Preacher Season 4 Episode 5 Review: Bleak City
The characters in Preacher season 4 are stuck in a loop of their own making but there isn't much time left to break it.
This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 4 Episode 5
In the world of Preacher, characters seem to be drawn into situations not based off of free will, but divine providence. As Eugene often says, God has a plan, and we’re all just following his plan no matter how directionless we might feel during a particularly trying moment. Certainly, Eugene is part of some sort of plan, even if that plan is simply for him to pray over the victims of the Saint of Killers as he murders his way across the world in pursuit of Jesse Custer.
Of all the characters, only The Saint and Jesse have a definitive goal in mind. The Saint wants Jesse dead, Jesse wants to stop the end of the world. The rest of the characters, from Starr to Tulip, are all in various states of flux. Even the Son of Man himself, Jesus Christ, doesn’t want to fulfill his destiny by bringing on the end of the world, though he’s more not bummed about having his role as Messiah taken away from him and put on the shoulders of Humperdoo (wherever he is). “Bleak City” seems concerned mostly with how characters dither from their inevitable goals, but eventually fall in line and rejoin the plan God has for them in his great plan for the death of humanity.
Jesse, for all his faults, has the most noble of goals. All he wants to do is save the world and talk to God. That he gets basically everyone around him killed, imprisoned, or otherwise inconvenienced seems to be coincidental rather than deliberate. Jesse wanders the outback looking for the rock formation he saw in his apocalyptic vision, and meanwhile everyone he leaves behind ends up dead at the hands of the Saint, tracking Jesse every time he uses Genesis to get his way and even when he doesn’t. Between the scenes of Jesse, The Saint, and Eugene, we see Cas, Tulip, and Cas’s angel cellmate struggle with their destiny.
In classic Preacher fashion, Susan Hurwitz Arneson’s script has a little bit of fun with how Cas and company are struggling with their roles in the whole thing. Tulip and Jesus get to fantasize about taking off for Vegas and taking up a life of bank robberies before Jesus (in a real Last Temptation of Christ moment) turns back and returns to Masada to take his part in the apocalypse across the bargaining table from Hitler. Cas struggles between his desire to do the right thing and his tendency to be himself before deciding to head off to rescue Jesse after a little talk with his demon-shagging angelic cellmate. Even the angel, who threw aside heaven for a love affair with a demoness, ends up reverting to the mean and engaging his paramour in a violent battle in the midst of the Holy Bar and Grail.
further reading – Preacher: The Most Shocking Moments From the Comics
That battle, courtesy of the technical crew and director Jonathan Watson, is another example of Preacher‘s ability to have fun with background color. The battle rages on while Cas, wearing a shemagh, strides out from the bar to the strains of Wolfmother to go to save Jesse. There are some great match cuts involving Jesse and the Saint, as well as a pretty great split-screen of Jesse using Genesis and the Saint hearing it immediately. There aren’t a lot of opportunities otherwise to show off, but they do a great job of staging messy tableaux and using the camera depth of field in fun ways.
Similarly, Watson has good command of the actors, as well. Cas feels like he’s struggling to decide on his future, and Tulip feels like she just might actually run off to Vegas and leave Jesse in the lurch until she has a change of heart thanks to Jesus’s similar change of heart. Tyson Ritter does a good job playing Jesus as a sort-of forgotten son of God, cast off for his simple-minded replacement, while the chemistry between Ruth Negga and Joseph Gil gun remains as solid as ever. In the one brief moment of the two of them riding in the car together, their obvious fit and connection explains why the two of them on a long road trip is much less trying than a similar long road trip with Jesus. They’re of a similar wavelength, and as we’ve seen from previous episodes, part of God’s big plan for Jesse.
That plan, thankfully, is moving towards an endgame. The show has had some great moments, and some poor ones, across four seasons, but as a creative property it seems to be running out of steam. Extended torture sequences are fine, and I enjoy black comedy (a little too much?), but with characters on the determined path and unable to break free, it’s time to coast into a finish. Preacher isn’t exactly getting tired, but the show is repeating itself and doing things we’ve already seen before, just bigger and louder. Again, that has an appeal, but the novelty is wearing off and it’s better to end a show than to try and wring one last season out of a property.
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