This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 2 Episode 11
When it comes to shocking viewers, you’d think Preacher wouldn’t be able to outdo the idea of an imbecilic, inbred messiah. You’d be wrong, of course. With “Backdoors,” we’re presented with the kind of bored, disenchanted God who has vacated His throne in search of cheap, earthly thrills. On the face of it, this is not a problem. You can wring some pretty effective storytelling from a godly being who isn’t feeling particularly godlike. But presenting us with a god who visits strip clubs for the jazz is a very far cry from a deity who dons a latex dog costume in a seedy New Orleans bar to secretly enjoy sexual acts. And, yes, I’m referring to the very same latex-clad man-dog we’ve seen every week in this season’s opening credits. So not only was God hiding right under Jesse Custer’s nose this entire time, He’s been hiding under viewers’ noses, too. In other words, Preacher’s powers-that-be have been having a bit of fun at everyone’s expense. Jesse is understandably annoyed to finally learn the truth about his maker, as well he should be. This is the sort of God who never would have smote Sodom or Gomorrah. But worse still than that, “Backdoors” posits that the majority of mankind’s prayers were in vain. In other words, the phrase “from your lips to God’s ears” is as meaningless as all those prayers. But more on that in a bit.
In the meantime, in case you were hoping to see the epic confrontation between Tulip and Jesse that “Dirty Little Secret” promised, we don’t get to see any of that. And after spending most of this season not doing a whole lot, we really needed to see Tulip do something other than make pancakes and spackle walls. Ruth Negga is a fantastic actress, and seeing her lace into Jesse about the Saint would have been glorious. Instead, “Backdoors” skips over what would have been a pivotal moment in their troubled relationship, and instead decides to dredge up…the Soul Happy Go Go armored car.
Some viewers would argue we’ve already had too much relationship drama out of Tulip and Jesse this season, and I’m inclined to agree. One of the things I enjoyed so much about “Dallas” is that Jesse and Tulip were trying so hard to make things work. Or at least we thought they were both trying. The reveal that Tulip had been lying to Jesse for months was not only a great twist, what gave this betrayal such impact was we got to see Jesse put her feet to the fire.
Oddly, Tulip isn’t crippled by fear now that she knows the Saint is on the loose. Instead, she’s energized by her long-simmering anger at Jesse. Indeed, they’re all at each other’s throats, airing grievances and hurling difficult truths. But what all of this infighting boils down to is that this season’s quixotic quest for God has been Jesse’s cross to bear all along. Tulip and Cassidy have been taken for granted long enough. Even if God is within reach, they’re sitting out this last hunch of Jesse’s.
Which brings us to the notion of unheard prayers. After numerous illusions to Jesse’s troubled childhood, Preacher takes us into the murky depths of the Louisiana bayous. To understand the man Jesse Custer is, one must first understand how prominently a casket figures into his psychological makeup. After his father’s murder, Jesse was raised by his fearsome Gran’ma (played by Julie Oliver-Touchstone). Young Jesse is fiercely loyal to his father, something which Gran’ma L’Angelle cannot abide. This is a character who figures VERY prominently into the Vertigo comic, so it’s great to see Gran’ma finally make it to the screen. I just hope we’ll be seeing more of her next season.
One thing this flashback clarifies is that Jesse Custer is not in search of the Father, he’s searching for a father, someone to respect and look up to. Someone to adore, who will adore him in return. This is a heartbreaking revelation that’s buried in an episode more concerned with shocking viewers than it is with respecting its main characters. No one would ever confuse AMC’s Jesse Custer with Vertigo’s Jesse Custer. And that’s a shame—because the character as he exists on the page is a much better man than we get in the show.
That Heaven employs a backup system for caching prayer backlogs is another bombshell revelation. (And here you’d think prayers would be backed up to the cloud.) The takeaway from this is that God never heard any of Jesse’s prayers. His hopes and fears and wants and desires, his catalog of transgressions, they were all recorded, only to collect dust. The futility of Jesse’s faith is staggering, a tragedy an entire lifetime in the making. It’s in moments like these that Preacher makes the most out of the premise of a God shirking His heavenly duties.
Preacher also makes the most out of Eugene’s time in Hell. Yes, he and Hitler are finally hightailing it out of the underworld, but not before we revisit der Führer’s worst memory, in which he’s damned with faint praise by a prominent art gallery owner. Hitler’s artwork is capable but bloodless. It’s not a terrible moment, as far as worst memories go. But in Hitler’s case, witnessing ad infinitum his last day as a good person is what’s most traumatizing to him. If this is indeed true, Preacher is somehow managing to mine one of history’s blackest souls for true pathos.
Some closing thoughts:
How does Jesse find his way back to Herr Starr if his head was covered during his trip to Grail headquarters?
Cassidy doesn’t have a lot to do in this episode, but he does have a great line: “I hear Vancouver’s great, y’know,” he says. “It’s got good meth and nice hiking.”
Trying to mail the Saint’s weapons is a good sight gag but that’s about it. Tulip is smarter and better than this. Seriously. A cheap laugh is just that—cheap. Preacher is better than this, too. Disgusting as it might be, using entrails to siphon gas was brilliant. We never saw it happen—nor did we need to for that joke to work.