I cannot stop smiling about this week’s episode. It was all about Mad Sweeney, who’s my favorite, and his travels with two very strong women, played by the same actress. Woven through the modern day story is the story of how Mad Sweeney came to America, narrated by the one and only Mr. Ibis, who – as Mr. Jacquel remarks in the beginning of the episode – has a story to tell.
Essie McGowan is a young girl when we meet her. She waits for her father’s ship to return home as her grandmother tells her the tales of the fairy folk, including the leprechauns. As Essie grew up, she kept the tales with her and always left an offering to the leprechauns to grant her luck. She is branded a thief and sent away to America, but she finds her way back by making the captain of the ship she is on fall in love with her. After several weeks, she becomes the thief everyone thinks she is and she escapes.
She lives as a thief for a while, making her way on her own. And she always remembers the offering for the leprechaun. Until she forgets. She is caught and sent to jail once again. Awaiting execution, Essie speaks to her cell neighbor. But he isn’t just any neighbor. It’s Mad Sweeney come to test her resolve and her belief. He’s the one who’s watched over her her whole life and he continues to watch over her as she remembers his offerings. He helps her escape and go to America to live a peaceful life with a man who truly loves her.
Essie takes her stories and her beliefs with her, unknowingly taking Mad Sweeney with her. She tells her tales to her children and grandchildren but eventually her stories stop mattering to the children and so she keeps them within her until her death. And at the end, Mad Sweeney comes to her one last time and gives her the peace she’s waited for.
Interwoven throughout this story is present day Mad Sweeney, traveling with Laura. He accidentally lets slip where the Jinn will be and Laura tells Salim so that Salim can go on without them. They steal an ice cream truck and make good progress until a car accident opens up Laura’s autopsy wounds and the coin Mad Sweeney needs rolls out of her, leaving her dead once more.
He almost leaves her there. But a flashback to the night of Laura’s first death reveals that Mad Sweeney was the one to kill her and Robbie under Wednesday’s orders. And Mad Sweeney is too good a man to let her die once more. He gives her his coin, doesn’t tell her anything he’s just done, and they continue their journey.
The genius of this episode was having Emily Browning play both Laura, her regular character, and Essie. It made the connection between Laura and Mad Sweeney that much stronger and their interactions that much more beautiful. The other genius was in the final revelation as Mad Sweeney decides not to watch her die again. The acting throughout the episode was perfect as well. The subtleties of Pablo Schreiber’s Mad Sweeney is perfect to bringing him to life. I thought I couldn’t love Mad Sweeney more.
I was wrong.
Next week is already the season finale and I am so not ready for this to be over. Thankfully we have season 2 and the book to be reread (because I totally will). But still. This season has been the perfect mix of things I remembered with things I never knew because they were part of Neil Gaiman’s notes but not the actual story. I’ve loved every moment.
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