This review contains spoilers.
1.3 The Possibilities
Preacher is a world full of interesting, weird characters. There’s not a person on the show who isn’t messed up in some way or another, from the stars all the way down to the one-off characters. Preacher has one of the deepest benches of interesting characters that you’ll find on TV, and one of the highlights of this particular episode is the two mysterious men who are trying to recover the parasite from within Jesse Custer. Fiore and DeBlanc are two of the funniest characters on TV, and any episode that features them hanging out with Cassidy is going to be a funny one indeed.
Every moment with Tom Brooke and Anatol Yusef on screen is a delight, and the angels get to have a couple of fun scenes this week. Their first scene is squaring off with Sheriff Root, which is just a wonderful bit of comedy. Root is questioning, quite rightly, why the two men are there, and why they aren’t seeking help from the local authorities if they are the government. The fact that Fiore and DeBlanc didn’t actually have a cover story set up before Root shows up is clear from the very beginning, as the two contradict one another or talk over one another with every question before DeBlanc asserts himself and takes over the conversation. Root undercuts the comedy with a pretty horrible story about child abuse and murder (why wouldn’t he?) but when Fiore and DeBlanc uncover their cache of weapons, it only underscores just how little attention the two angels actually pay to human suffering; they just wanted Hugo to leave so they could get into their combat gear and go after Genesis.
Of course, since it’s Fiore and DeBlanc, they fail miserably. Armed with heavy weapons and bullet-proof vests and helmets, the two make their walk towards Jesse’s church only to be run down by Cassidy driving the church van; Scott Winant makes sure this scene comes out of nowhere, and we get a build-up for a huge payoff laugh. Two more bodies to dispose of. At least, until, the two men show up again while Cassidy is looking for garbage bags to dispose of the bodies he’d left outside. Cassidy’s ‘kill first, ask questions never’ paranoia works out in his favour, usually, but it doesn’t help the angels any. However, the scenes are very funny, and Brook and Yusef deserve all the screen time they get, because their deadpan comedy is very much needed as the rest of the episode gets a little bit heavier.
That’s one of the interesting tonal dilemmas that Preacher has. Just what kind of show is it? Is it a supernatural drama? Certainly, Jesse Custer seems to be wrestling with his tremendous power. Is it a conspiracy drama? Well, Danni (Julie Dretzin) wasn’t dropping off information to a man at a snuff film convention just for fun. There must be some power behind the appearance of the angels, as well. Cassidy and Jesse could easily fill out the lead roles in a buddy comedy, while Tulip seems determined to turn every episode into a crime caper. It’s funny, but it’s also very dark, usually at the same time. There’s some serious philosophical discussions, but also plenty of pop culture references.
Chris Kelly, who wrote tonight’s episode, gets some credit for being able to work that delicate balance. I mean, there’s an implied snuff film, and one of the characters is abusing both his wife and son, and yet the show packs laughs in wherever possible. Every horrible thing is counterbalanced by some comedy, be it dark like the many deaths of Fiore and DeBlanc or light like Cassidy wandering around in a poncho and giant straw hat to hide from the sun. There’s just enough lightness to counterbalance the terrible things that are going on just below the surface. I mean, in one small town you’ve got a paedophile, a failed suicide, at least one wife-beater, and that’s not even going into the mysterious stranger watching snuff films or the fact that Odin Quincannon has to be some kind of monster given he’s being played by Jackie Earle Haley.
Will the show be able to keep up that deft balance between light and dark? I don’t know, but I can certainly appreciate the great pains they’re taking to stay true to the source material while making it slightly more palatable for cable television purposes. Those are the big questions for the show as a viable television entity. Can it keep Preacher fans happy without running afoul of television marketing executives? Can the show delve into dark places or philosophically difficult areas without alienating viewers? So far so good, but if this show doesn’t get any protest think-pieces written about it before the end of the season, I think it’s not doing its job.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, See, here.