‘Preacher’ Hits ‘The End Of The Road’ In The Finale Of A Frustrating Second Season

A review of the Preacher season finale — and season two as a whole — coming up just as soon as I get my fart machine back…

There was a moment early in “The End of the Road” where I found myself perking up in my chair, nearly giddy with anticipation. It was the moment when teenage Jesse, at the end of a long day of greeting tourists at the gates to Angelville, is confronted by the mysterious T.C. and Jody in the truck. We don’t hear them, and we only see Jody’s arm (which he uses to punish Jesse for trying to skim money for himself), but the merest hint of Jody — one of the most memorable characters, from one of the best arcs, in the Preacher comics — was enough to briefly thrill me.

Yet nearly all of the thrill came from my memories of reading about Jody a few decades ago, rather than what Preacher the TV show was doing. And by the time “The End of the Road” reached its own end, I realized that most of what was still keeping me on that journey was nostalgia for those days when I first read the comics, and the occasional moments when the series was able to evoke it.

And that’s not enough of a reason for me to keep writing about a show, week after week. Maybe not even enough to keep watching if it gets renewed for a third season.

I never expected, or even wanted, a straightforward translation of the comics(*). The problem is that with rare exceptions — Tulip in particular, and they largely ruined her this year — the show’s many deviations from the source material weren’t that interesting in their own right, and often seemed like budget-saving decisions for an adaptation that would require nearly Game of Thrones money to tell straight.

(*) I was pleasantly surprised when one of the episodes that aired during my vacation was able to be very faithful to the comics’ depiction of Christ’s inbred descendant, Humperdido, which I initially thought might be too blasphemous even for an AMC show. Then again, Preacher is so far off the pop culture radar that there wasn’t much risk of widespread protests, even though I know there were some smaller objections.

Parking our heroes in one locale for each year is far less expensive than a perpetual road trip would be, but it creates a sour, claustrophobic feel to the whole affair, and this season rendered three characters who should all ideally be fun and larger than life into depressives who spent most of their time moping around small, dirty, underpopulated rooms together. (When exciting things happen, half the time they’re revealed to be dream sequences.) Despite production being based in New Orleans this season, Annville somehow wound up feeling like the more real and memorable location; season one had its problems, but after all that time in Denis’ apartment, I found myself wishing we could be back in the wide open spaces with Sheriff Root and Emily.

That the three leads were all so miserable wasn’t an accident. It was the primary arc of the season, as Jesse’s inability to find God, Tulip’s Saint of Killers PTSD, and Cassidy’s guilt over abandoning Denis forced all of them to turn inward and away from both the mission and one another. It may have been intentional, but it wasn’t particularly pleasant or interesting to watch, and wasn’t a great use of the leads. They all have dramatic chops, Negga in particular, but in these roles they tend to shine the most when their characters’ inner darkness co-exists with their outward boisterousness, and there was little of that to be found, especially once the trio made it to the Big Easy.

The Hell interludes (a complete invention by Sam Catlin and company) were at least weird enough to be fun, with Noah Taylor somehow turning Hitler into an object of pity until the revelation in the finale that he was conning Eugene (either the whole time or right at the end) because he saw him as his ticket out of Hell and back into the land of the living. And as I mentioned a few weeks back, Pip Torrens and Julie Ann Emery kept injecting the series with life anytime Herr Starr or Featherstone popped up on screen. But the season drained away most of the interest I had in Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, and when we got to Tulip bleeding out on Denis’ floor, I threw up my hands at how thoroughly the show seemed to have squandered this great resource of actress and character. That the season ends with Jesse and Cassidy driving to Angelville — a place where voodoo was practiced — with Tulip’s corpse in the backseat suggests she may not stay dead if there’s a renewal, but spending all, or even part, of another season in a place Jesse Custer despises doesn’t sound wildly entertaining to me, no matter how many cleverly staged fight scenes cut to ironic song choices (“My Sweet Lord” this time out) the show is able to deploy.

There are times — usually in the episodes Rogen and Goldberg direct — when Preacher seems juuuuuuust on the verge of figuring itself out. But those always turn out to be teases, just like all of Tulip and Cassidy’s talk of going to Bimini. If the show comes back and somehow finally gets on track, it wouldn’t be the first series (genre or otherwise) to need a while to do so, but my hope-watching of it is just about spent. For now, it is what it is: a stylish show that’s occasionally very entertaining, but too often a big idea in search of many little ideas to support itself.

What did everybody else think, of both the finale and where the show stands at the end of season two?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast.