Review: ‘Preacher’ gets to know Odin Quincannon in ‘Monster Swamp

A quick review of tonight's Preacher coming up just as soon as I have a direct line to Heaven…

“Some people just can't be saved.” -John Custer

“Monster Swamp” was the last of the four episodes AMC sent critics before Preacher debuted, and the one that most felt like an actual episode of television. It gave us more backstory on Jesse and Tulip, focused a lot on the people of the town Jesse is trying (in vain?) to save, explained more about the angels (including the fact that they're down here without permission from their superiors), and moved Odin Quincannon from the margins to the forefront of the action, as Jesse decides to use his new powers to make the town's richest (and perhaps most heinous) man into the church's most passionate advocate.

Overall, it's a more successful than last week's episode was at trying to pivot from the entertaining incoherence of the first two installments into something more sustainable as a narrative. This stoic preacher incarnation of Jesse is still much less fun than the version Tulip is pining over, but the show around him is starting to feel fuller and more complicated, and we're starting to get more of a reason to stick around beyond Tulip, Cassidy, and the occasional gonzo action sequence.

Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Quincannon in particular is so wonderfully minimalist and unapologetic that I'd watch the guy do anything: eat steak, play Q*Bert, build historical models, defile briefcases, give terrible speeches in the aftermath of his employees' paintball game(*) turning tragic for one of the local prostitutes… whatever. But “Monster Swamp” also did well by Emily, who definitely has a thing for Jesse but isn't simply pining away for the guy, as we learn that she has a combination babysitting/sex-buddy arrangement with Annville's mayor. And the episode also did a good job making clear how much the Quincannon Meat & Power employees have the run of the town, whether anyone likes it or not.

(*) The opening moments were so on-the-nose in their use of slasher movie imagery that I was hoping dearly for it to turn out to be something more complicated/benign – which is exactly what happened, even if things ended badly all the same for poor Lacey.

And while Jesse seems oddly unwilling to consider supernatural explanations for things, despite his ability to make people do whatever he tells them to, Tulip and Cassidy not only come together during a violent mishap at the whorehouse, but Tulip gets to witness firsthand how exactly Cassidy gets his nourishment.

Given how last week's episode played around with the limits of Jesse's powers,  we'll see just how much sway he now holds over old Odin, but I'm curious to see what happens next, and to see how Preacher keeps trying to juggle the crazy with what's dramatically necessary.

Some other thoughts:

* Like much of the series, the flashbacks to Jesse's childhood – and to his father's time as the preacher of Annville – are presented in a highly-stylized fashion. Between the black-and-white, the clothes, and other choices, it seems like they take place in the '50s or early '60s, even though based on Jesse's age and when his father was killed, it would be much more recent than that.

* Tulip also gets some backstory, as we learn that she grew up in the local whorehouse, where her mother worked.

* Better piece of old-timey tech: Quincannon's retro computer, or the angels' phone to Heaven?

* Among the songs featured this week: “The Old Rugged Cross” by Loretta Lynn, “Fish Assassin” by Shovels & Rope, and “Your Sins Will Find You Out” by Eli Paperboy Reed.

Keeping in mind, as always, to not talk about the comics, what did everybody else think?

NOTE: I'll be on vacation for much of next week, and will likely skip reviewing episode 5 and come back with thoughts on episode 6.