This Preacher review contains spoilers.
Preacher Season 4 Episode 8
In the Preacher universe, everyone always seems to be trying to curry God’s favor. Jesse wants God to grant him an audience to answer some questions, and has since the first season. Tulip and Cas kidnap Humperdoo to try to get God’s attention so they can make God suffer as much as He’s made them suffer. Starr wants God to make him beautiful again, Jesus wants to take his rightful place as the Messiah, and Hitler’s just trying to manipulate the situation as much as possible, but it all seems to focus on God’s presence in the world and either thwarting or bringing about his plan to end the world.
At this point in Preacher, Starr is more pitiable than he is a formidable adversary. Certainly, the Grail is powerful and has resources (and is actively working to bring about the apocalypse with Jesus and Hitler), but Herr Starr himself is mostly just pathetic. His list of injuries at this point is comical, and the more that is taken away from him, the more broken he becomes, the less intimidating or dangerous he seems to be. Starr, at least in the eyes of Preacher‘s showrunner, isn’t the villain, just a tool more concerned with power and recovering his own beauty than he is actually succeeding at ending the world.
It’s hard not to be sympathetic with Starr, seeing his back-story as we do this week. He’s a prize-winning beauty pageant contestant, Little Mr. Düsseldorf with a pageboy haircut and a 1979 tuxedo to beat all 1979 tuxedos, until a gaggle of jilted fellow contestants advance on him in the bathroom and take away his handsomeness. That hallucination comes from pain as he’s recovering from the loss of his leg, his genitals, and his dignity at the hands of some backwoods cannibal physicians who replace his Little Mister Düsseldorf with a leaky water faucet. Even his moment of triumph at the end of the episode makes it difficult to forget just how much abuse Starr has taken over the course of the series. Certainly, he’s evil, but he’s not had an easy time of things, either.
Perhaps that’s the series’ point. Starr isn’t a villain, Starr is a tool to be used up and discarded when he no longer fits the agenda of the show’s true villain, God. He seems to take delight in dangling goals in front of the faces of our characters, then either yanking it away or letting them grasp it, depending on whose side they’re on. God refuses to save Humperdoo, but he sends the Grail to rescue him just the same. Starr gets his beauty back after some serious suffering at the hands of himself and others. He brings Jesse back to life and greets him warmly, only to let Jesse know that because he briefly considered sitting on the throne when it was offered to him, he’d sinned, despite ultimately doing the right thing in spite of his antipathy towards God.
Full credit to Pip Torrens, he’s given a lot to do in this episode, and he does it all with enough pathos to make it weirdly touching. We’re not supposed to like Starr, and yet, there he is, kind of looking hangdog, limping around with a faucet penis, and Torrens makes him pitiable to the point of being pathetic. Granted, he’s still evil, but he’s a weak, mediocre evil whose capacity for cruelty and deviousness is far surpassed by the cruelty he’s been on the other end of. That Torrens played a much younger Starr in 1979 in a pageboy wig only adds to the character’s demented comedy streak, and Wes Brown’s script makes him incredibly weak, which is fitting for how far the character has been brought down by his obsession.
Starr is pitiable because he’s got nothing left to lose. Tulip and Cas are dangerous because of the same reason. The two have fallen into a sort of family relationship with Humperdoo, which is a cute use of the problematic character. His charms are not lost on either Cas or Tulip, even if Tulip is more dedicated to the cause of killing him while God watches.
Cas’s excellent point that God is always watching falls on deaf ears, as Tulip, like Jesse and Starr, is too caught up in her revenge plot to think clearly and potentially save the world at the same time. It’s personal for Tulip, and Iain B. MacDonald makes sure that we know it’s personal for every character involved, from God and Jesse to Featherstone and Jesus Christ. No one can get out of their own way to accomplish a mission because no one is thinking clearly, and that means that everything will be coming to a head soon because fate, or God’s plan, is drawing everyone together.
As he said to Jesse, bring your friends. There’s a reason He wants that, and that’ll be revealed soon. To Preacher‘s credit, they’ve managed to keep all the major characters active and involved in the main plot of the series, except for perhaps Eugene at the moment—though he did kill Jesse and send him to Hell, so that’s pretty important. No doubt that Eugene will be leaving prison by the end of the series, because everyone has a part to play in the end of the world (and of the series).