By Christopher Robin Negelein
It could have been high school — or college — but there was very late night where you and a friend sat on the couch either sloshed, high or both while channel surfing the best B-grade schlock cable had to offer.
What you can recall from your brain’s strobelight-style memories of that night are equal parts Philosophy 101 talk and cheap shock from ridiculous TV images of sex and gore. The next morning you and your bud got the most unhealthy — but delicious — pancakes IHOP had to offer and realized you were now both best friends forever while riding a maple sugar high.
Watching Preacher is about as close as you can get to those memories while sober.
Hollywood insiders who’ve seen the first four episodes of Preacher say the second episode, See, is the weakest. If so, the other three episodes are going to be pretty damn strong.
Perhaps the show’s biggest weakness is that there is so much going on and it’s so entertainingly over-the-top, that’s hard to remember every thread.
The quietest moment was with Jackie Earle Haley’s Odin Quinncannon character. Possibly, the most powerful man in town since he own the town’s primary industry of the Q M & P Meat packing plant. He waxes on about the balance of life giving and taking as he and his coverall entourage asks a meek couple to sign some papers.
As they all leave couple’s living room, Q M & P removed the furniture just in time to avoid a bulldozer ramming through a fireplace. Odin’s crew leaves the couple there with their furniture on the front yard, but not before there is some perplexing minion on minion violence. I think the show is going to tackle the concepts of what evil things petty people do to secure themselves just one one rung higher on the miniscule social ladder of a small town.
For comic book fans, the episode starts with a thrill as they watched a cowboy trudge through the Devil’s backyard to get medicine for his daughter. You don’t hear his name, nor does he speak much, but a foreboding soundtrack follows adding a dread to wherever he goes. When a manifest destiney settler asks if the desert is a paradise, the cowboy simply says, “no.”
As if to clear up any confusion, the next day the cowboy enters Ratwater city limits, greeted by a lynching tree full of scalped Native Americans. For the sharped eye who watched the pilot, Ratwater happens to make Jessie’s (Dominic Cooper) favorite whiskey.
Jessie’s own arc shows that he doesn’t know that he possesses any strange powers, thus never puts two and two together to know that he caused one of his parishioners to literally open his heart to his mother in the pilot. But when a school bus driver confesses his pedophile urges, Jesse starts to waver in his new found conviction to be a proper man of the cloth. His right hand woman, Emily (Lucy Griffiths) is not really impressed either, but she keeps hoping.
The distraught mother who cares for her invalid and comatose daughter is definitely not impressed and pretty much tosses any words of comfort, pity or free casserole she gets right into the bullshit pile. It doesn’t help either women that Jesse is walking around like he’s hungover, which he is, thanks to Cassidy’s (Joseph Gilgun) special bottle of rotgut.
That rotgot also make Jesse completely unaware of the best chainsaw fight scene on TV. Passed out alone on the church floor, the unconscious man is examined by the two strange fellows who have been following the entity.
They use lullabies and coffee cans placed on Jessie’s chest to see if they can get the little ball of energy out of passed-out preacher. It’s a weird, but enthralling scene.
When that fails, that’s when the chainsaw comes out — just in time for Cassidy to show up and assume they’re vampire hunters. What goes on next is a mess of guts, broken pews, creeping limbs and so much blood that it takes the vampire all night to clean up and then stash his two victims in a footlocker to wait out the day. As a sidenote, it seems that Cassidy can run around during the day and that only direct sunlight makes his skin start to cook.
The vampire also gives Arseface’s (Ian Colletti) his nickname, just not to the young boy’s face. There’s also some subtle foreshadowing that things will not always be the same between the boy and the preacher. That Jesse may see that Arseface has his own darkness before the season’s end.
Ruth Negga’s Tulip is under utilized in this episode as she still keeps tempting Jesse to do one more “job” of sorts. Beyond her charm and seduction, she tries a little mock kidnapping to get some alone time with the preacher, but Jesse is still saying no.
Tulip keeps saying he’s a bad, bad man and we’ve seen his violence before since the abusive father from the pilot is still wearing a cast. That fury rises to the top for Jesse after about the fourth time he sees the school bus go by, as if mocking him and his promise of confidentiality for the pedophile’s confession.
Eventually it’s too much.
Jesse makes himself at home in the pedophiles home, catching the man shaving. Jesse decides a more stringent bathtub baptism might put the fear of God into the pedophile. At the height of Jesse’s anger, the Voice turns on, forcing the bus driver to literally forget the girl. The pedophile knows something has happened, but not what, and is disturbed by it. Looks like Jesse’s power doesn’t wrap things up nice and neat with a bow.
The show wraps up on two high notes. The first is Cassidy finally getting out at night to bury the foot locker full of evidence, only to have the audience see the two strangers are now giving the sheriff a new cover story.
The second is Jessie, now aware of what he can do, revisiting the comatose girl and asking her to listen as he commands her to Open. Her. Eyes.
*Maple syrup optional.