Preacher Season 2 Episode 9 Review: Puzzle Piece

Preacher steps things up a notch with a tumultuous, action-packed episode.

This Preacher review contains spoilers.

Preacher Season 2 Episode 9

Preacher‘s “Puzzle Piece” is one hell of a busy, action-packed episode. There’s even a major breakthrough in Jesse’s search for God. And yet, for better or worse, we’re still parked in New Orleans, most likely where we’ll remain for the rest of the season. And, from a plot perspective, aside from Jesse and Herr Starr meeting face to face, not a lot happens. Not for the first time, I wonder if this second season could benefit from being ten episodes instead of thirteen. That being said, I’ve been enjoying Preacher‘s ongoing mix of unmitigated violence, dark humor, and moments of true pathos. All of this is present in “Puzzle Piece” to varying degrees, resulting in an episode that’s uneven yet still quite satisfying. 

Is this a better episode than “Dallas,” which delved into an ugly period of Jesse and Tulip’s relationship? From a purely character standpoint, no. Some might argue that the Viktor storyline was an unnecessary detour, but I think this insight into Jesse and Tulip’s shared past is important, especially given their obvious friction now. And I don’t think things will get any better between them before season’s end. This is an odd direction for the show to take, given how rock-solid the pair is in the comics. But the show has a penchant for diverging from the source material, while still managing to be faithful to the spirit of the comic. One of my favorite moments from “Puzzle Piece” is Jesse trying to rationalize why he used Genesis on Tulip yet again—this time to make her sleep. He argues he had no other option. I disagree. If they were in a healthier relationship, he could have talked with her, rather than at her, as he’s been doing since their confrontation with the Saint of Killers. Sure, Jesse’s been wrapped up in his quest for God, but clearly something is wrong with Tulip. (Hell, even Cassidy can see she’s struggling.)

Negga is great in this scene, trying to keep a lid on her emotions as Jesse continues to see right past her. Maybe she’s crying from a chronic lack of sleep. Or maybe she’s in pain from one too many visits to the Hurt Locker. Or, maybe she’s upset because her heart is breaking. It could be all of those things, or none of them. Negga’s performance leaves this open for interpretation. I just hope the writers don’t wait for the finale to resolve her issues. One of Tulip’s strengths is her strength. While I appreciate the roadblocks being thrown her way, it’s time for the Tulip from the first season to start kicking ass.

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Cassidy has been on the sidelines quite a bit this season, too. I’ve enjoyed his storyline with Denis, though. Without it, our time in New Orleans would be far less interesting—and Cassidy would be far less sympathetic. Considering how unlikable (and inconsistent) Jesse and Tulip have been, we need someone to root for, and right now it’s not them. So I’m glad Cassidy acted so decisively to save his son. It’s oddly heartwarming to see Denis so gleeful and vigorous. (His dancing to Edith Piaf is another great moment.) He’s a new man in many respects, a babe in the woods in need of fatherly guidance. Cassidy is rising to the occasion, which is what should happen, given the unexpected chance to right past wrongs. He and Denis have come full circle now, and I wonder what’s next for them. Part of me hopes Cassidy will elect to stay behind in New Orleans with Denis, when the quest for God inevitably leads elsewhere. But Preacher is constructed on the notion of an unholy trinity, which means at some point Cassidy will bid his son ADIEU.

And speaking of unholy, Herr Starr continues to be his amoral, reprehensible self, longing for carnal pleasures even as he runs the world’s most powerful religious organization.  Pip Torrens is a pleasure to watch as Starr, unafraid to take the character to ugly places. His guttural line readings mine the depths of depravity in a way that don’t rob Starr of any of his authority. He sits upon The Grail’s seat of power for a reason, and he didn’t get there by being a nice person. Featherstone is no pushover, either. She’s clearly drawn to Starr, even as she’s repulsed by fellow agent Hoover, who in turn is moony-eyed for her. It’s a love triangle of sorts, albeit an unrequited one. For all his power, it’s Featherstone I admire the most—she’s smart and thinks fast on her feet (though Harry Connick Jr.’s next of kin might beg to differ).

It’s impossible to discuss this episode without mentioning the Samson Unit’s botched raid on Denis’s apartment. The first-person shooter POV works very well here, with minimal sound save for incidental noises. The entire raid is well-choreographed, from breaching the door to the brutality of the close combat. The lack of any music only underscores the intensity and intimacy of the fighting. Even without Genesis, Jesse and Cassidy put up a very good fight. The raid is definitely one of this season’s highlights. So is the drone strike called in by The Grail. The entire sequence looks great, from B.R.A.D. to the missile itself streaking over New Orleans. I was truly invested in the outcome in a way I haven’t been this entire season. With Starr in the picture now, the stakes are higher than ever. And now that Starr has played his hand with Jesse, anything can happen.

Some closing thoughts:

Had Cassidy not bitten Denis, his son would have been killed in the raid. But, if Jesse had used Genesis to heal Denis—he wouldn’t be a vampire, meaning he’d still die in the raid. In other words, Denis owes his life to a preacher who’s uninterested in helping his fellow man. At this point, Jesse may as well just hang up his collar. He’s no man of God—he’s simply a man chasing God.  

Herr Starr’s suits are apparently handmade by a Hungarian humpback with excellent attention to detail.

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4 out of 5