This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 2 Episode 1
For all the time and energy Preacher’s first season put into building up the small Texas town of Annville, the show pretty much hit the reset button in its finale. Odin Quincannon and his meat baby? Dead. Emily Woodrow and her squeaky-clean sneakers? Gone. Donnie Schenck and his copy of Gorillas in the Mist? History. The only people to make it out of poor Annville alive are Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Hare, and Cassidy. (And Eugene, who was spared a methane-fueled Armageddon by being banished to Hell.) Then there’s the dreaded Saint of Killers, a nigh unstoppable supernatural force who’s equal parts Clint Eastwood and the Terminator. So while Jesse is determined to put the screws to the almighty God, the Saint of Killers is just as determined to find Jesse and screw him.
Seems simple enough on paper, right? Not so fast. Preacher knows what it is and where it needs to go this season, but not before the premiere delves into everything from hoarded foreskins to Dexys Midnight Runners to the evils of Twitter to the theological musings regarding a god gone AWOL. We also get a profound amount of over-the-top violence and gore. Does an innocent man get his tongue ripped from his mouth? Sure. Does Tulip use a dead man’s intestines to syphon gas? Of course. Does a man stab himself to death? Why not. These are not knocks against Preacher, as moments like these are part and parcel to what made the show’s gonzo first season so unlike anything else on television.
For all its grisly grindhouse aesthetic, the heart of “On the Road” centers around the trio’s trip to Jesse’s friend Mike, a religious scholar played with likable gruffness by Glenn Morshower. Like Jesse, he may be a man of the cloth, but it’s immediately obvious that Mike has his dark side. Case in point—a girl named Ashleigh who’s in a cage in his garage. Taken at face value, seeing this nearly took me out of the episode, especially when Jesse is quick to dismiss Tulip’s concerns by declaring it none of their business. Tulip isn’t so easily deterred, though. She’s disturbed by this unexpected discovery, just as any sane person would be. But this is the universe in which Preacher exists, picking and choosing its morality as it sees fit. Caging a person to cure them of their bad habits is just as questionable as using a supernatural power to manipulate people’s minds. Preacher tries to have it both ways, with Jesse skating past the thornier concerns that immediately give Tulip pause.
Jesse’s constant use of Genesis’s power also gives Tulip pause—and she doesn’t let him of the hook for this either. Maybe if Jesse didn’t abuse this power, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but he seems to use the voice more in the first ten minutes in this one episode than he did in all of the first season. I agree with Tulip—not only is it no fun using Genesis’s “smoky brain hand” to manipulate people, it’s downright unfair, too. Call her old-fashioned, but she’s just not down with mind invasion, no matter how justified it might be. (To be fair, Jesse’s use of this power is so inconsistent in the Vertigo comic that at times it seems like he forgets to use it at all.)
So, as Graham McTavish’s fearsome Saint of Killers slowly closes the gap with his quarry, said quarry follows the trail of breadcrumbs left behind by God as he walks the earth. In this case, the trail leads them to a strip club, where He apparently decided to take in some live jazz. This may not have happened in the comic, but it makes sense on the show. Preacher’s most telling detail about the Almighty? Just one look from Him is enough to make you shit your pants. As humorous as this is, it’s also terrifying. And it’s this odd, uncomfortable balance that’s pretty much Preacher in a nutshell.
Some closing thoughts:
Easter egg watch: There’s great callback in this episode to Jesse’s childhood by showing the treasure chest in the otherwise empty fish tank. If you’ve read the comic, you know exactly what this means. It’s a clue to Jesse’s upbringing, and it’s a story we’ll hopefully see play out onscreen.
Sad to see Mike go so quickly. He had a way of putting Tulip and Cassidy in their place that no one else ever did. Now that he’s gone, though, one question lingers: Is Ashleigh still in that cage??
Tonight’s episode was dedicated to Steve Dillon. He was one of the show’s executive producers, but he also helped flesh out the world of Preacher on the page. His DNA permeates the comic as much as it does the show. He passed away last October, at the too-young age of 54. Rest in peace, Mr. Dillon.