This review contains spoilers.
Preacher has introduced several very difficult opponents for Jesse Custer to get past. Some he can outfight, outshoot, outdrink. Others he has to out-think, which tends to be a lot of fun to watch. When you have a hero like Jesse, who is flawed but incredibly capable, it’s fun to watch him work his way through problems. We don’t get any fun animations, like we do when Tulip works out a couple of different plans to escape the bus to hell, but we can watch Jesse working his way through plans prior to executing them.
Schwanzkopf was another solid entry for Preacher, which is a show that excels at small moments and close confines. Some of its best moments have taken place in small environments (especially the fight scenes), and this week’s episode is no exception. It’s as close as this show comes to a bottle episode; Jesse and Starr in Grail HQ, the bus to hell, and of course the vampire rec room. Perhaps Preacher‘s creative crew were looking to save money on sets and push it towards more fake blood.
With the exception of Cas, the scenes are mostly played for laughs. Jesse and Starr are a natural comedy pairing, and to see Jesse put against a character as broad (literally and figuratively) as The Allfather (Jonny Coyne) only serves that character by giving him an intellectual, as well as physical, match. It’s strange to consider that a fight between a behemoth who can barely move and Jesse can be well matched, but it is, and Jesse is in peril for a good portion of it, due to the fact that the Allfather is incredibly difficult to injure. That brawl is set up by a real display of cleverness from Jesse, and it’s a satisfyingly brief fight, albeit one with a lot of wallowing around on crushed furniture. It’s amusingly paralleled with Starr and Jesse’s fight later in the episode, except rather than it being a fight on crushed furniture, it’s a fight on the splattered remains of another unfit host for Genesis.
After three seasons of Preacher, the reasonable reader might suggest that the show would no longer be able to shock regular viewers, and yet, they find new ways in which to enthrall and gross out long-time viewers. Consider this is a show that opened with Tom Cruise exploding, and continues to have people explode on a regular basis, and yet somehow they found a new line to cross. The Allfather had Jesse’s soul stored in a very secure place, and after exploding, that very secure place is shown in graphic detail, and we watch Jesse’s soul vial slide out from within the Allfather’s disembodied, puckered anus.
That’s one of many memorable visuals from director Kevin Hooks, who has put together a lot of really impressive set pieces for this episode. Starr and Jesse wrestling in scattered entrails, Starr wearing a backwards Kangol hat like a blindingly white Samuel L. Jackson, and, of course, an army of Humperdoo clones released upon the world by Jesse to keep The Grail from triggering the apocalypse. It looks very cool, and it ends up being very funny to watch a hundred or so clones stumble out into traffic, some getting hit by cars, others getting trapped in revolving doors.
I have no doubt that’s going to come back next season.
Starr and Jesse rely on visual jokes, but Tulip, Eugene, and Hitler all rely more on actual jokes. There’s a lot of fun interplay with those three characters. Eugene seems almost smitten with Tulip. Hitler and Eugene have been hanging out so long that they’re starting to grate on one another, and squabble like old friends. Tulip immediately gets pulled into the dynamic; they might be extremely mismatched bedfellows, but they all have a common goal: escaping the bus to Hell. And, from what I could glean, they might have a little support from The Saint of Killers, who was a man with a code before he became the soulless killing machine that scares everyone except Tulip.
There’s an interesting sort of charm in the Hell Ride scenes, and Gary Tieche’s script does a good job of putting humour into what isn’t a funny situation. Tulip’s complicated plan to stop the bus using their chains, only to have it fail immediately, is very funny. Hitler and Eugene squabbling with one another is funnier, especially considering Eugene’s best plan for escape seems to involve building a bomb out of materials they don’t have to blow a hole in the side of the bus.
For a series that depends so much on wild shifts in tone, there’s a strange sort of consistency to Preacher. It might be funny or sad, violent or goofy, but one thing it’s rarely been is not entertaining. Some elements work better than others, and some elements work for me more than they might work for other people, but Preacher is a show that has something for a wide audience, assuming that audience can handle the occasional person exploding.
This episode was an action comedy, a road comedy, and a very brief drama during the scene in which Cas is nailed to the pool table by Les Enfants and Eccarius. No doubt there’ll be romance when Jesse and Tulip are finally reunited, assuming Jesse’s return to Angelville doesn’t turn next week’s season finale into a Gothic horror. Jesse’s got his Voice back, but Marie’s got voodoo and Satan on her side. It should be a satisfying confrontation.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is not surprised to see that Hoover went back to work, and that his newfound vampirism won’t be a hindrance to his work with The Grail. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.