This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 3 Episode 6
If this episode of Preacher has taught me anything, it’s this: Why smile when you can smirk? And, along those same lines, why just make your audience laugh when you can make them cry, too? It’s not often Preacher—a show that has literally been to Hell and back, a show that last season transformed Adolf Hitler into a sympathetic character—so boldly goes for the heartstrings.
When it comes to Eugene Root, the show often drops the snark in favor of the more tragic aspects of his existence. He’s a shy, earnest kid who wouldn’t harm a fly—but he wouldn’t think twice about harming himself. So for such a sweet kid to be damned to Hell simply for trying to do the right thing is not only horrific, it’s heartbreaking, too. But it’s not Eugene’s fate that “Les Enfants du Sang” mines so effectively for pathos; it’s Cassidy’s immortality.
Preacher isn’t the first show that comes to mind when one thinks of existential crises. And yet that’s exactly what writer Rachel Wagner does with “Les Enfants.” She hones in on immortality’s unbearable darkness of being. On the face of it, never fearing death is the ultimate gift, leading to a life lived fearlessly. But in Cassidy’s case, it leads to watching loved ones grow old and die, again and again, an unbreakable cycle of loss, ad infinitum. Preacher realizes we’ve seen this sort of thing play out before, especially where vampires are concerned. But seeing Cassidy strung out in a crack house, singing the ditty he once sang to Denis so long ago in a maternity ward, is both poignant and haunting.
Denis aside, Cassidy is really the only vampire we’ve encountered in this world. We know he has impressive regenerative abilities. We know he (sometimes) has superhuman strength. And he has a love-hate relationship with 20th century pop-culture. Enter Eccarius, Les Enfants du Sang’s charismatic leader, played to velvety perfection by Adam Croasdell. Eccarius generously holds court (and much sway) with wide-eyed wannabe vampires who sport prosthetic fangs. Where Cassidy is unkempt and uncouth, Eccarius is more of a vampire in the Anne Rice mold, effete yet refined, undead yet so very alive. But, like Cassidy, he yearns for the kind of companionship he won’t ever find from hangers-on.
Which leads to some genuinely funny moments in which Eccarius shows Cassidy what it’s like for a vampire to achieve his true potential. Like being able to soar among the stars like Superman. Or mind control. Even transfiguration. But as impressed as Cassidy may be, he simply doesn’t believe in turning people for his own personal gain. He believes his happiness shouldn’t come at the expense of others. “Les Enfants” goes a long way in redeeming Cassidy, who’s had a bit of a rough ride this season. It makes him sympathetic, and likable, in a way that’s organic and believable.
Indeed, removing Cassidy from Angelville is probably the best thing that could have happened to him. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, as Tulip soon discovers. Her awkward phone call with Cassidy is another highlight of the episode. It’s clear that Cassidy doesn’t need a love potion to win Tulip over. She’s smitten, much to her own frustration and chagrin. Cassidy understands this about her, and knows he has to make a difficult choice. But whereas Jesse plays mean to make a clean break, Cassidy simply comes clean. He wants to move on, even if someone like Tulip can’t let go.
Herr Starr coming face to face with the Allfather is another high point of “Les Enfants.” As great as Pip Torrens and Jonny Coyne are in their scenes together, it’s Laura Belsey’s direction that pushes the episode toward comedic greatness. The way she dissects Herr Starr’s reaction to finding the Allfather in his office is very similar to the way comic book panels break up longer moments into individual beats.
The editing here in this regard is used to great comedic effect as well. Pip Torrens is very adept at finding the awkwardness of this encounter, bringing vulnerability and humor to a self-serious character. It certainly helps that Torrens is in on the joke, of course. He doesn’t play Starr for a fool. I replayed this scene several times, just to see Starr squirm (and to hear Torrens pronounce “New Orleans”).
Jonny Coyne’s Allfather proves to be a fantastic foil for Starr. He’s ominous and intimidating, throwing his weight around in a way that makes him a big bad in the truest sense. And when a show like Preacher stacks the deck with so many antiheroes, your villains need to seriously up their game. As much as I like Betty Buckley as Gran’ma, the Allfather is a bigger threat, not just to Starr, but to the very future of civilization itself.
As for Eugene, it’s about time he discovered Annville’s fate. But rather than sink into despair, he somehow finds the silver lining in this dark cloud. Whether or not God has a purpose for him is beside the point. Personally, I don’t think Eugene is part of a bigger plan, like, say, Tulip is. But more power to him for putting a positive spin on things. I was a little surprised that the Saint of Killers found him so quickly, but someone who looks like Eugene probably isn’t too hard to find. I just hope we get to see a lot more of this odd pairing. Their scenes together are brief but a lot of fun to watch.
As much as I love this episode (it’s definitely in my top 5) I hope the rest of the season can maintain this level of manic intensity.
Some closing thoughts:
I loved the homage to Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans movies. I expected the bank heist to play a bigger part of the episode but am ultimately glad it didn’t.
Never thought I’d write the following in my episode notes, and yet here we are: TC. Petting zoo. Pixelated privates.