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207: Treasure of the Sun – The Dominant Paradigm: An American Gods Podcast
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DwayneD   |  @   |  
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American Gods - Mad Sweeney the God King

The Dominant Paradigm is a weekly podcast where Geeks of Doom Podcast hosts Dwayne D, Andrew Sorcini, and Tosin Onafowokan discuss STARZ’s TV series American Gods, the works that inspired it, and the larger questions about the lenses in which we see our world, AKA, the paradigms.

Below you’ll find a written recap of the season 2 episode of American Gods (Episode 2.7 “Treasure of the Sun”), followed by some salient points and imagery, questions, and notes on the thematic *big picture.*

Podcast (play or download podcast here)

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The Recap

Shadow finds Mad Sweeney under a bridge. The leprechaun 🍀 made his way back to Cairo, hoping he’d find Laura after she left him in Louisiana. Having lost Laura (and his coin), he’s down on his luck. He warns Shadow. They both make their way toward the funeral home.

American Gods - Yggdrasil an Ibis Ibis and Yggdrasil are ready for war.

The Yggdrasil tree Wednesday is cultivating has gone from being a potted plant to being a young tree twice as tall as a man. Wednesday says he’s ready for war. Ibis and the Jinn recount who’s on their team. Alone, Wednesday unveils his broken spear to shadow. He cuts a sprig off of Yggdrasil and uses it to repair the spear. He gives it to Shadow and tells him to guard it since it’s tied to Wednesday’s life.

We find Laura in Tennessee at a roadside diner where she encounters Mama-Ji. Laura makes it plain that she’s no friend of Wednesday. Kali reveals herself to Laura, and Laura finds a way to respect her. Laura learns from Mama-Ji that she has the power to destroy and she gives Laura a piece of paper. Laura leaves, hitchhiking.

Back in the funeral home, Bilquis makes a risqué sermon in the chapel of the funeral home that sexually arouses all the women in attendance. Mad Sweeney gives her his confession, and the audience is treated to a flashback. Mad Sweeney comes out of his reverie to find himself alone except for Wednesday. They argue and we learn that it was Sweeney who killed Laura. We also see him try to get out of his contract with Wednesday. Wednesday commands that Sweeney finish off Laura Moon. Banshees come for Sweeney, who recalls a time when he was alone in the wilderness, eating ants from a tree. He was a king who abandoned his troops on the field of battle, and when he did, the Christian bishop cursed him to poverty and madness. In a conversation with Shadow, Mad Sweeney lets slip that since Shadow is Wednesday’s bodyguard, should Wednesday die, Shadow will have to hold Wednesday’s vigil. Sweeney makes a deal with Shadow to make sure that when the death comes, he’ll stay out of the way.

American Gods - Shadow and Sweeney and the spear, Gungnir Stay out of my way Shadow.

At dinner, Sweeney attempts to use the spear to take on Wednesday and Shadow intervenes. As the two spar, Mad Sweeney reveals to Shadow that he killed Laura on Wednesday’s orders. Shadow stops fighting with Sweeney and moved to confront Wednesday. With his back turned, Mad Sweeney picks up the spear, yelling as he hurls it toward Wednesday in a killing throw. Shadow intercepts the spear, turning as he deflects down the force of the object, and mistakenly kills Mad Sweeney. In his final act before dying, Mad Sweeney takes the spear and hides it in his hoard – a location difficult for Wednesday to get to.

Salient Themes and Imagery

American Gods - Spear-wielding Mad Sweeney Sweeney is of the sun.

Title: Treasure of the Sun
The shiny one is what they used to call Mad Sweeney.
“The spear is the sun’s treasure now” (now in the hoard).

Mad Sweeney Warns Shadow Moon

“I’m gonna tell ya somethin’. This is gallows ground you’re walkin’, and there’s a rope around your neck, and a raven bird on each shoulder, waiting’ for your eyes. The gallows tree has deep roots; stretches from Heaven, all the way down to Hell; and this world is the only branch from which the rope is swinging.”

As Sweeney says these lines, the camera pans to an industrial structure behind him — a railroad crossing or bridge, that looms like a giant, rusting, iron tree. It seems abandoned. No workers, no train rolling by — it’s a bit of infrastructure that’s possibly no longer in service, it’s workers hung by their own efficiency. For me it was a reminder that these aren’t the words of just any god, but a god within America…an American God.

Mad Sweeney? Ants Sweeney!
Ants cause Mad Sweeney to freak out. He first sees them after talking about Laura (dead wife). Ants represent something getting under his skin. Closer to the ground, and becoming one with the earth. But also closer to his past.

F@!&k the Fairies

WEDNESDAY: Fuck the Fairies.
MAD SWEENEY [to Salim]: You gonna let him talk about us like that?

