhne aren’t, to my knowledge, connected in Irish Mythology, so this is a liberty taken to turn one into the other over the centuries. Which we’ve seen with plenty of other gods here, the adaptation.
But the thing is, Lugh was, to his people, much the same leader as Odin was to the Norse. So, this must BURN.
He was a king, once.
Brittany: What did you think of the killing of the father’s father? And turning that lineage into one that connects him to Odin?
Natalie: Do we think that all Grimnr’s “men” are in some way his lineage and primed to hold his vigil? Has he just been rounding up sons and grandsons and Thors and Shadows and Sweeneys so that one of them can count as the vigil?
WHY DOESN’T HE JUST TRY BEING NICE AND NOBLE AND HONEST THEN? And actually fostering, you know, love?
Brittany: If this lineage tracks, he drowned his grandsons one by one. There is no changing him, just as there is no changing Sweeney. And yes, I do think he is rounding up options for a vigil. And that’s all, gathering them like pigs for slaughter.
Natalie: Sick. And for all Ibis is pushing the story one way, he does seem genuinely concerned that Sweeney found this resolve and isn’t thinking about tomorrow. And there goes the Book Death $20.
Tell me what you felt when you saw that ticket out leave his hands.
Brittany: All my hope that somehow he would get out of this alive fizzled.
Natalie: I feel like we knew this from the episode title and dreaded it, but how it played out…
Brittany: What did you think of the breakdown Sweeney kind of has before he issues one final, final, very slow request to Shadow? About the eating of the fairy food.
What was he doing there, we saw the potato salad over the entire episode, but here it is a feast of leftovers?
Natalie: I’m happy for him, I think. In that moment. Where he feels free. The thing is, I don’t know if all is as he seems. Maybe the wailing women were not banshees. Maybe this is all a delusion and his death are the fulfillment of his Wednesday compact.
But he feels free.
Brittany: Don’t. Get. In. The. Way. The persistence.
Natalie: So hot. So sad. The Jinn is totally on Sweeney’s side. I wish they could have had a chat this episode.
Brittany: And of course, Shadow does not listen, and they battle. Leading to Sweeney, filled with this new found freedom, spilling everything to Shadow as the end approaches, the ultimate blow to Wednesday.
Natalie: Sweeney is definitely holding the cards now, he is empowered. He achieves a lot with his death. And it’s for what he believes in. I hate Wednesday so much in how he just watches Sweeney and Shadow like “whatevs.”
Brittany: Eating his stupid fairy food.
Natalie: This obviously mirrors their meeting. And thier combat. This time it is very much not for the sheer unholy delight of it.
Brittany: And the look on Shadow’s face when it happens.
Natalie: I mean, do you think it was a true accident?
Brittany: I think I alluded to this way, way earlier, but I think it was fate and luck shaking hands here. Laura arrives as this happens and so Sweeney is the closest to his coin in this moment, but also his fate to die by the spear. I do think Shadow will feel it was an accident, but I think it had to do with luck as unfortunate as that is for Laura who is just around the corner.
Natalie: She’s right outside! We will talk about the MadWife of it all in a minute. But oooof.
At least Shadow apologized. He can have a smiley face sticker. Not a gold star. Shadow – and better – Wednesday – do genuinely look concerned and shocked.
But after Shadow beats Sweeney about sleeping with Laura, he does go to confront Odin as well, like he takes out the momentary rage on Sweeney then does believe him and goes to rage at Wednesday.
So why does he stop the damn spear? He still has the instinct to serve Wednesday, or maybe just prevent death.
Brittany: The instinct to stop death I think is the answer here. Or at least the one I want to believe.
We know what he says at the top of the episode that every life taken with the spear is in tribute to him. Do you think he feels that from Sweeney? Is any power given to Wednesday in that moment? Or is he still robbed of something?
Natalie: Nah. I think that this one breaks the rules. Or what little it offers to him is nothing compared to what Sweeney does with it. It’s the sun’s treasure now.
Brittany: Do you think Laura can go to the hoard? Get the spear and the memories, knowledge Sweeney stashed there?
