This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 2 Episode 12
One of Preacher’s many strengths is its ear for weird, witty dialogue. When the characters are allowed to be themselves, when the actors truly inhabit their roles, real magic happens onscreen. Thanks to writers Sam Catlin and Rachel Wagner and director Michael Slovis, we see a lot of that older magic recaptured in “On Your Knees.” Catlin penned the first two episodes of the season, which balanced over-the-top action with inspired moments of pure lunacy (“On the Road’) and surprising pathos (“Mumbai Sky Tower”). And Slovis helmed last season’s excellent “Finish the Song,” which gave us the Saint’s hellish origins. (You can read that review of “Finish the Song” here.) So it only makes sense that with that sort of pedigree, “On Your Knees” is such a welcome standout in the back half of this season. Preacher hasn’t exactly been on life support, but this hour is like a shot of adrenaline to the chest.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy enjoy each other’s company. Indeed, they’ve been at each other’s throats for the better part of the season. This friction hurt the show’s momentum almost as much as their stalled quest for God. Sure, each of them has been struggling with adversity, from an ailing child to PTSD to absent fathers. But by freeing the Saint from his watery tomb, the show likewise pardons Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy from their personal prisons. We know the Saint has his sights set on Jesse, but it’s his interactions with Tulip I most wanted to see. Indeed, Tulip is forced to confront her demons in the most literal sense, standing her ground despite being woefully outmatched. This is the Tulip we fell in love with last season—a confident, devil-may-care badass who acts without thinking. She gets swatted around quite a bit for her troubles, but I’d still consider this a victory.
The same can’t be said for Jesse, at least not where the Saint is concerned. It’s an interesting fight between these two. Again, “Knees” shows its smarts by stripping both men of their would-be powers. There’s more to the Saint than his guns, as there should be. But Jesse has definitely relied too much on Genesis to do his dirty work. What ensues is an ugly, furniture-smashing melee, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Fiore and DeBlanc battled the seraphim in the motel. But there’s nothing supernatural about this confrontation—we’re presented with two men at the end of their respective journeys, each with nothing left to lose. But Graham McTavish is at his most fearsome in a quiet moment of reflection, sharing a horrific anecdote about scalping the way coworkers might discuss their weekends. This subdued beat is particularly effective for a show that likes to dial things up to 11.
And yet this episode still has some tricks left up its sleeve—namely Eugene and Hitler’s escape from their own personal hells. Eugene’s return to the Hole turns into an unexpected therapy session in which he, too, confronts his demons. (And, really, what better place to confront one’s demons than in Hell?) Raging against the machine is easier said than done, though. He bests Tracy Loach, then Troop leader Pedro. But most importantly, he comes face to face with his father, played once again by W. Earl Brown. To see someone else in the Arseface makeup is truly disturbing—the stuff of nightmares. Like Ian Colletti, W. Earl Brown conveys so much with his eyes alone: anger, fear, sadness, longing. In the end, it’s Eugene’s inherent goodness that frees him from the Hole.
Which leaves us with our titular preacher, our resident man of the cloth and messenger of God. Now, rather than serve God, he has the unlikely chance to become God. Cassidy and Tulip are trying to keep him grounded but Jesse believes he’s a better choice for the world than Humperdoo. Which is probably true. And maybe it’s also true that he’s more suited for the role than a god who role-plays as a dog. But to Cassidy’s point, Jesse is just a man, an imperfect sort who goes looking for trouble (and kills the occasional Komodo dragon). This scene in the diner is arguably the episode’s best, reminding viewers that Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy are the heart and soul of Preacher.
I realize there’s still one hour left in the tank, but “Knees” really feels more like a season-ender than the penultimate episode. Here’s hoping Preacher hits next week’s episode out of the park.
Some closing thoughts:
Is Genesis on the fritz? We saw that it took a few tries for the Voice to work on one of Herr Starr’s cronies. And this time Genesis has no effect on the Saint—and not because Jesse was punched in the throat, as he claims. Is it otherworldly interference, or did Hoover successfully extract Jesse’s soul from the Saint?
There’s some rather dodgy model work of the armored car underwater, but it lends the sequence a strange, dreamlike quality (albeit unintentionally). Plus Graham McTavish sells the Saint’s torment of being trapped beneath the swamp.
It seems that foreskins are always top of mind for Cassidy, who’s still putting forth his thoughts on a great circumcision conspiracy.
Cassidy’s assessment of Herr Starr is amusing: “the one with a head like an old egg.” And Joseph Gilgun’s impression of a unicorn drinking from a river is likewise hilarious.
Dan Quayle makes an unexpected appearance by way of his book, the portentous The Future Will Be Better Tomorrow.
The Distant Vistas shuttle is another great callback to last season. It’s how the angels traveled to Hell, and now the same shuttle is bearing The Saint back to the underworld. He tells Amy Hill’s superintendent that he wants a word with Satan—and I hope we get to see this happen. Even boogeymen need closure.