Preacher: Finish the Song Review

Preacher's latest episode delivers bromance, vengeance, and violence in equal measure.

This Preacher review contains spoilers. 

Preacher season 1 episode 8

If I could sum up Preacher’s penultimate season one episode, “Finish the Song,” in one word, it would be “choices.” And many of them are arguably pretty bad choices at that. One could reason that good drama (and good character development) generally results more from bad choices and even worse morality. Preacher understands this—it wallows in it—which is how we get such a bleak yet intense scene like we do in a bloody bathroom at the Sundowner. But more on that in a bit. 

One such questionable choice is made by Emily, who suddenly has her eyes open to a kind of world she never knew existed—at least not in Annvile, and certainly not right under her own nose. It’s been quite obvious that Emily is trapped in the sort of domestic life that she never envisioned for herself. She pines for the preacher even as she maintains a relationship of convenience with Miles, Annville’s mayor. But just because the man is insipid and ineffective, a milquetoast in khakis, doesn’t make him a bad person per se. (Disposing of bodies for Odin Quincannon, on the other hand, well that makes him a pretty bad person.) Miles is a surrogate father to Emily’s kids, the kind of guy who washes her sneakers without being asked.

And for Emily, who obviously has a thing for bad boys whether she realizes it or not, Miles represents a kind of unfulfilling life she no longer wants for herself. Luckily for her, she’s been left to care for Cassidy, who still needs plenty of fresh blood to recover from his wounds—and dogs and guinea pigs just aren’t cutting it. So Emily decides to kill two birds with one stone by luring Miles to Tulip’s uncle’s house, where Cassidy is convalescing. I’ve never liked Miles, though I did very much like Ricky Mabe in the role. I’m sad to see him go, even if it means a big health boost for Cassidy. And before I move on to Sheriff Root, I do want to point out that it’s interesting to see Emily sacrifice a human life even as she cheerfully tries to set some guinea pigs free in the yard.

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Now, as for Annville’s sheriff, he makes a difficult choice of his own. When he stumbles into what looks like a bloody crime scene, he finds what he thinks is a victim who’s had her arms and legs amputated and dumped in a bathtub with some ice. Sheriff Root is clearly shaken by what he finds, but he’s truly disturbed when the seraphim begs to be killed. We know this will respawn once she dies, but he has no way of knowing that. To his credit, he tries to explain that an ambulance is on its way and the doctors will fix her up.

But deep down he probably knows that her life will never be the same, that people will view her as some kind of a freak, not a survivor. He knows this, of course, because of his son Eugene, whose own life has been a living hell despite surviving a shotgun blast to the face. And now, for all he knows, his son is dead—killed by the preacher’s hand. So when the seraphim continues to plead for death, Sheriff Root finally obliges. He doesn’t use his gun, though. Instead, he kills her with his bare hands, channeling his pent-up rage and agony into what seems less like mercy and more like murder. Root’s tears say it all—he knows he’s crossed a line that can’t ever be uncrossed. 

The same might be said for the mysterious Cowboy, aka The Butcher of Gettysburg—and I suppose The Butcher of Ratwater, too. We’ve seen bits and pieces of the Cowboy’s life through a series of cryptic flashbacks throughout the season, and in “Sing,” we finally understand how his story is connected to present-day Annville. (Of course, viewers familiar with the source material already knew the connection, but it’s interesting how the Cowboy’s story has played out on the show.) But we also understand that these flashbacks constitute a literal Hell for the Cowboy, who’s been damned to repeat his painful choices over and over, ad infinitum—until the angels step in to recruit him to their cause. It’s the perfect set-up for next week’s season finale. Not only is the Cowboy coming to Annville, so is God himself—and how many finales can boast that?

Some closing thoughts:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Jesse and Cassidy. We finally learn that Jesse did use the fire extinguisher after all, though not quickly enough. It’s the first true remorse—and actual apology—we’ve seen out of Jesse. It’s enough to win over Cassidy, who admits that he allowed the preacher to see him at his worst. Judging on looks alone, Cassidy is quite right about this—he looks like he’s been turned inside out. And yet Jesse isn’t cowed by outward appearances, which is the mark of true friendship.

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Jesse’s message for Tulip is a bittersweet trip down memory lane. In a great bit of editing, we’re led to believe that she’s stone-faced as she listens to Jesse pour his heart out to her. But in reality, Tulip’s own nostalgia trip is less rosy: she’s finally face to face with Carlos, the man who betrayed her and Jesse all those years ago.   

Finally, Vail. Yes, I totally missed the point of this scene in last week’s episode, “El Valero.” Massive brain fart on my part—I have no idea how I missed the significance of this scene, but I did. But I sincerely appreciate those who pointed out my mistake to me. It means you’re reading these reviews, and for that I thank you.