Natalie: Someone has to go in there. I feel like we will see Pablo again when we do. But yeah they kind of need that back. And again, books, Laura, spear… this is a richer version.
Because there’s an endgame here.
Brittany: I’m hopeful they will find a way to make this Laura and Sweeney thing feel complete. We still need the blood, too.
Natalie: I want to talk about the book a bit, in terms of which death you preferred if you had to choose, and Laura is a good entry point to that. In the book, where Shadow finds Sweeney before he dies, he’s desperate to get the coin back. He doesn’t know Laura has it. He doesn’t know who Laura is, really.
Though it is implied that he did cause the crash for Wednesday. So, this whole dead wife coin journey is moot. And he dies without fulfilling his curse or destiny. No battle, Wednesday’s or his own. A sad failure of a death, albeit with a much kinder Shadow trying to help him.
Here, given that his story shifted so dramatically, how would you have felt if he had that sad failure of a death?
Brittany: If we stumbled upon him under that bridge and he didn’t get up…I don’t know if I could accept that.
Natalie: So, if he had to die, you’ll take the spear and the fuck you?
Brittany: An honorable, fuck you. What about you? I’d imagine you’d pick the same.
Natalie: I hated that it had to happen. But it was such an empowering message that proved his value. It dropped a lot of mics. But of course, the key is Laura. She’s the reason he found his own battle. Without connecting with her, he just faded away.
Brittany: And he empowered her to destroy.
Natalie: And I love it. I love their connection. I do not think their story is over. I just hope that it is validated the way I want it to be. I want to see the fallout of this, when she finds him dead… a confrontation with Shadow. Maybe they will reunite inside the hoard, and keep what is precious.
I don’t know if Laura will live or die at the end of the series, but I feel like that coin is now her tie to HIM. In the book she knew nothing about it.
Is it weird to think that this death and what was revealed in it, what it means to all parties, will bury the love between Shadow and Laura? Or would it rekindle it?
Brittany: It is murky, and complicated, and I love it.
Natalie: We mentioned this when planning the episode, but Shadow learning how she died and then killing the person in her corner trying to bring her justice. It’s not a healthy loving foundation.
Laura might not know exactly how she feels about Sweeney but when she pieces it all together rationally it’s kind of clear about the right and wrong. She told him to go find his own battle. When she sees that he did, when she learns what it was?
Brittany: With what we’ve seen from Shadow, I don’t think he is going to let her go that easily. He doesn’t know what he feels towards her, Laura is still burying this connection to Sweeney – the love part of it anyway – and then to have them reunite over the body of this man who knows everything, but cannot play mediator… well, I think it is going to be frustrating to sort out.
Natalie: So next time on “Butterfly Meme Is This Manipulation?” Laura’s outside. Sweeney is dead in a pool of his own blood. Shadow has just had a huge info dump dropped on him. Wednesday gives maybe three quarters of a fuck about any of this. Aside from of course, Gungnir.
How did he do it? Sweeney had to have been leaning into power or belief stronger than the spear. His will is incredible. Wednesday is right. What a waste. But maybe I mean it for different reasons.
Brittany: Sweeney had his coin, Shadow’s brief but undivided attention. Maybe that was enough.
Natalie: There’s no way the blood potion isn’t getting some sort of debate next Sunday. He was her truth. Admitting her feelings for him on the voodoo astral plane earned her the potion.
Do the math, Laura. And then she can give the lucky coin back. A little too late. But hey, it brought her back from the dead. Maybe they can trade.
Brittany: He is still owed that coin.
Natalie: I really want to watch Shadow watch Laura lovingly mourn him Because that dude is on my List right now.
Brittany: I would as well, but I don’t think Laura has it in her to mourn in that way. I think a private mourn will be more her style. Can’t let the people catch on that she has real and true feelings.
Natalie: Well, maybe someone will catch her in the act. Either way, I want it now and I want Sweeney back. But what a triumph.
Brittany: Easily the best episode of the series in my book.
Natalie: If Pablo isn’t getting circulated in For Your Considerations right now, there is no justice in the world.
American Gods season 2 airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET on Starz.