This review contains spoilers.
3.10 The Light Above
I cannot say enough about how well Preacher has learned from the mistakes of other shows on AMC’s roster. Ten episode seasons, plotted out tightly, keeping some recurring characters while killing off others? Once upon a time, The Walking Dead was known for being unpredictable. Anyone could die at any moment, and any background character could suddenly become the lead on the show. Preacher hasn’t elevated any side characters quite yet, but the one thing they have done is ruthlessly and efficiently finish story lines off in season finales.
Think of the first season of Preacher. Jackie Earle Haley, a great antagonist to Jesse, goes out with a literal bang thanks to an explosion at the power plant. An explosion that essentially kills everyone the show populated the first season with, save our three main characters and Eugene. In the second season, the end of the season is a little less radical, but no less impressive. Cassidy’s son and Tulip are both killed. In Tulip’s case, death didn’t stick, but after that, Preacher left New Orleans behind and decamped to Angelville.
The third season of Preacher, unsurprisingly, ends with what is almost a total reset.
Full credit to Sam Catlin, the show-runner and executive producer of Preacher (as well as the writer and director of tonight’s episode). The season finale of Preacher feels like a series finale, with Jesse putting Angelville to bed completely, Eugene putting Hell to bed for the moment, and Cas taking over for Tulip in the “season finale character in peril” role. There are still some lingering elements—The Grail is only going to get worse, and the Saint of Killers is hot on Jesse’s trail once more—but once Angelville had run its course, Catlin didn’t waste time getting rid of it and moving the show along to the next plot line. Once Les Enfants served their purpose, they got a dramatic ending to that storyline.
Catlin does a wonderful job with the directing of this episode. He’s got a good sense for visual bits, and he has some very creative ideas about how to stage scenes around limitations, either financial or simply logical. Jesse’s revenge trip back to Angelville is satisfying, both because of what transpires but also how it transpires. Every scene in which Jesse and his younger self (Will Kindrachuk) is great, because of the stylistic and performance choices. Young Jesse is introduced in black and white, clashing with his grandmother.
As Young Jesse leaves Angelville, he passes Current Jesse, in colour, on the driveway. Their brief exchange (“You should have killed her.” “Yeah, well, now’s your chance.”) is very simple, but it packs a punch that sets up the rest of Jesse’s arc in The Light Above. When Young Jesse returns at the end of the episode, he encourages Jesse to finish what he started and put Angelville behind him officially. Jesse does so, in brutal fashion, with a violent fistfight with Jody and an absolutely merciless scene with Jesse and Madame Marie.
In truth, it’s satisfying to watch Jesse exact bloody revenge for a lifetime of suffering at the hands of his grandmother, his only remaining family member (who happened to kill his father and mother). That lightness is needed, because Cas, for all his good intentions, seems to have somehow taken the mantle of the O’Hare curse. Certainly, he saves the lives of Les Enfants by turning them against Eccarius, but then it all goes poorly thanks to a very well-executed betrayal by Hoover. It’s sudden and shocking; one minute Hoover and Cas are talking, and the next Cas is hiding under the umbrella while all around him his friends are bursting into flames in the crowded basement. It’s perfectly implied chaos.
It’s another feather in the cap for Catlin as a director. It’s a great-looking scene. Joseph Gilgun huddles under a slightly opaque umbrella, the camera close to him, and while he hides, behind him is chaos and death. You can see the pain play across his face; he’s not on fire, but these misfits have become friends of his, and they’re people he led into the vampire lifestyle. They’re dying and burning, because he’s friends with Jesse and that means The Grail has gotten involved in his life (thanks a lot, Hoover; your painful demise is well-deserved, despite being such a likable character).
Jesse has beaten back the demons of his past. He’s regained his powers thanks to getting his soul restored, and while he might end up in Hell, he’s freed himself and Tulip from Angelville’s clutches. For the moment, he thinks that his life is about to get better. But with Cas in the clutches of the enemy, an angry Saint of Killers loosed from Hell, and The Grail readying a legitimate army to do battle with Jesse, it won’t be peaches and cream for long. The Light Above was a perfect capper for season three, and a perfect set-up for season four of AMC’s brilliant comic book adaptation.
This isn’t the end of Preacher; this is a beginning. Starr (making judicious use of obscenities in a way that The Walking Dead has never been brave enough to do) is ready to stop trying to out-think Jesse Custer and is ready to just beat him senseless with unlimited resources. An army on one side, an unstoppable killing machine (and Eugene) on the other, and Jesse and Tulip in the middle. Oh yeah, Hitler is also in charge of Hell now, which isn’t good for anyone.
It’s going to be a big, beautiful, bloody mess, and I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan really enjoyed the third season finale of Preacher, more than he’s enjoyed a lot of season and series finales. Preacher did the one thing that’s almost impossible to do: stick the landing. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.