Preacher: El Valero Review

There’s plenty of dark humor to be had in a church standoff gone wrong.

This Preacher review contains spoilers.

Preacher Episode 7

We’ve spent the entire season thus far watching Jesse struggle to bring the word of God to the people of Annville. This played out a bit like a fish out of water story, and in some ways this is exactly what Jesse has been—out of his element. But in “El Valero” he’s forced to defend his church.

Even drunk, the preacher is too much/too fast for Odin’s men to handle. Donnie thinks it’s more of the preacher’s mind control. Nope. It’s just Jesse showing his true colors. He’s a man of God who speaks with his fists. Now that he’s backed into a corner and forced to defend his land, Jesse Custer is finally in his element.

But the episode’s bigger story isn’t the church standoff (which somehow devolves into a company picnic), it’s Eugene’s return from Hell! And he’s thirsty! Jesse gets him a glass of water—it’s the least he can do, obviously. That he pauses to get Eugene a straw so he can actually drink the water is an odd, unexpected moment of thoughtfulness on the preacher’s part. 

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But what is Hell like? It’s usually not a round trip! Eugene is reluctant to discuss the details, but he does confess that Hell is crowded. He also explains that he dug his way out with his bare hands, which leaves Jesse incredulous. Eugene’s matter-of-fact response, “It’s not that far,” is both humorous and utterly terrifying. 

Jesse readily admits that Eugene was right about a thing or three, but he doesn’t actually apologize for sending him to Hell. Which is very weird, especially for a man who trucks in forgiveness. Is this an oversight by the writers (doubtful), or is Jesse simply too wrapped up in himself to truly recognize the pain of others (likely)? If it’s the latter, this is made more egregious by the notion that Jesse himself is responsible for causing pain in those closest to him—whether it’s Eugene or Emily or Cassidy… The list seems to grow longer as the season wears on.

It’s understandable how this could be off-putting to viewers who already find Jesse unlikable, even irredeemable. But Jesse doesn’t seem to care much whether or not people like him. This isn’t a devil-may-care attitude so much as it is the behavior of a person who doesn’t like himself very much. He punishes those around him because he’s so used to punishing himself. At least, that’s how I’m reading Jesse Custer. It’s a trait he and Eugene have in common, which is why he sometimes seems so at odds with the beleaguered boy.

Of course, the matter of an apology is a moot point* considering Eugene is actually still stuck in Hell. Discovering this was kind of a relief, to be honest. Not because I want Eugene to suffer (who are we to decide if he belongs in Hell), but because it shouldn’t be so simple to undo such a heinous act in the first place. To resolve this in one episode would be, in Eugene’s own words, “cheating,” and it’s not Preacher‘s way to take the easy way out. 

And while Jesse has realized the error of his ways for keeping such a terrible power for himself, he winds up having second thoughts about surrendering Genesis once the angels show up with their dented coffee can. The exorcism is successful, if short-lived. LeBlanc and Fiore might be Genesis’s keepers, but Genesis is quite happy with Jesse. Which will lead Jesse to yet another standoff against a power greater than him.

Overall, a great episode with strong writing and some truly humorous moments. One of Preacher’s greatest strengths is in mining some squeamish moments for humor, and “El Valero” is no exception. Clive’s battle cry of “Food court!” is hilarious until you realize Jesse has divested the man of his manhood with one clean shot. This shouldn’t be funny—at all—and yet it was, it was.

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Some closing thoughts:

*It’s not a moot point. Jesse really thought he was talking to Eugene. He didn’t apologize. Hallucination or not, he still should have apologized.

Just glimpses of Tulip and Cassidy killing and consuming a poor dog behind closed doors? Well, that does answer the question posed by last week’s episode—Jesse let his friend burn. Which raises a question about Cassidy that could be applied to Eugene: Are “bad” characters worthy of sympathy? I’m not saying Cassidy is bad—but he’s not exactly a saint. Same for Eugene—not a saint by any means. And yet they do engender sympathy.  

As for the scene in Vail that opened the episode, I don’t understand the connection to the rest of the action—yet. Like I’ve said before, Preacher likes to tease its viewers with what seem like random tangents or non sequiturs. With only two episodes left, I’m sure we’ll find out soon what happened to those people in the cable car.

We do, however, find out that Jesse’s power did work on Odin, who is serving his idea of God—the god of meat, naturally. Had Jesse said “serve my God,” then there’d be no church standoff and Clive would still have his manhood. Easy peasy.


4.5 out of 5