Sheba’s Got Her Groove Back

  • Bilquis has adapted from spreading her worship carnally to preaching religion to attract worshippers.
  • Bilquis newly minted as a religious leader.
  • Highlighting the love within the religious text.

American Gods - Shadow Kills Sweeney (by accident) Shadow defends Wednesday and Sweeney goes down.

Sweeney Drops Knowledge on Shadow

MAD SWEENEY: “Not all gods are heroes, Shadow.”

Very interesting considering that Mad Sweeney is both a God AND a war hero.

Standoff of the Giants
Ricky Whittle is a solid man who stands at 6’1”. Pablo Schreiber looks gaunt with clothes on, but topless, he’s 6’5” of pure muscle definition. It was great to see director Paco Cabezas put them face to face a few times, squaring off against one another.

American Gods. The coin trick is also a deal Mad Sweeney makes a deal with Shadow. But Shadow’s also made a deal with Wednesday. It doesn’t work out well for Sweeney.

Sweeney Sees Past Madness
Sweeney’s story portrays an uncertain man who becomes certain by the end. The quintessential Hollywood depiction of a drunk, he takes a sip but is more sober than he’s ever been. It’s as if the bottom of the bottle causes Mad Sweeney to remember.

The Last Supper
Wednesday sitting at the table, eating food ravenously as Shadow and Mad Sweeney come to blows over him.

Laura and the fear of God
Laura finally sees something she fears — Mama-Ji, AKA Kali.

American Gods - Moon and Mama-Ji Laura gains some guidance — and some respect — from Mama-Ji.

Shadow Moon?
Sweeney continues to call Shadow Moon, “Moon Shadow.” Expect a foreshadow here. (No pun intended.)

Questions

  1. What does it mean that Laura has “the power of the destroyer,” as Mama-Ji describes?
  2. What is the job that Mad Sweeney owes Wednesday? Is it to finish Laura Moon?
  3. Where was Mr. Nancy?
  4. Was it Wednesday who tried to get him killed and put him in this pickle? (Wednesday also attacked his other son, Donar/Thor). Sweeney’s father was a one-eyed god, and Ireland was raided by the Norse people (“Vikings”) repeatedly.

The Big Picture

American Gods - Sweeney in love Before being “Mad,” he was just Sweeney. And he had love to live for.

THE OLD GOD ROSTER

  • Jacquel
  • Sett
  • Horus
  • Bast
  • Anansi/Mr. Nancy
  • Other Ifrits from Chicago
  • Mama-Ji
  • Czernobog

Complications? Bilquis remains a free agent.

Rethinking Wednesday’s Spear (Gungnir)
Wednesday says two interesting things about the spear.

  1. Every life it takes is tribute to him. If you’ve read the book, then you already know that, but in the book, that’s a twist-creating revelation.
  2. He says that the spear is tied to his life. That’s a clue as to his weaknesses.

These admissions create a phenomenon we like to call Chekov’s Spear.

American Gods - Mama-Ji is ever-present where the Hindu community exists. Mama-Ji’s just like most moms — she’s seemingly everywhere. But unlike most moms, she’s a DESTROYER.

Mama-Ji is Everywhere – But only for the 1st Generation
Mama-Ji gets her power from roadside diners because they’re owned by the Hindu Diaspora. She’s older because they are older. The youth they’ve raised in America, the second generation — they don’t worship her, which upsets her.

Breaking Down Mad Sweeney

Here’s the incredible quote that relates Mad Sweeney’s story:

“There was a girl. I remember that much. She had the sight. And she let me play with her boobies under the stars. And she told me my fortune. Told me I’d be undone and abandoned West of the Sunrise, and that a dead woman’s bow would seal my fate. I laughed and I poured more barley wine, and played with her boobies some more, and I kissed her full on her pretty breasts. Those were the last of the good days. The grey monks were changing our stories, making us fair folk into greedy little green men which is all fucking bollocks. I used to be… can’t remember.”

Ibis contributes to Mad Sweeney’s conflicting and jumbled stories:

“A storyteller does not concern himself with the truth. Stories are truer than the truth. These are not literal constructs as much as imaginative recreations.”

Significant Changes from the book

American Gods - Warchief Sweeney Between a prophecy and a hatred of Christianity, the battle-hardened King Sweeney doesn’t do so well here.

  • Mad Sweeney’s life
  • Mad Sweeney’s death
  • The expanding role of the spear
  • The prominence of Yggdrasil
  • The newly created role of “Sweeney’s Hoard”

That’s a wrap! Join us next week for an intelligent, entertaining discussion of STARZ’s latest hit series.

Podcast

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