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…
If last week’s episode seemed to introduce a new plot-driving force in the shape of the mysterious “super-secret crypto-religious fascist organization with designs on total world domination”, this week saw things get even slower as the show all but ignored that angle (we got a moment of the group’s van dropping Malcolm Barrett’s operative, disguised as a sign spinner, off outside Denis’ place) and instead concentrated on Jesse’s search for God (which took a slightly more literal turn) and Tulip confronting one of the apparent big sins of her past.
Let’s tackle the Jesse story first, shall we? It was… fine? Which sounds like it’s damning with faint praise, but did at least offer the fun of watching someone audition to play god. Bonus points for the fact that the actor who put himself on tape and ended up with the role of a lifetime – or life-ending time – is actually called Mark Harelik, with his character named after him. And we certainly enjoyed Custer and Cassidy confronting talent agent Teddy Gunth (fine Noo Yoik work from James Hiroyuki Liao), as the pair pretending to be casting Game Of Thrones. “Dinklage flies business!” is surely the line of the episode. That, and the lads’ reaction to the god audition tape were solid moments in the show, alongside the bizarre appearance of Frankie Muniz in the informercial where they spot Harelik and realise he was the fake God who appeared in Jesse’s church last season. We certainly could have done with some smoother dialogue in the scenes where they wondered about Tulip’s whereabouts, though.
As for the titular Tulip, this week’s more emotional moments belonged to Ruth Negga, who we last saw being scooped up by Viktor’s goons at the end of the last episode. Turns out she has quite the history with him – they were married, and might still be, and apparently Tulip betrayed him on some deep level. The casting of Paul Ben-Victor as Viktor is surely a coincidence (though we’re secretly hoping there were some Airplane-style “Victor/vector” jokes around the production office when he got the job), but he acquits himself well as the smooth criminal boss. Assuming that’s what he is, of course. We’re inferring a lot from the house full of goons and the convenient torture room near his office.
Tulip’s recriminatory tour was well handled, with the various henchmen giving her the cold shoulder and even Viktor’s daughter Ellie spitting in her face and hoping her father kills her. Credit to the stunt team for the moments where you think Tulip will get the better of Viktor’s men, but the real treat comes near the end of the episode, where Jessie learns of her whereabouts and goes charging in, God-voice on full power. We liked Pat the torturer ingeniously figuring out that Jessie had some vocal power over the others, slipping on headphones and blasting Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl. It forms the soundtrack for the fantastic fight between Jesse and Pat that goes badly mostly for the poor soul chained up in the torture room. Top marks to the team for the creative use of tools and other weapons in the clash.
And in between all that, we get The Further Adventures Of Eugene In Hell. It’s not yet clear where Arseface’s time in the creatively designed hell prison is going, and you do worry that this arc is mostly just an idea that Roger, Catlin and co. came up with and made them laugh. Eugene befriending Hitler? Then turning on him? History’s Worst Monster revealing that his private hell is a moment from his life where a Jewish man bumped into him and then his beloved hectors him about what should happen to German society? It’s a real deviation from the comics storyline of Arseface becoming famous, but we want to see how it plays out before we worry that it’s too much running time spent away from the main story.
Another slow episode, and one that seems to take a long time to really move either plot along in a satisfying manner. We’re all for moments spent with the characters doing their thing (though Cassidy is really getting short-changed this year thus far, largely moping around since the gang reached New Orleans). Hopefully with pieces in place such as Viktor and the cult who are after Genesis (not to mention The Saint Of Killers, who gets a brief check-in at the end), things will pick back up again.
Highlight: The fight scene between Jesse and Pat, the torturer, for the sheer level of invention.
Lowlight: Any of the scenes featuring Jesse and Cassidy talking about where Tulip is, seemingly repeating the same information to each other in a way that never quite reaches entertaining.
Kill of the week: RIP God. Or, we suppose, welcome to Mark Harelik’s first step to becoming the almighty’s stand-in.
MVP: Teddy Gunth.
Random thought: Frankie Muniz was in Malcolm In The Middle. As was Bryan Cranston. Preacher writer/showrunner Sam Catlin worked with Cranston on Breaking Bad. Someone please tell us this weird set of connections is how Muniz ended up in the infomercial!
Airing on AMC Monday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Tuesdays in the UK.