We’ve now officially halfway into Preacher‘s first season. The ten-episode freshman season has already provided a number of ups-and-downs, quite a few wayward turns and a lot of general oddities, but if my opinion is worth anything (and leave your comments to yourself if you think otherwise), I consider this week’s installment, “South Will Rise Again,” to be among the finest episodes they’ve produced to date. It’s smoothly-handled and balances the narrative, various characters and different tones with confidence and ease. It’s focused, but not completely forthright. That said, it answers a lot of questions and it keeps you anticipated for more to come. It’s not as violent as some episodes have been (well, at least until the end…), but it’s also not as boring as a few were of late. It’s light on suspense, but it’s always filled with a sense of dread. Bad things are most definitely a’comin’, and it looks like a lot of good will arise from it.
Showrunner Sam Catlin constantly wants to keep you on your toes, leaning forward in your seat as you bump your ankles, gyrate your legs and bite your nails in anticipation for all the deranged insanity that comes by the bucketful in this crazy world. Evidentially, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for Jesse Cutter (Dominic Cooper) and the gang for the last half of their 2016 season. There’s no doubt about that. But salvation is certainly near. They rise up to the challenge this week, and they promise a lot of good to come. Any past sins committed are forgiven, for Preacher has found the way again. Praise be to God!
“South Will Rise Again” is the most even-handed episode to date, as not since the pilot have the various different subplots and supporting characters been leveled so efficiently. It’s an episode where everyone gets their moment in the light, and everyone gets a scene or two to prove their worth. In fact, Jesse himself is barely seen until the 30 minute mark. There are always a lot of spinning plates on this AMC series, and I’ll get to more than a few of them in a moment, but what makes this episode so special is how they balance all of them to make something effectively foreboding, eerie and sinister — all without making any of it feel cheap or overplayed.
Once again, we’re whisked back to the 1880s at the top of this episode, finding ourselves following our mysterious cowboy through the town of Ratwater. Occupied, seemingly, by drunks, scalping-enthusiasts and general no-good doers, where some see promise, this lone man sees nothing but depravity. Some view America as the promise for a new good, but this man knows that’s not the case. Some things will never change, and even the man of the cloth can be trusted. There might be a God, but he’s not welcome here. And while our shadowy loner is prone to keeping to himself and not bothering the company of others, he lets his guard down when he sees —what he perceives to be — a child in need. He gets himself in a tussle, punches the wrong priest in the face, and suffers the consequences from it. He’s beaten, he’s bruised, and he’s left without a horse. And, worse of all, he’s discovered: it turns out the cowboy was an army boy back in the day, and according to our untrustworthy priest, there’s never been a man more in love with killing than him. The lone man is deterred, but something drives him forward. A mistake from the past haunts him, and that’s going to have some nasty affects in the future (i.e. the past). I can’t wait to figure out what it is. For my money, I could watch a whole show based on this guy. He’s great, as is this cold opening.
Meanwhile, in the present day, things are equally frazzled. Tulip (Ruth Negga) is still looking for her man, whom she calls her “boyfriend,” correctly or not. But she has welcomed the undead into her life with Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), and he’s not one to leave your life unless you cease to have one, and they might just form a relationship of their own. After all, who can trust any preacher in this world, namely the one at the lead? He’s got a bad history behind him, as Tulip loves to confess to the locals, but Jesse considers himself a “changed man.”
With this mysterious power bestowed upon him, he’s changing the world around him for the better little-by-little. He’s filling people with the power of the Lord, possibly quite literally, and he’s making the town a better place. Among his biggest salvations come from Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), a powerful local man with enormous influence whom, as we saw last week, was driven to serve the Lord in his day-to-day life. That’s quite an upset, and people are noticing. Notably, Donnie Schenck (Derek Wilson), an employee for Odin and a man who received an embarrassing, traumatizing number of attacks from our titular protagonist. Nearly killed by his own hand, if under Jesse’s incredible influence, Donnie is simply a wreck. He doesn’t know what’s going on, or what Jesse’s up to, but he’s angry, depressed and broken. I guess Jesse can’t save everyone.
Meanwhile, Eugene/Arseface (Ian Colletti) has more than a few problems of his own. After an upset with a local he harmed, he’s considered not only a freak, but a potential murder and a menace. People break into his house at night and tell him to put the shotgun back in his mouth, to “finish the job,” as it were. His spirit is deterred, but never quite upset. Mostly because Eugene knows what he did was wrong, and he admits to having to suffer the consequences. But his dad, Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown), is an absolute mess. He can’t eat. He can barely sleep. He cries by himself at night, and Eugene doesn’t know what he can do to make things okay for his father. Preacher, however, has an idea, and it’s one that’s brought with some resistance: find forgiveness from the one Arseface hurt the most. And he does, if under Jesse’s power, and it makes him as happy as a man with that kind of face can be. I mean, it’s not like he can smile any more or anything. But man, can he brighten those eyes.
Additionally, Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef), a.k.a. the Men of God, still having a phone ringing from the man upstairs, and He’s none too pleased. They haven’t had any success persuading Jesse, thanks mainly to Cassidy’s lack-of-help, and they need some results. So they do what they should have done weeks ago: they interact with him, face-to-face. And they lay down the facts: the spirit that’s inside him, it’s not from God. It’s a mistake. It isn’t a source of healing and good, and we learn that the hard way when a deal goes south involving Odin. We’ll see what they mean next week, but suffice to say, our Preacher might not have the Lord beside him right now. And he’ll have Hell to pay for it soon.
Preacher is a dark, relentless and often brutal show, one that doesn’t mind taking prisoners and putting them through the ringer. But it’s also a series with enormous compassion, as seen here, which adds an occasionally lopsided, but often endearing, inspired and often- energetic bundle of goofiness. It’s sharp. It’s slick. It’s quite ferocious, and it has a serious bite. The first two episodes proved this was a show to watch for. The next two assured you that you might not always know what to expect. This one, however, proves that it means business, and it’s not afraid to get its hands dirty in the process. I say, bring it on! I like to watch a good tussle now-and-again. Let’s see what you got. Unlike church, I still plan to visit every Sunday.
Now, let’s get into this week’s top five moments.