A review of tonight’s Preacher coming up just as soon as I get shot in the chest for unclear reasons…
After a couple of underwhelming episodes in a row focusing on Tulip’s relationship with Viktor — and on the bitterness at the heart of the Jesse/Tulip relationship — things picked up quite a bit with “Sokosha,” which allowed Jesse to at least temporarily defeat the Saint of Killers, and for the low low cost of a small percentage of his soul.
The idea of a Japanese corporation co-opting local voodoo practices — practices Jesse apparently knows much about, invoking the L’Angelle family name he was so unhappy about when Father Mike brought it up in the premiere — in order to buy portions of souls from desperate people to sell them as fabulously expensive cures to the wealthy (like the senile woman made whole in the teaser) is clever. And it fits a world where God and angels exist and have been known to walk the earth, along with a secretive organization that knows so much about them. That the Saint was immune to the Word because his soul was scattered after the Ratwater massacre recalls Voldemort and the horcruxes, and Jesse donating a piece of his own to restore the Cowboy’s humanity even slightly now makes the odds more even if the Saint can ever escape his watery tomb.
It’s particularly interesting to see Jesse hand over part of his soul in an episode that goes back and forth across the good guy/bad guy line for our title character.
On the one hand, he puts himself in harm’s way when he knows Denis is in danger, and he does make that huge-ish sacrifice(*) once none of the soul samples in the Soul Happy Go Go armored car are a match for the Saint. On the other, his condemnation of the Saint and refusal to honor his end of the deal is Jesse Custer — or Jesse L’Angelle — at his most self-righteous. He’s not inventing sins here — we saw the Cowboy slaughter innocent children in Ratwater in the past, and innocent cops and other bystanders (the gun conventioneers, Denis’ neighbors) in the present — but the way in which he talks about his defeated foe just seems incredibly smug and foolish, since this mostly-unstoppable killing machine is going to be even angrier once he inevitably escapes the swamp where Jesse trapped him. That self-righteousness has been a part of the character throughout the series (it’s a key part of him in the comics, too), and the ugliness of it isn’t on display by accident here. But it’s notable to have him go to this emotional place at the climax of an episode where he’s otherwise been playing the lone hero, doing his best to save himself and his friends from the monster that’s been unleashed on them.
(*) It’s unclear how much Jesse will be affected by the loss. The Soul Happy Go Go executive tells the couple in the episode’s teaser that their clinical trials haven’t shown any long-term effects on partial donation, but he could also be telling them what they need to hear in order to close the deal. Also, will the Saint have inherited any piece of Genesis as part of this?
Caging the Saint, even temporarily, allows our heroes (or anti-heroes) to get back on God’s trail, even as they seem to have hit a dead end. But when Jesse goes to dump the Saint, he passes a billboard for Angelville, which would seem to be where he learned about the buying and selling of souls in the first place. Might he have to go back there before the search runs too cold?
Some other thoughts:
* It’s a trope of stories about vampires and other immortals that they often wind up with mortal children who look much older than them. (This was a key point on ABC’s short-lived Forever, among many others.) But if it’s not that shocking to learn that Denis is Cassidy’s son, the way Joseph Gilgun plays Cass’s regret and shame at how badly he disappointed his kid — never even learning French over all these years! — made it feel fresh and raw. With Jesse burying the Saint’s weapons under Denis’ bathroom floor, I fear things won’t end well for the guy.
* A couple of weeks ago, we saw Hoover (the Malcolm Barrett character) setting up surveillance outside Denis’ apartment building. Yet despite all the loud gunfire occurring inside, no one from his organization rushes in to investigate.
* That was James Kyson, still best known as Ando from Heroes, as the Soul Happy Go Go representative.
* In general, machines in suitcases lead to no good on this show, don’t they?
* During the library sequence, the mix of animation and drawings of the Saint of Killers mostly avoids using Preacher comics artwork, which is probably smart. The show has deviated so much from the stories that Steve Dillon and others drew, it’s best not to keep inviting comparisons from whatever percentage of the audience knows the comics so well.
* The montage of Jesse shopping for bomb ingredients at the hardware store with some coaching for Tulip, coupled with a particularly beautiful sunny day in New Orleans for filming that scene, briefly conjured up images of Preacher as a stealth Burn Notice remake, with Jesse as Michael (who can talk his way out of most situations, and fight his way out of the rest), Tulip as Fiona (the best at exploding or otherwise killing what needs killing) and Cassidy as Sam (mostly comic relief, but with his own useful skill set).
What did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com