Preacher: Sundowner Review

Wicked things and bad choices abound in AMC's must-watch Preacher.

This Preacher review contains spoilers. 

Preacher Episode 5

When I review a show, I usually take copious notes, writing upwards of 500-600 words before an episode is even over. But with “Sundowner,” I barely wrote 200 words. This isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the episode; quite the contrary—I was so engrossed by the bloody shenanigans that I mostly just watched with my mouth slightly agape.

If you’ve been on the fence thus far about Preacher, this episode will definitely win you over, considering “Sundowner” is exactly the sort of hour that makes this series so great in the first place. Not only is there plenty of outrageous violence and black humor, there are unexpected moments of real emotional depth and clarity. Of course, with this last point I’m referring to Eugene, but more on him in a bit. First, let’s discuss that outrageous violence.

Preacher is wise to offer viewers a mixed bag every week, careening from over-the-top action to pop-culture references to quiet character beats. The writers and the cast alike take these tonal shifts in stride, behaving earnestly one moment and slitting a seraphim’s throat in the next. It’s a wild ride, to be sure, and all those breadcrumbs dropped throughout the season have finally borne fruit, if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors.

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For instance, we finally learn from Fiore and LeBlanc that Jesse’s mysterious power is called Genesis. And Genesis, it would seem, is actually the offspring of an unholy union between an angel and a demon. We learn this for two reasons: one, Jesse uses Genesis to make LeBlanc spill the beans. And two, it turns out Fiore and LeBlanc aren’t just angels, they’re Genesis’s custodians. They’re also in an awful lot of trouble if they can’t return their charge to its coffee can. This is all well and good, but things get really interesting when a seraphim turns up to bring Fiore and LeBlanc back to heaven.

Now, these scenes with the seraphim called three movies to mind. The first,  as he calmly tracks down the wayward angels, is Terminator 2: Judgment Day—specifically Robert Patrick’s stone-faced T-1000 assassin. The second movie, as Jesse and the angels do battle with the seraphim at the Sundowner motel, is Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume 2—specifically Uma Thurman’s trailer-home-destroying showdown with Daryl Hannah. And finally, the way all three angels continually respawned after every death called to mind the vastly underrated Tom Cruise film, Edge of Tomorrow—only without the temporal reset to a previous “checkpoint.”

These references, whether intentional or not, take nothing away from this episode’s frenetic energy. Indeed, the violence in “Sundowner” is chaotic and fun, especially when the action truly hits its stride with what is practically a fight montage.

But there’s more to this episode than just the aforementioned violence. We got some interesting moments between Tulip and Emily as they bond over broken things—in this case, broken art and broken hearts. But they also apparently have motherhood in common, if Tulip is to be believed (and I do believe her). As interesting as these moments were, it was actually Eugene who steals the episode in this regard. Poor Eugene. As much as I love him, and as big a fan as I am of Preacher, its characters have to be careful about preaching to the choir, as it were. And by this I mean turning characters like Eugene into a Jiminy Cricket, giving voice to Jesse’s conscience in moments of obvious epiphanies.

Fox’s Lucifer (another show based on a Vertigo title) was guilty of this by having Lucifer’s therapist literally spell out his moral failings so they could be rectified. Preacher only does this sparingly, but it’s usually pretty obvious when it happens, as it is in “Sundowner.” Jesse has been pretty patient with Eugene, unlike most of the locals—even Eugene’s dad seems to despise his son. But when Eugene seems to question Jesse’s motives, the preacher takes umbrage with the idea that his use of Genesis is “cheating.”

We don’t fully know what all of Eugene’s sins might be, but he nonetheless possesses a great morality—one greater even than that of Annville’s preacher. Eugene believes certain things are a choice, whether they be forgiveness, or charity, or serving the Lord. Jesse, though, believes everything he does is thus far the will of God—removing free will from the equation entirely. But this isn’t good enough for Eugene, who believes Jesse is acting unethically and irresponsibly. Jesse, who has been abusing Genesis’s power, ultimately damns poor Eugene to hell. Whether this is intentional or just said in the heat of the moment is hard to say, but either way, Eugene is gone. And with him, one would hope, so is Jesse’s desire to inflict his will upon his followers.

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Some closing thoughts:

It was only a matter of time before Cassidy learned the truth about Tulip and Jesse. Still, I felt bad for the guy—the look on his face was absolutely heartbreaking. The same goes for Emily, who may have made peace with Tulip, but can’t seem to forgive Jesse for invoking her name.

Miles is certainly headed down a very dark path. Like Eugene, the mayor’s inner turmoil is just another manifestation of Jesse’s own doubts. Miles says it best about discerning right from wrong when he asks Jesse, “How do you know one voice from the other when they sound the same?”

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4.5 out of 5