This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 3 Episode 5
On paper, “The Coffin” has all the hallmarks of the perfect Preacher episode. From John Wayne to the grotesque spectacle of the Allfather to Gran’ma finally unleashed, these are among the best elements this season has mustered thus far. And yet, with only five more episodes to go, I can’t shake the feeling that Preacher is pulling its punches. Anyone who’s been watching from day one knows the dangerous, dizzying irreverence this show is capable of. Think Cassidy jumping out of a plane without a parachute after stylishly dispatching a cadre of vampire hunters. Or Tulip using intestines to siphon gas—then washing the taste away with a Yoo-hoo. Or even the wayward angels laying waste to a motel room as they battle a mighty seraphim. I could go on and on. Like “The Coffin,” this season has its own inspired moments, but they don’t quite gel into something as genre-defining—or genre-defying.
I hate to say it, but I think Preacher may be in a bit of a rut.
Maybe I feel this way because the Angelville storyline and its attendant villains aren’t reaping the rewards I hoped they would. On paper, Gran’ma, Jody, and T.C. are truly malevolent, and therefore threatening. But in the comics, Jesse Custer is likewise a threat—whether he uses the Word of God or not. But in the translation to the small screen, each of these characters—Jesse included—has been stripped somewhat of danger and menace. They’re still bad people, just not bad enough. Only Tulip has retained any sort of backbone, but more on her in a bit.
Like the previous four episodes, “The Coffin” crams in a lot into its one-hour runtime. So much so, that one wonders why the story isn’t progressing faster. Finally introducing Allfather D’Aronique—one of the comic’s literal and figurative big bads—is a big deal (no pun intended). Jonny Coyne plays him just right—as a scene-stealing, scenery-chewing villain. And yet something feels off with the character. Is it because he isn’t quite as grotesque as Steve Dillon’s illustrations? Or is it because Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life is more what I had in mind for The Grail’s Allfather?
Still, The Allfather’s introduction reminds us that Herr Starr is answerable to a higher power (though not the higher power). Considering Humperdoo’s limitations in the Messiah department, Starr has a reason to be worried. So I found it a little silly that a surprisingly competent soft-shoe routine saves his hide. This isn’t irreverent, it’s corny—and Preacher has proven it’s capable of darker, more subversive humor.
Which is why T.C. engaging in antebellum role-play with Gran’ma doesn’t quite work. Yes, we finally get to see the Gran’ma of the comics rear her ugly head onscreen. Betty Buckley is at her best so far this season when she reminds Tulip she is living on borrowed time. “I ripped you from death’s door and brought you back into the world,” Gran’ma growls. Every moment of every day is owed to her largesse, such as it is. “Every shit,” she tells Tulip, “is because of me.”
But the whole dress-up scene with T.C. does Gran’ma no favors. She’s not dangerous; instead, she’s sad and pathetic. Plus up to this point she’s only been able to get around in a wheelchair. How does she suddenly have the strength to overpower Tulip? I just didn’t buy it. I did think that Tulip’s and Gran’ma’s lives being bound together by black magic is a devilishly clever twist. It also serves as a reminder that Madame Boyd knows how to hold a grudge.
As for John Wayne, again, this is another instance where Preacher falls a bit short. Aside from a brief mention by Tulip in season one, the specter of John Wayne has been absent from the show. Which is a shame, as the Duke plays a much bigger role in the comic. He’s essentially a father figure to young Jesse, who’s sorely in need of positive role models. But this isn’t the John Wayne we get in “The Coffin.” Danny Vinson’s performance is a serviceable approximation of the mythic actor, who’s listed only as “Missouri Cowboy” in the credits. But I can’t help but feel it’s too little, too late. John Wayne kept Jesse Custer afloat when his life was most adrift. In some ways, might it have been better to leave the Duke out of the show altogether?
And as for the titular coffin itself, the one in which Jesse has been submerged below the swamp as punishment, this is only a small part of the episode. Suffice it to say, Jesse manages to MacGyver himself out of this tight spot with an apparently waterproof pack of Pilgrim cigarettes.
The episode ends on a more promising note, with Cassidy finally crossing paths with the vampire cult Les Enfants du Sang. This is the same cult Cassidy’s son Denis fell in with last season, if you’ll recall. We even get a brief glimpse of Adam Croasoell as the cult’s leader, Eccarius. Hopefully Preacher will truly sink its teeth into this group of vampire wannabes.
Some closing thoughts:
Poor Cassidy. Immortality has not been kind to him, has it? Despite his longevity, he has yet to find true love. Hence the futility of Cassidy’s frequent bouts of self-medication. But perhaps there’s no amount of pills or booze that can stem the tide of his ever-present loneliness.
This episode had its fair share of funny lines, including Tulip’s acerbic assessment of The Tombs as a “heehaw hillbilly fight club.”
Ruth Negga continues to shine in almost every scene she’s in. She’s got it all—style, wit, and grit. Is it any wonder God can’t seem to quit Tulip O’Hare?