Preacher Season 4 Episode 1 Review: Masada
Preacher kicks off its fourth and final season with plenty of carnage and conflict to spare.
This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 4 Episode 1
AMC’s Preacher has always struck me as a bit of an underdog, a show with something to prove. Part of this may stem from the source material itself, a Vertigo comic by Garth Ennis and the late Steve Dillon that, over the last two decades, has garnered a cult following. Kudos to Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg for figuring out how to adapt a property that doesn’t easily lend itself to the small screen. And yet here we are, staring down Preacher’s fourth and final season.
And judging from the premiere, Jesse (Dominic Cooper), Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) are in for plenty of gleeful, blood-drenched mayhem. The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but the road to the Grail—and thereby the truant Almighty Himself—is littered with bodies. And let’s not forget foreskins. Lots and lots of foreskins.
But first things first.
“Masada” kicks things off with an episode that’s among the series’ best. Indeed, the premiere bursts with energy and action and conflict, providing just enough exposition to bring viewers up to speed since the gang put Angelville and the fetid Louisiana bayou (not to mention Jesse’s considerable family baggage) behind them for good. The plot is simple enough: Jesse and Tulip must break into Masada, the Grail’s heavily fortified Middle Eastern command center, to rescue their tortured compatriot, Cassidy. And when I say tortured, I do mean that both literally and figuratively.
In addition to being the Grail’s stronghold and base of operations for the last two millennia, Masada is also part citadel, part college campus—offering courses like “Advanced Torture” to neophyte fascists. (“Comparative French Literature” is also offered; I suppose this course is its own form of torture.) While Jesse and Tulip are busily preparing to break into Grail HQ, poor Cassidy crosses paths with Bensonhurst native and sadist extraordinaire Frankie Toscani (Lachy Hulme). This is when the literal torture begins. Any advantage Cassidy may have by being a vampire winds up working against him. His healing abilities actually ensure he’ll be tortured indefinitely.
So is it any wonder why he’s angry with Jesse for taking so long to rescue him? Not just angry, resentful. There’s still enough bad blood between Cassidy and Jesse for them to draw blood. Ultimately, Cassidy doesn’t want to be liberated from Masada—at least not on Jesse’s terms. And this is where the figurative torture comes into play.
In many ways, Cassidy has been held in Jesse’s sway for too long, a captive of misguided loyalty to his mate and misplaced love for his mate’s mate, Tulip. Cassidy has been emasculated one too many times (again, both literally and figuratively speaking); Cassidy is long overdue for catharsis, to feel useful and needed, and yes, manly. And let’s not forget that Cassidy may still be struggling with the ugly truth—and ugly demise—of his onetime, would-be lover, Eccarius. His body may be able to repair itself, but his wounded pride, not so much.
Luckily for all of us, Joseph Gilgun is more than willing to sink his teeth into his role of a broken-hearted vampire. From day one he brought Cassidy to life as if the character had stepped off the comic book page and directly into this show. His casting was surely a stroke of genius, and Preacher has been reaping the rewards ever since.
There’s a lot more to “Masada” than Cassidy, of course. But, for me, his character has long been Preacher’s de facto moral center, reluctantly wearing his heart on his tattered sleeve to often-deleterious effect. Perhaps this is just one of many side effects to unwanted mortality—caring too much, or not caring at all.
The same couldn’t be said of Jesse, who, thanks to Genesis, carelessly wields the Voice of God to do his bidding. As Peter Parker knows so well, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I think it’s fairly obvious that Jesse Custer isn’t the most responsible person in the world. He may think he’s helping Cassidy, but he’s doing this more out of a sense of duty than altruism.
Tulip, on the other hand, truly likes Cassidy. She’s genuinely baffled and confused when she learns that Cassidy has chosen to stay behind in Masada—especially after she and Jesse put their lives on the line to save him. It doesn’t take a leap in logic to figure out that Jesse somehow sabotaged the mission—thereby jeopardizing the trio’s delicate equilibrium.
As for Herr Starr (Pip Torrens), while he may front the world’s most powerful secret paramilitary organization, he’s far from bulletproof. Like Gilgun’s Cassidy, Starr seems to have stepped right off the page and into a never-ending shit storm of Jesse’s devising. Torrens weathers each humiliating setback with misplaced aplomb. If the Allfather fell before Jesse, it’s only a matter of time before Starr meets a similar fate.
In the meantime, there’s still a lot to puzzle over here. Like Jesse falling out of a plane to his death in Australia. Or why Tulip and Cassidy seem to be more than just friends. Also intriguing: Jesse’s nightmares, which hint at an Armageddon we all know must surely be looming on the horizon. Far be it for Preacher to end things with a whimper—when it can end things with an earth-scorching bang.
A few closing thoughts:
A quick shout-out to Cassidy’s Nurse Ratched reference. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one hell of a movie—and an even better novel.
I loved Tulip’s rematch with Featherstone, but I loved Featherstone’s unexpected BASE-jumping escape even more.
I was really hoping a Hoover clone would make an appearance, but no such luck. If the Grail can clone Humperdoo, why not Agent Hoover?
Keep up with Preacher Season 4 news and reviews here.
David S.E. Zapanta is the author of four books. Read more of his Den of Geek writing here. He’s also an avid street photographer. Plus, you can follow him on Twitter: @melancholymania