Warning: This article contains SPOILERS from American Gods episode "Treasure of the Sun".
American Gods, season 2, episode 7, "Treasure of the Sun," has given the character of Mad Sweeney a far more epic death than he received in the original book. This is somewhat strange given the care the series took in developing the leprechaun who preferred Southern Comfort to Guinness as a character. Indeed, many felt that Mad Sweeney was the break-out character of season 2.
In the original novel by Neil Gaiman, Mad Sweeney only appeared in two scenes. In the first, he got into a bar fight with protagonist Shadow Moon and taught him the trick of pulling true gold coins out of thin air, leaving him with one gold coin to keep. Later in the book, a bedraggled Mad Sweeney encounters Shadow and begs him for the return of his coin, which was a magic coin not meant to be given away. Unfortunately, for Mad Sweeny, Shadow had thrown the coin into the grave of his recently deceased wife, Laura, and when he passed by the bridge where he saw Mad Sweeney later, he saw that Mad Sweeney had apparently died of a combination of exposure and withdrawal.
The American Gods TV series dramatically changed this story, turning Mad Sweeney (played by Pablo Schreiber) into a key member of the ensemble. The show paired Mad Sweeney with Laura Moon, who found herself unexpectedly resurrected by the magical golden coin Shadow tossed onto her grave. This led to an odd and oddly hilarious partnership, as Mad Sweeney reluctantly agreed to help Laura find her husband and a way to be resurrected in exchange for the eventual return of his coin.
American Gods Made Sweeney's Death More Epic
"Treasure of the Sun" shifted Mad Sweeney's story even further away from his character in the original novel, as it revealed something of his life and how he came to be a god, a legendary king, and then a leprechaun. The episode tells three conflicting stories, all tied to how the legends of the god Mad Sweeney had been, showing how he had changed over the years, becoming weaker and more confused as the core of who he was became forgotten. This seems to mirror what is happening to the Old Gods in modern day America, with the invaders of ancient Ireland taking the legends of the Celts and changing their gods into "faeries and saints and dead kings."
The three tales also give three differing prophecies, two of which tell how Mad Sweeney would meet his end. In one, he is told he would be undone and abandoned west of the sunrise and that a dead woman's bauble would seal his fate. In another, a Christian priest curses him to die on the end of a spear. The third prophecy has Mad Sweeney using a spear to save his people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, from the one-eyed mad god Balor.
By the end of the episode, all three prophecies come true. Mad Sweeney dies in America - west of where the sun sets relative to Ireland. His fate is sealed by the loss of his coin to Laura Moon, making it a dead woman's bauble. Mad Sweeney dies on the end of a spear, after he tries to throw Odin's spear Gungnir at Mr. Wednesday, only to have Shadow Moon catch it and turn the point upon him as he advances.
Can Gungnir Be Retrieved From the Horde?
Things take an interesting turn as the third prophecy is fulfilled, with Mad Sweeney using his ability to access his extra-dimensional "horde" to store Gungnir where Mr. Wednesday can't get it. In doing so, he believes he is saving his people from Balor, who he has come to associate with the one-eyed Wednesday. He may be mad to believe so, but Mad Sweeney certainly threw a monkey wrench into Mr. Wednesday's plans for the coming conflict heading into American Gods' season 2 finale. It remains to be seen how Mr. Wednesday might recover his spear but the most likely bet seems to involve Shadow Moon having been taught the trick of accessing the horde for himself - a trick he seemingly forgot after his first encounter with Mad Sweeney.