Various elements of the episode will be discussed in this review, so beware spoilers. And watch the episode before you read on, lest you face the wrath of the almighty. Or Cassidy…
People spend time either escaping from or heading to Hell this week on Preacher, but for those watching who want some actual forward movement on the plot, especially given that the season finale is knocking on the door, the experience was more akin to being trapped in limbo. When whole swathes of your episode are dedicated to flashbacks that reveal very little about characters or story, you really have to question why you bothered. So while the scenes showing the Saint’s past were certainly another good showcase for the talents of Graham McTavish (who gets mileage out of a character whose main motivation and mood is that he’s a grumpy, supernatural menace), that and the extended look at the Grail retrieving and hatching a deal with the Saint didn’t have that much purpose, and ate up 25 minutes or so of screen time. There was fun to be found with Grail lackey Hoover hesitatingly getting in touch with the powerful killer from the front of the freshly raised truck, but it mostly seemed to be catching up people who have never seen the show to this point, an odd idea for the episode before the last of the year.
Elsewhere, Cassidy and Tulip at least got to do something other than worry about the Saint – his reappearance in their lives at least seemed to shake Tulip out of her doldrums – or clean up after Denis, though their chat about Jesse, spiky as it was at times, still didn’t quite push the needle in terms of the trio’s relationship. We’ve seen them do this before.
As for the big return engagement between our heroes and the cowboy, that allowed mostly for one of the fun fight scenes that Preacher indulges in from time to time, and usually pulls off with aplomb. This wasn’t a vintage example, but shot by erstwhile Breaking Bad cinematographer/director Michael Slovis, it still offered some fun as Tulip, Cassidy and Jesse took on the Cowboy. Turns out, none of them had a good time of it – Tulip and Cassidy ended up flung in various directions and Jesse endured a beating at the hands of the Saint. But true to its frustrating current form, the encounter ended with a demon ex machina, as, about to scalp the Preacher, the Saint was unceremoniously recalled to Hell by Ms. Mannering and her goons. And, threatened with his wife or child taking his place, he went quietly. It’s not exactly the clash for the ages we were all hoping for.
Following a quick trip to the Grail office of Herr Starr (cue Cassidy unable to stop commenting on how ugly he is), Tulip, Cassidy and Jesse reconvened at a diner. The scene with his friends telling Jesse what a bad idea it is to become the new messiah was decent, but mostly felt like setting up more down the line.
We also spent time in Hell this week, as Eugene and Hitler tried to figure out the secret way to escape. turns out, it was tied to Eugene figuring out how to escape variations of his personal hell (including his father’s displeasure, featuring the welcome return of W. Earl Brown) and then unlocking a portal out as though getting free from the underworld is a video game to be conquered. There’s potentially fertile territory to be mined now that Eugene (and, assuming he makes it, Hitler) free out in the world, but this hasn’t been the most satisfying subplot.
Preacher has taken its time this season, but even with a more relaxed schedule and more episodes, it hasn’t quite hit that sweet spot again. Despite plenty of promise in the search for God, that plot hasn’t yielded much in the way of good television, so now we see how the Jesse-as-Messiah idea plays out, assuming that isn’t just a bluff blown off in the next episode, the way Annville was simply blown up last year. There are pieces that could make a fun finale, so we’ll see if the show pulls it off next week.
Highlight: The big fight.
Lowlight: The manufactured tension between the trio.
Kill of the week: Tracy Loach died a few times this week, as did Eugene’s old troop leader, who apparently had a yen for inappropriate touching.
MVP: Cassidy, for his enthusiastic fighting, more foreskin talk and his reaction to Herr Starr – “he looked like a boiled egg.”
Random thought: Did it seem like Jesse has much more powerful healing factors? Cassidy and Tulip both had to go into an ambulance, but Custer seemed all but unscathed.
Airing on AMC Monday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Tuesdays in the UK.