This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Episode 4
The preacher started out as a preacher’s son, steeped in religion from an early age. The church was his calling, too, even then. A calling, and a second home. God’s house was a full one back in the day, the pews filled with eager parishioners. Jesse wasn’t a perfect kid, though, as most children seldom are. His father was strict, keeping Jesse out of trouble with the kind of tough love that has become more of an anachronism. Even as a boy, Jesse must be a role model to his less righteous peers.
In any case, it’s important to get a sense of his history within the church and within the town. After all, Jesse has stated numerous times throughout the season that he came back to Annville because as a boy he promised his father he’d save the town. So the big question posed in “Monster Swamp” is whether or not Jesse is a convincing preacher. We’ve watched him deliver some lackluster sermons, though not for lack of trying on his part. This episode’s sermon, though, is a bit different. Jesse’s delivery is more spirited. He’s more sincere, and passionate. Whatever he’s remembered of his father, it’s done the trick — he wants to save the people of Annville.
Odin Quincannon, who Jesse has lured to the Sunday service with an offer he can’t refuse, isn’t buying what the preacher is selling. He’s more interested in Jesse’s land than he is in serving God. And yet, converting Odin is the linchpin in Jesse’s plan to turn the church’s flagging fortunes around. So it’s really no surprise that he uses his special ability to thaw Odin’s cold heart. Is it ethical? No. Not even in the name of the greater good of the town. The bigger issue here isn’t the moral quandary this creates. Rather, the real issue is why it’s Jesse who decides the best way to use his power.
The same argument could be made against Superman, who uses his great strength in the name of justice, but whose sense of justice? What metric is behind this invisible moral code that outlines who or what is good or evil? The same could be said for any superhero, really. Batman is the most obvious vigilante who wears a cape—but his sense of justice is very different from Superman’s. The ways they dispense their forms of justice are likewise quite different. So where does Jesse Custer fall on the superhero spectrum? So far it appears he’s closer to the darker end of things, where tough love is meted out in violent outbursts. It’s the only kind of love he knew, after all. As for Odin, I’m curious to see what becomes of him, now that he’s devoted his life to the Lord.
I haven’t talked much about Emily in these reviews, but she’s important to Jesse and she’s important to the church. She keeps him on the straight and narrow, or at least she tries to. She also deals with the more bureaucratic side of things, trying to keep the sermons well-attended and the communion wine stocked. At times it seems like all this fussing and worrying is taken for granted, even though Jesse does lean on her for support. But from the beginning it’s been painfully obvious that Emily is hoping for more than just friendship from the preacher. Tulip is dynamic and hard to ignore, but Emily is really the kind of person a troubled soul like Jesse needs in his corner. Not vampires. Not vigilantes. Normal, hard-working folks — like his church organist.
Some closing thoughts:
Jesse still doesn’t believe Cassidy is a vampire. Nor does he believe the story of government clones coming for him with chainsaws. And who could blame Jesse, really? He’s got an addled mind and a heavy heart. Still, I’m entertained by this ongoing misunderstanding between them — for now. I can see how this might get old after a while, given that viewers have known the truth about Cassidy (more or less) since the first episode.
Does Preacher jump around in time a little too much? Is it too thrifty with present-day information even as it doles out plenty of backstory? It all depends on how you feel about exposition and flashbacks, two narrative devices that can be very effective when used wisely. In the case of Preacher, I think the non-linear storytelling works. It’s a sign of smart, clever writing that helps us see into characters’ hearts by revisiting key moments from their pasts.
On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of info dumps — huge stretches of exposition-heavy dialogue that spells out everything for viewers. Sometimes it’s okay for the bigger picture to be revealed a little bit at a time. I do think a show like this may benefit from binge-watching; waiting week to week for tidbits of relevant info can be frustrating if the show’s pace feels too slow.
As for tidbits of info, we continue to learn more about LeBlanc and Fiore, who are rogue angels. Their mission to retrieve whatever entity resides within Jesse is theirs alone to complete. Which is too bad for them, considering how naive they are about earthly ways. Really, why else would they trust someone like Cassidy, who trucks in the sort of hedonistic lifestyle that would make their halos spin?
Sure, Odin Quincannon is loathsome, but it’s hard to fault a man for loving himself some old-school Q*bert.