This review contains spoilers.
3.5 The Coffin
I enjoy when a show plays with formatting, and The Coffin has a pretty fun faux act break built into the episode during a terse meeting between Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery) and Starr (Pip Torrens). She announces that she has a plan, the camera zooms in hard on her face, the background music swells, and rather than cutting to black like they would normally, they just hold the shot. We get a reaction shot from Hoover (Malcolm Barrett), and then Starr screams, “WELL!?”
Certainly, it’s just a meta joke for people like me who watch entirely too much television, but it’s effective. I think that anyone who watches television regularly will get the joke, and it lands hard, because the actors involve sell it so well. Starr’s bellow hits the moment the music drops out and the close-up is at its tightest. Millicent Shelton did a wonderful job selling the gag. The other joke of the episode that works really well is when Jesse and Tulip are preparing for a fist fight with Jody and TC. They wait, the music swells, and… nobody comes in. They share a look with one another, then TC drops from behind them via the attic and Jody kicks in the door about the same time.
The fight that unfolds is also really very funny. Basically, everything that happens in this episode leans towards funny, rather than serious or impactful, and that’s what helps push Preacher ahead of other comic book shows on television right now, especially those on the same network. Preacher, when it wants to be, is a really funny programme, funnier than some television comedies, albeit in a dark way. Starr and the Grail kidnapping a stoned-out-of-his-tree Cas, only to lose him to a bunch of vampire poseurs in silly shirts and top-hats? That’s very funny. Jesse hallucinating John Wayne for half of an episode? Also very funny. Tulip fighting an elderly woman? An impressive fight scene that also ends up being really funny, if only due to God’s presence to deliver a great punchline as he looks down at Tulip as she dies.
Full credit for a lot of this comedy goes to Shelton and writer Mary Laws, who gets the nod for the script this week. They’re playing with the television format, and there are a lot of fun little exchanges throughout the episode. Humperdoo’s tap-dancing routine being a big hit is not a huge surprise, but everyone commits to it well. Every moment with Tulip and Jody is very funny, as it a scene later in the episode where Jody, TC, and Jesse have to bring Tulip and Madame Marie back to life with an adrenaline shot, akin to Pulp Fiction (which causes TC to mention Uma Thurman).
If Jesse and Tulip are going to be stuck on the farm, as it were, recruiting souls for Angelville and filling The Tombs with willing fighters, it’s good to have the other characters on the show engaging in more interesting adventures. Having Cassidy get involved with Les Enfants du Sang is a brilliant choice, because he’s such an odd, opinionated character that he’ll clash excellently with a bunch of fancy-dress wannabes in fun costumes. He’d already had a clash with one of them—a girl he met on a vampire-themed dating app—and seeing her come back with her friends to save him is a brilliant, hilarious touch.
Certainly, it further helps make The Grail look like the incompetent organisation it is. It’s led by a massively corrupt, massively fat leader who is propping up a drooling nincompoop “messiah” who is the product of thousands of years of inbreeding, and the only competent members, Starr and Samson Unit, aren’t exactly that competent, just competent when compared to the rest of them. Starr might have it together, but he’s got the misfortune of squaring off against smarter, luckier people than himself. Even when the plan is a good plan, it ends up failing badly through no real fault of his own.
When Preacher indulges in this world full of interesting characters, it helps the show. The scope needs to be broader, as you can only focus on three people for so long. Spinning them off into side-adventures, like Cas in New Orleans, Jesse in the Tombs, and Tulip with God, helps keep them all busy without advancing the main plot too far. It stretches things out, but it doesn’t feel quite like padding out the plot or deliberately stalling.
So long as the episode is entertaining, the big chase to track down God isn’t all that important. Truthfully, without The Voice, and without The Saint of Killers, Preacher is a wildly entertaining action comedy, and doesn’t need the supernatural trappings. After all, even in the comic book, Jesse “forgets” to use The Voice throughout most of his adventures, and The Saint is only a minor character. The three leads, plus their associated misadventures, will be what drives the series long-term.
Thus far, it’s pretty successful. Preacher has been a bit slower this season, but when it is on its game, it’s very enjoyable and doesn’t have to have narrative drive, so long as the episode itself has good pacing. Keep things moving quickly, and you can get away with a lot.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Tombs, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan had a very good laugh several times during this episode of Preacher. Sometimes, what you need is a funny show liberally sprinkled with bloody action. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.