This week the ball is well and truly rolling on Preacher.
Opening in Ratwater with what has to be the most atmospheric sequence so far, Preacher builds a strong sense of foreboding as the mysterious cowboy rides into town. Here you have to congratulate the set designers on making an isolated, hick-town somehow look even less pleasant than Deadwood. Ratwater is a den of sweat, grime and blood, saturated in a pale amber glow as if only bearable through a fog of cheap whiskey.
There’s some dark foreshadowing when the Saint runs into a corrupt preacher who recognises him from the Battle of Gettysburg, recalling his bloodlust with awe. The Saint is only too eager to collect medicine for his family and be on his way but in a moment of altruism he rides back into town to rescue a young boy he met on the road. It costs him his horse, shot out of spite by the preacher, and delays him too long to save his wife and child.
Back in Annville it’s a new dawn for Jesse. He’s being commended for his powerful service and people are seeking his guidance. At long last Cooper plays the role of a man at peace while Emily is clearly rattled by Quinncannon’s conversion. She serves as the only reminder that this can’t last, something we’ll see for ourselves in the end. Before that though there’s the matter of Tulip waking up with a vampire in her house.
Tulip and Cassidy have exactly the kind of chemistry you’d expect. Unlike Jesse she’s not willing to put up with his nonsense a second longer than she has to. Once she knows exactly what he is and how dangerous he might be she kicks him straight out. Cassidy likewise sees someone he can’t just charm with a touch of male camaraderie as he has with Jesse. So he changes tact, plays to her criminal tendencies, remarking on what a fool Jesse must be to not join her revenge plot. He doesn’t overplay it, but clearly he gets through to her.
Soon Tulip is barging into Jesse’s impromptu counseling session to remind him of his hypocrisy. She recounts one of his worse misadventures involving a Komodo dragon and a barbecue that sounds equally shameful and hilarious. Tellingly when Cooper responds he adjusts his cadence, similar to how he sounds when using the Word, yet can’t bring himself to use it on her. He’ll brainwash half the town but he will not control Tulip, demonstrating some integrity in all this.
In an episode which shows Jesse at his best it’s fitting that we also get some development to his relationship with Eugene, aka Arseface. Eugene has been one of the show’s big triumphs in both look and characterisation. You really want to sit the kid down and tell him that what he feels isn’t God’s wrath but merely emotions he just can’t process. But that isn’t going to happen in a town where people leave shotguns in his bedroom and graffiti reading ‘Finish the Job’.
Turns out the inhabitants of Annville don’t just hate Eugene because of his appearance. He was involved with Tracey, the comatose girl from episode two, and the incident which crippled her. As far as I can tell this hasn’t been explained in any previous episodes so we’ll have to chalk this up to bad storytelling. The ends do justify the means though as Jesse is able to give Eugene some comfort, using the Word so that Tracy’s mother can forgive her.
Repercussions come almost immediately. Jesse is using the Word so much now that Fiore and DeBlanc can find him themselves. Confronting him at the local diner and outright telling him they want the power inside him back. The bigger issue is Quinncannon. He’s been playing the reformed man, agreeing to meet with the mayor and some sustainable development people.
Unfortunately it’s only so he can reach an agreement at the end of a twelve-gauge shotgun. He massacres the business men and woman, to the mayor’s horror, showing that his interpretation of serving God is a little more Old Testament.
South Shall Rise Again shows Preacher in full swing. The characters are moving forward and the series is showing off its trademark anarchic violence and colourful characters. It is still juggling more stories than it can handle, the unexplained Arseface/Tracy relationship and a c-plot involving Donny Schenck’s post-Word PTSD are good examples. But it has its focus now and is delivering with surprising turns and pitch-black humour.
New episodes every Monday on Amazon Prime.