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…
Well. If you were at all worried that the last two episodes saw Preacher slow down, then this week… Compounded the issue. After a solid start to the season, it’s starting to appear that the boosted episode count (13 this year) is giving the creators a touch of Netflix Syndrome, where dramas tend to waver midway through. Dallas, far from having anyone wake up in a shower with the realisation that it was all a dream (kids, ask your parents), travels back and forward in time to explore Jesse and Tulip’s thoroughly troubled (and, at times, rotten) relationship. Following on from last week’s revelation that Tulip used to be married to Viktor (Paul Ben-Victor), we at least get some interest in the early going as House Of Cards‘ Michael Morris directs the hell out of Custer confronting Viktor, ending with the latter hanging in harness, seemingly not long for the world.
Yet all that is simply the curtain-raiser for a long, and very predictable look at what happened between Miss O’Hare and Mr. Custer in the time between their betrayal on a job by Carlos (glimpsed in the last season) and almost where we meet them at the beginning of the series. It’s a long-winded look at the issues between the pair, and saying “‘Til the end of the world” until the actual end of the world won’t convince us it’s a trip worth taking.
The scenes set in Dallas are particularly hard to watch, and partly that’s because the show is used to portraying the central pair as difficult but varyingly devoted partners. We’ve had hints of trouble in the past, but what unspools here feels like a low-rent domestic drama where every beat is the sort of tropey romantic hiccup we’ve seen many times before. Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga do what they can to sell it, but there’s just not a lot of good material to be found there. One or two moments hit (it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the pair as they try to conceive again), but even those are undercut by a show that just can’t stop with the excess, even when it should probably cut it out for one episode. The montage of Jesse buying beer and pregnancy tests, smoking and having sex, a little like Game Of Thrones‘ poop patrol, goes on a bit too long.
One bright point is that Cassidy isn’t completely sidelined this week. While Joe Gilgun still isn’t getting the amount of chances to show off he deserves (particularly after Mumbai Sky Tower), his little heart-to-hearts with Tulip and then Jesse at least give him something to do other than mope. And he’s a quietly wily one, that vampire, even if he’s just trying to keep the peace.
No mention of Eugene this week, with the episode keeping its focus on Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy (with a few scraps for Viktor). We do at least have some connectivity with the previous season, as Dani (Julie Dretzin), the pair’s criminal handler reappears for the first time since episode 3 last year.
The big problem with Dallas is that it takes an entire episode to lay out little in the way of story. A lot of what you see (and feel) here could have been handled much more economically, and you end the episode with the idea that you don’t know much more about Jesse and Tulip than when you started. The big theme of forgiveness is out there in bright flashing neon, but Preacher does very little with it. It’s a big disappointment after the season launched in such kinetic, spectacular style. Not every hour of the show needs to be that chaotic, but if you’re going to go deep on your characters, make sure you really say or discover something.
Highlight: The one heartbreaking moment between Jesse and Tulip upon realising they’re not pregnant again for the first time.
Lowlight: Sweet merciful Zeus, why does Jesse decide that he’d look good with a mullet or a mop? If anything needs divine intervention, it’s that.
Kill of the week: Thanks to the Cowboy’s visit, Viktor’s men are dispatched quickly before the man himself is shot through the heart (and the Saint Of Killers is to blame. He gives love a bad name…)
MVP: Cassidy, for his “I’m with you” speech.
Random thought: Are we going to get a drawn-out origin story for how Jesse meets stoner buddy Reggie? Hope not…
Airing on AMC Monday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Tuesdays in the UK.