A review of tonight’s Preacher coming up just as soon as we run out of duct tape…
Somewhere along the way of this season, I lost track of the fact that AMC had ordered 13 episodes instead of last year’s 10, and began to worry that the series had somehow managed to work at an even less productive pace this time around once it swapped in New Orleans for Annville as the prime location. I watched “Holes” with that incorrect episode total in my head, and grew more and more impatient as it continued to inch forward ever so carefully through Tulip’s Saint of Killers PTSD, Denis’ request for Cassidy to make him a vampire, Eugene’s time in Hell, Featherstone’s surveillance of Jesse and friends, and even Jesse’s search for the man who shot Mark Harelik. As the eighth hour out of 10, it felt frustratingly casual, as if a season that was nearly over hadn’t even fully started yet.
As the eighth of 13? Well… no, it’s still a problem, even if Catlin and company have a bit more time to get to whatever the point of this season is.
What is this season about? What is the show about? Yes, we know that Jesse is on a quest to literally find God, and that Tulip and Cassidy are both tagging along for their own reasons (Tulip’s love for Jesse, Cassidy’s crippling loneliness), but often it feels like Preacher is as uncertain as its title character about how to proceed with that quest. The Annville stretch seemed like a budget-saving way to establish the characters and the tone, and the early episodes this year suggested we were finally getting some real forward momentum, but now too much of what’s happening feels like filler — or like excuses to set up memorable moments like the single-take fight scene in the kill room, rather than as episodes meant to be compelling as a whole. We’re now into the back half of the season, little progress has been made in the search, and while we’ve met some interesting characters along the way, some (like Herr Starr) have yet to even meet Jesse, and others (like Denis) have largely lingered in the background. There are small bits of momentum here and there — Hitler here attempting to protect Eugene from an eternity trapped in the hole living an even more nightmarish version of his worst moment ever, Tulip meeting Featherstone (and suspecting something is odd with her equipment set-up, if not figuring out that she’s there to watch Jesse) — but not enough considering the lack of overall story or character meat. Tulip and Cassidy’s apathy for the mission at times feels like it applies to the series as a whole.
The actors are still terrific, and the show can still pull off individual moments like Eugene’s vision of Tracy and Jesse as a couple dueting on “Closing Time” or the flashback to Cassidy (whose first name is revealed to be Proinsias) singing a lullaby to baby Denis, but the parts haven’t been adding up to a satisfying whole for a lot of the season. Even Cassidy’s dilemma about whether to grant Denis’ request felt too diffuse to hit as hard as it should have, even though Joseph Gilgun was giving it his all. If Preacher is in slowdown mode, anyway, I might have preferred a full hour devoted to flashbacks showing us the long and sad life Cassidy described to Tulip — “Then everyone you ever care about just dies, except you” — rather than hearing bits and pieces of it while the other stories crawled forward.
Starr would seem to be arriving in New Orleans soon, and the reveal at the end of the episode that the Harelik DVD was made by Grail Industries — and thus, that the Grail is in direct communications with Heaven and knew that they needed to send a fake God to impersonate the real one — suggests the overall story can get interesting in a hurry. But hurrying doesn’t seem to be how Preacher rolls, and at the moment I’m not feeling enough of a reward from this more deliberate pace.
What did everybody else think? How are you feeling about season two at this stage?