After driving 150 miles down the highway to hell without ever pumping the breaks, Preacher‘s understandably more reserved follow-up to its eccentrically off-the-cuff pilot can seem like a little bit of a letdown.
It’s softer, more downbeat, more directly character-driven, more dialogue-focused. But that’s not to suggest this episode doesn’t bring the action, or the gore, or the weirdness in healthy doses. It just has other objectives on its mind, and more localized ground to cover. So there’s no continent-jumping. There’s no space travel. There are no high-flying airplane jumps, or driving full speed into cornfields. But that doesn’t make it any less fun, or any less interesting, and that’s a true testament to the continued success of the freshman series. Even when things get a little more subdued and a little more mindful, AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion’s beloved graphic novel series is still just as captivatingly bizarre as can be, without ever having to stress upon it or use it as its clutch. The weirdness just comes with the territory, and it helps to give the series the spicy flavor it needs to stand out amongst the crowd.
Though we stay predominantly within the state of Texas this week, we’re welcomed back into the world of Preacher many years before the events we’ve seen before. Trying a couple thousand years, in fact, as we bounce back to 1881, and follow the unexplored pursuits of a quiet gunslinger in the old west, roaming throughout the desert as though he walked off the set of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. The desert surroundings are as lovingly crafted as possible, and returning directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg take every chance they get to compliment their deserted backdrop. There’s something unmistakably cinematic about this show and the way its presents itself, with intercut cinematography and sharply-presented images booming as loud and presently as anything Dillion drew. The mission this mysterious man is tasked upon is anyone’s guess at the moment. We know he is there to help a sick child of some sort, and that he’ll need to travel into the town of our main characters in order to retrieve what he is quested upon. In between night and day, he’s accustomed to settling with pioneers traveling the land, amazed and bright-eyed about the potential of the New West. It’s a promising start, the beginning of something new, but some things, we can read in our silent new character’s eyes, are almost always the same.
Nothing comes without sacrifices. No land is free. And as we follow our wanderer and see the scalped, beaten corpses of fallen indians, we know what he believes to be true. And in some ways, our titular protagonist (Dominic Cooper) knows this to be true as well. As we continue to see him following in his late father’s footsteps and trying to help himself by helping others, it’s evident that he wants to make a good life for himself and those around him, just like he promised on the stand the last time we saw him in his work. He is baptizing. He is passing out flyers, hoping to get suggestions on how to make his place of worship a better place. He is visiting the sick and listening to the troubled, but he can’t do any good. Despite his good intentions, he knows he’s a sinner. He’s a bad man who comes from good intentions, and the word of God is merely text he has memorized. He can’t save anyone, because he can hardly save himself. And Tulip (Ruth Negga), his one-time trusted alley, knows this is the truth.
Following him around town, letting herself get wet with the water of the Lord and stealing our main character’s driver’s wheel to get his attention, Tulip is a driven woman who knows exactly what she wants, and she knows how to get people’s attention — particularly the man she knows all too well. She keeps trying to win him over. He refuses. She tries again. He continues to refuse. It’s a cute little back-and-forth game at this point, and Preacher isn’t clueless. How can he be, especially when he’s tasered and seemingly chained up in the middle of the night by our cunning temptress? Tulip knows how to get people’s attention, and he she knows how to win. She can clean up a house of card-playing regulars at a local watering hole whorehouse like it’s her business of choice, and she can do with a wink and a smile in the process. She’s sexy. She’s smart. She’s empowered as hell. But like everyone on this show, she comes with a dark, twisted past. And Preacher, of course, is no different. He knows his true self; he’s just trying not to fall into temptation. He has the work of his father and his Father to do, and he can be the man he was before (and still is) and get that work done. So he stays faithful, but he is never without sin.
Meanwhile, our trusted, twisted vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is still around, always mindful of the hot desert sun and enjoying himself a liquor bottle or two in the process. And we get to learn a more about his checkered past. It turns out he’s 900 years old, and that he finds The Big Lebowski overrated. I can only assume it’s because he’s not human. And we also know that he can work his way around not getting a chainsaw to the face when our sunglass-wearing power suit gentlemen finally pay our Preacher a visit at a moment of slumbering vulnerability. This, of course, leads to another awesome little fight sequence in the House of the Lord, and one I’ll talk about more in a little bit. As I’ve stressed before, it’s apparent Goldberg and Rogen are much more cinematic in their approach than some of their comedy peers, and they give each shot a nice sheen and a fantastic balance of grit and beauty. The world of Preacher already pops in 2D, and they just make sure it continues to bounce with each jump and hop as it leaps into the third dimension.
There are a lot of questions left here, including the introduction of Jackie Earle Healey’s mysterious new character, the specifics behind Tulip’s past and what the heck is up with those two suit guys and their little music box. But what should be made clear is this: Preacher is a quality show, and even when it pulls the breaks a little bit, it still knows how to keep going and going and going and going. It’s an exciting, pulpy, balls-to-the-wall shot that has learned well from its peers and continues to only show promise with each passing episode. It’s unclear how fast we’re going in the next few weeks, but I’m still enjoying the ride. Keep up the good work, and I’ll continue to praise its good name.
Now, let’s explore the week’s top five.