A review of tonight’s Preacher coming up just as soon as we agree to upgrade your ticket to business class…
Figures: one week after I point out how season two is focusing a bit more on episodic storytelling, we get an hour like “Viktor” that’s almost entirely serialized as it moves various arcs from Point C to Point D. Now, it’s a fun episode, including one of the show’s best-filmed fight scenes, a weirdly moving inside joke, and the unexpected Arseface/Hitler friendship, but it exists mostly to move various pieces around on the board.
Let’s start on the Earth-bound side of things, where the biggest developments are Jesse and Cassidy tracking down the actor who impersonated God when Jesse called him on the angel phone in the season one finale, and the revelation that Tulip isn’t a runaway employee of Viktor’s, but a runaway wife. Jesse and Cassidy’s hunt is amusing, between hard-boiled ’40s pastiche showbiz agent Teddy Gunt, and the revelation that the actor is hard-working character actor Mark Harelik(*) playing a long white bearded version of himself — and one who’s genuinely overwhelmed by the opportunity to play the role of a lifetime — but for this week, at least, it’s mainly a stall to keep Jesse from going to rescue Tulip until we’ve seen her spend some time getting the cold shoulder from Viktor’s henchmen and his daughter. That’s interesting because up until now, Tulip has been presented as someone most people love, yet the silent treatment she gets in Viktor’s house feels even more savage than when past associates try to kill her. Tulip’s betrayal of what turns out to be her husband had to be really, really bad to get her spit on by a little girl who’s rooting for her to die, but the various hitmen all seem embarrassed just to be around her. The assumption going in is that Viktor is a very bad guy — and he is, what with him having a torture suite connected to his home office — yet the longer we linger there, the more our sympathies seem to pivot away from Tulip, whom we know and like a lot. It’s interesting.
(*) Harelik’s been around a long time (I first noticed him as a gay man pretending to be Diane’s fiance in the Cheers finale), but he’s probably best known either as Milos from Seinfeld or the adulterous Dave Novotny from Election.
And when Jesse does find out what’s going on, we get a mix of the Word of God at full force until Viktor’s lead henchman Pat simply can’t hear it because he’s blasting “Uptown Girl” in his earbuds. This leads to some nifty camerawork from the team led by director Michael Slovis (formerly a brilliant director of photography on Breaking Bad, who helped craft many of that show’s iconic POV shots) as the brawl between Jesse and Pat plays out in what looks like a single take, with the camera whirling around the small room as the advantage and the weapons constantly shift. It arguably crosses the line into calling attention to itself in spots, but it also creates an immediacy (there was a Slovis-directed long oner when Jesse was rescuing “Florida” from the white-suited goons last week, too) and made the whole thing more memorable than if Slovis had shot it conventionally, and/or without Billy Joel singing an ode to Christie Brinkley in the background of it all.