This review contains spoilers.
1.4 Monster Swamp
Annville, Texas, is a terrible place. The main employer is a slaughter house; the second-biggest employer seems to be the local whorehouse. This is the sort of place where bodies are buried out in the desert, people are attacked with chainsaws, and there’s a snuff film festival down the road. The school bus driver is a paedophile. The death of a beloved prostitute is treated like a joke by the very people who inadvertently brought about her death. The only way the local church can attract a crowd is by giving away a television, and the only way that Jesse Custer can win souls is by using the voice to force the town’s most prominent member to serve God.
Is that doing a good thing using underhanded means, or is it just an example of yet another person in Annville doing something self-serving? After all, the mayor meets with Odin Quincannon about expanding the local business not for Odin’s good, but to boost the town’s tax revenues. The mayor plays babysitter, but only because he wants to hook up with Emily, who helps Jesse Custer for reasons not yet determined. Cassidy is giving aid to the angels because they’re providing him with money and drugs. The angels are determined to carve up Jesse Custer to recover Genesis and get back to Heaven before anyone can realize that the creature has disappeared. Everyone’s doing something for their own purposes; if they’re doing something good or doing something bad, it’s always self-serving.
One of the things that Preacher has started to explore is the relationship between Odin Quincannon and the town around him. He’s something of a Qbert-playing Mr. Burns figure; he rules the town from on high by being the major employer and real power broker, but unlike Mr. Burns, Quincannon isn’t afraid to make enemies or show his power by, for example, micturating in the mayor’s briefcase because he dared to mention environmental stewardship. As it turns out, Quincannon also has a history with the Custer family, as Monster Swamp dives back into the background of Jesse and his father and the family’s long-running familiarity with Quincannon. It turns out the church is on the largest piece of land in town not owned by Quincannon, and he’s looking to get his hands on it while Jesse is looking to get the town’s real power to regularly attend church services (and maybe open up his wallet in the process).
Is there anyone in this town that’s selfless? Everyone’s got a reason for doing anything; even Tulip is rushing Cassidy to the hospital only because she knocked him out a window (rather than her intended target Clive). Sara Goodman’s script probes some of these ideas in an interesting way. Everyone’s out to use everyone else, and no one’s a good person (except for maybe Emily, who remains the show’s only decent person). It’s a world wrought in shades of gray, some are just darker than the others. Even the angels are probably enablers at best, and incompetent at worst, and they’re divine representations of Heavenly authority. Earthly authorities are barely competent enough to spray-wash a corpse covered in animal waste.
I will say this about the death of Lacey the prostitute; it’s a spectacularly framed scene from director Craig Zisk. Briefly, Preacher goes from a comedy to a horror movie, and it looks spectacular. It’s very intense, and troublesome, and when Lacey gets caught by Clive (and shot with a paintball), it’s funny, and it remains funny even after she falls to her death. The streak of black comedy in Preacher remains unmatched on cable television. Ditto Cassidy’s fall out of a window. It’s funny to see him getting chased by Tulip, but it’s also kind of horrifying to see him with jagged glass sticking out of his throat and blood spraying everywhere.
No show currently walks that line so deftly; only Game Of Thrones is confident enough to indulge in comedy violence every so often, and they don’t do that very often. However, it seems as though the show is also beginning to make more comments about the nature of relationships, at least between the damaged and deranged people of Annville. Everyone’s using everyone else, and no one’s truly bad or good—though some are clearly more bad than others.