This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 3 Episode 4
If I could point to a common thread running throughout “The Tombs,” it’s the idea of descent. Jesse’s descent into ugliness as The Tombs’ ringleader. Tulip’s literal descent through the floor as she plunges further into the world of witchcraft. The Saint of Killers descending deeper into the underworld to face down Satan himself. Of the three, the Saint fares the best, emerging with his dignity intact. (His back, though, not so much.) But more on the Saint’s sit-down with Satan in a bit.
There’s a point during “The Tombs,” when Madame Boyd informs Tulip that she’s lost. The same could be said of Preacher, which is nearing this season’s midpoint. Last season, Preacher went out of its way to repeatedly remind viewers that Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy were on a mission to find God. This might have seemed necessary, given how long the trio remained parked in Denis’s New Orleans apartment. That we’re being reminded again of their mission points to this season’s sluggish pace. Despite all the mayhem and carnage and black magic, not all that much has happened with regard to this all-important quest.
Tulip has some inspired action beats, most notably the way she shoots her way out of Madame Boyd’s apartment. Sure, it’s a bit cartoony, but it’s cool as hell, too. Pairing her with Madame Boyd is likewise inspired, given their unexpected connection. But once we discover a younger Sabina once dated Jesse, these scenes in the car become as aimless as Tulip’s driving. Maybe it’s just me, but I had a hard time believing Tulip could seem so directionless, at least in a literal sense.
I’ve also been struggling with her loyalty to Jesse. I understand that they’re a couple because we’re told as much. But we haven’t seen a lot of this chemistry play out on screen. (Odd, given that Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga are a real-life couple.) I appreciate that Tulip can see through Jesse’s mean routine and call him out for not being forthright with her. But, that being said, Tulip appears to have a more emotional connection with Cassidy—and he hasn’t even used Gran’ma’s love potion.
This creates a genuine moment of tension, though, doesn’t it? After escaping The Tombs in a skin suit, Cassidy’s being forced to hit the bricks. This, after bravely confessing his love for Tulip. Which is a great set-up for a moral dilemma: Will he or won’t he use the love potion? Because it’s one thing to ask for the potion in a moment of weakness, but it’s quite another thing to actually use it in a moment of desperation. I wondered last week if I could care about Cassidy again, and indeed I do.
The best scenes of the episode belong to Graham McTavish’s Saint of Killers. His appearance is brief, in scenes that bookend “The Tombs.” The Saint is his usual taciturn, imposing self. Indeed, he’s more threatening than even Satan (Jason Douglas). Satan is chatty and charming and cruel—pretty much what you’d expect of the devil. Satan’s got big plans, now that God is on walkabout. There’s just the matter of corralling escaped souls—Hitler and Eugene, who are never named. This directive to round them up is important connective tissue to last season, and the first mention of two characters who have gotten short shrift so far this season.
Which leaves us with Jesse’s storyline, and a better understanding of The Tombs’ role in Angelville’s economy. Back in the day, defaulting on one’s debt to Madame L’Angelle didn’t just mean imprisonment, it meant becoming an unwilling participant in a blood (compact) sport. A young Jesse was vital to The Tombs’ solvency, luring vulnerable people into unending gladiatorial combat.
But Jesse Custer is a prisoner, too—and has been for most of his life. The blood of the dead and the damned is on his hands and flows through his veins. In essence, Jesse is more than just its ringleader; Jesse Custer is The Tombs. Dominic Cooper is at his best this season as Jesse grapples with the moral ramifications of his actions. He may not have a pulpit, but he briefly visits hellfire down upon the lowlifes clamoring around him.
Preacher is not a show about taking the moral high ground. No, it’s more interested in acknowledging the high road exists, but taking the low road instead. As dark and as bleak as things get in “The Tombs,” has Jesse finally hit rock bottom? If not—if his descent continues—what does a crueler Jesse Custer mean for the rest of this season?
I’m not sure I want to find out.
Some closing thoughts
No offense to science teachers, but if Cassidy’s a vampire, shouldn’t he be mopping the floor with this guy? I can understand how someone like Jesse could possibly hold his own in a fight against a vampire, but Cassidy seems massively underpowered here.
Self-defense or no, is Kenny Boyd (Taron Germany) the first person Jesse has ever killed?
Casting a bruiser like Jeremy Childs as Jody makes more sense, given his role as The Tombs’ ultimate warrior. Is it a wonder that no one has ever won their soul back?
With Cassidy bound for New Orleans, we’ll finally get to see another storyline from the comic, namely Les Enfants du Sang. Which, frankly, is a better use of the show’s resident vampire than his being cast in the unfortunate role of third wheel.