Preacher season 3 episode 4 review: The Tombs

Preacher solves its The Saint problem in its latest season three episode. Spoilers ahead in our review of The Tombs...

This review contains spoilers.

3.4 The Tombs

What’s the best way to deal with a threat that can’t be stopped? That’s a question that Preacher has been facing since the Saint of Killers was introduced into the narrative. In the comic book, Jesse’s ability to use The Voice allows him to control The Saint, but only once. The idea is that now that The Saint is aware of his ability, Jesse won’t get a chance to open his mouth before bullets start filling the air.

The television show, somewhat inelegantly, made The Voice not work on The Saint because The Saint has no soul (at least, not a living soul), and Jesse gives The Saint a piece of his own soul in order to keep him partially under control. Now, freed from the handcuff provided by a soul, Preacher has been keeping the popular character confined to Hell, which is a difficult proposition, considering he’s one of the most iconic characters from the comic series and a regular on the series.

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I have to give credit to the show’s creative team. Using The Saint as a supernatural bounty hunter is a great idea, as is taking away his guns and forcing him to bring back Hell’s escapees alive. (The escapees aren’t mentioned, but it’s pretty clear that it’s Hitler and Eugene.) This brings back three of the show’s more popular performers, gives three regulars something to do, and gives the story of Jesse, Cas, and Tulip a little bit of a break from carrying the weight of every episode.

Or it will, once The Saint is loosed upon the mortal realm once again.

For now, we get a fairly satisfying episode of Preacher, focusing more on Jesse’s back story and his enmity with the Boyd family. A fellow group of voodoo practitioners in opposition to Angelville, the Boyds seem to hate Jesse more than Madame Marie, Jody, TC, or anyone else. As it turns out, Sabine Boyd (Prema Cruz) and Jesse used to have a thing, until Jesse A) insulted her and B) strangled her brother. To be fair, he was also trying to kill Jesse at the time, but that’s revealed only during a late-episode Rashomon style retelling of the events of the strangulation, in Angelville’s famous Tombs.

Jesse isn’t as bad a guy as he thinks he is, and he’s not as bad of a person as he tries to make himself out to be. In Mark Stegemann’s script, Jesse lashes out at people to protect them. Sabine, Tulip, Cas… Jesse pushes them all away, one by one, to keep them safe from Angelville’s corrupting influence. Certainly, he leans into the act a little bit himself; you can’t be a ringmaster for zombie fights and not be slightly bad. However, most of his more heinous activities come in service of others, whether they want that help or not. Tulip’s exchanges with Sabine Boyd are pretty fun, as is the brief bits of dialogue between Jesse and a chopped-up Cas. (Young Jesse’s love of Gladiator is a very amusing through-line for the entire episode.)

Preacher, at its best, is pulpy fun, and director Wayne Yip works hard to keep that pulpy fun going. The elevator ride to Satan’s office (played by AMC favorite Jason Douglas from The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad) in the subbasement of Hell is very amusing, and the mixture of CGI and practical effects is just ropey enough to be amusing without crossing over into the territory of just plain bad. Certain effects, like The Saint’s shredded back, look very good while the CGI hellscape the Saint walks through is amusingly rough. It looks good for what it is, which is imaginary hell, and Satan—all goat legs and horns and bright red makeup—is something of a hilarious used car salesman stereotype given weird rubbery abdominal muscles.

Having Jason Douglas, an experienced voice actor with dozens of recurring roles in English dubs of anime series, play Satan is a stroke of genius. He’s able to act well enough with his voice that the limitations of his makeup don’t hinder his performance. It would be easy to be lost behind the horns and ears and whatnot, but Douglas is able to make the distracting makeup work for him, rather than against him. When he does move his facial features, it’s understated (when compared to his prosthetics) and his voice does most of the heavy lifting during his scenes with The Saint of Killers.

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The Tombs serves mostly to further establish existing character relationships while introducing a second story to run parallel to Jesse and the gang. That should help the show, because the focus on Angelville is getting to be a bit tiring, even though it’s been solid enough material. It’s just a bit too static at the moment.

There’s only so much swamp consommé I can watch someone eat, and so many ways to get Tulip tangled with TC and Jody. Maybe I’m just in touch with my inner Tulip, and I’m feeling restless. I think a change in scenery from Angelville would do the show some good next week, but we’ll see where things go from here.

Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Gonna Hurt, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan isn’t interested in going to an underground fight club where he might be hit with a crowbar by accident during a fight between a preacher and a vampire. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.