Preacher – Season 1 Episode 10
“Call and Response”
The day of reckoning has arrived. Annville’s audience with the almighty is upon us, as Preacher season one reaches its divine conclusion. Citizens of the backwater Texas town and audience members alike are abuzz in anticipation of the Unknown (and supposedly unknowable). It’s a massive undertaking, both on the part of Jesse Custer, and of the makers of Preacher. How do you deliver on such expectation? In the end, a climax-come-anti-climax seems somehow fitting for a show that has flirted with sublime ridiculousness throughout its previous nine episodes. Read on for God-level spoilers…
Annville, the town that has become a character in its own right, is showcased during this week’s intro. Unusually, it’s the more mundane and run-down side we see during multiple shots, an alarm clock style overlay counting down the hours, as the people prepare for God’s arrival. Of course, the prairie dog mascot features, as he has done at many times throughout the season, always adding the necessary dollop of weird that reminds us that we’re never far from the bizarre. The sign outside Annville’s salon is another example, warning the population that “God is coming” and also that bikini waxes are 50% off. Is this an indication of the inhabitants’ desire to be ‘presentable’ in the presence of their Lord, or merely savvy business practice in the face of a potentially looming apocalypse? Either way, the sight gag is vintage Preacher. The tour of town helps us appreciate the time we’ve spent here, and the way it’s presented – almost sentimentally – is an indication of its eventual fate. More on that later.
Tulip and Custer finally deal with Carlos, in the culmination of the revenge plot. She’s spent most of the season attempting to get Custer on side, which admittedly dragged during the middle of the season as she tried over and over to recruit Custer to her cause. The payoff is that the blanks in the bank robbery backstory are filled in, as we flashback to the fateful day in Dallas. Tulip and Custer (sporting a hairdo that’s half Vincent Vega, half Jules Winnfield) banter lovingly as they raid safety deposit boxes (the discovery and brandishing of a double-fisted dildo is a particular highlight of this scene). Carlos, (seen previously in the season very briefly) is filled with envy of the criminal couple’s happiness and bails on the robbery, freeing a security guard and peeling in the getaway car (a sequence we’ve seen multiple times; the significance of which only hits home now). It’s also revealed that Tulip was pregnant (presumably with Custer’s child) and it’s intimated that she begins to experience trouble with the baby (that she eventually loses) as Carlos abandons his partners. This all seems quite rushed, as we’re only really introduced to the jealousy plot here. Perhaps this is meant to represent Tulip and Custer’s surprise at the betrayal, but instead it feels like the narrative has been forced into the final episode. The pursuit of Carlos has been one of the weaker plotlines throughout the season, but the fact that Tulip and Custer decide t let him live may mean that it will develop further in future.
The climax of the whole season should be Custer’s delivery of God to Annville. Ever since he made the proclamation that he’d use the heavenphone to call down the big man upstairs, the success of Preacher’s finale has rested upon the execution of this plot. The scene in which the whole town shows up to All Saints church begins promisingly – the ever-changing sign outside reads “Today: Meet God. Tomorrow: TBD”. Jackie Earle Haley is afforded one more soliloquy as Odin Quincannon predicts Custer’s failure, denouncing religions of all stripes and once again pledging his allegiance to the “God of Meat”. Even in this most serious of scenarios, the air thick with anticipation, there are moments of comedy as Custer struggles to operate the angels’ telephone for an inordinate amount of time. Eventually, he gets the device working to the tune of a dial-up modem (always funny). The resulting fiery apparition and appearance of God before all in the church is a moment of genuine disbelief – what can possibly happen now? Maybe God really is an old white guy in flowing robes, as Tulip had expected. As we think we’re witnessing a miracle in Annville, the anticlimax begins to kick in – Tulip and Custer see through the fraudulent deity. The way in which they stand up to the almighty being is straight out of the Wizard of Oz, as the metaphorical curtain is pulled back, and the fraud-God is forced to admit that real-God is missing. It’s a strange and smewhat unsettling scene. We as an audience can’t help but feel robbed of the big reveal – all that build up for this? But in true Preacher style, the citizens of Annville save the show as they begin reacting to the news that God has disappeared.
In the aftermath, people behave as you might expect they would upon discovering that everything they ever believed is crumbling about them. The congregation rips up the church; the warring mascots commit suicide together; the schoolkids get revenge on the creepy bus driver; Quincannon cradles his facsimile meat-child – it’s a celebration of all that is Annville, which is fitting, as the town is subsequently destroyed by an explosion of methane at the QM&P plant. Watching it all succumb to the mushroom cloud is a bittersweet moment. The mad, bad town is wiped from the face of the Earth, but could there be a more fitting end for such a collection of crazy?
“So that’s it?” – Cassidy once again speaks for the entire audience. OK, he’s questioning the ending of the Big Lebowski, but we can tell this is a comment on the fate of Annville. Our heroes sit around a diner table, considering their next move. Wait, if Annville’s gone… and Eugene’s serving at the counter… then we’re in Hell, and the search for God starts here. It’s a clever twist, setting up a road trip through the underworld and Preacher season two. Custer is determined to find God, and kick his ass if necessary.
Of course, Preacher wouldn’t be Preacher without one last shot of the Seraphim, trudging through the ashes of earthly Annville, only to have The Cowboy blow a hole right through her with his six shooter. Mankind has been using religion in an attempt to explain its existence for thousands of years – so Preacher, tell us, what does it all mean?
Preacher: confusing, confounding, hilarious, exhilarating, insane. A loving ode to horror, grindhouse, Tarantino and the Coen Brothers. Packed with pop-culture references, a consistently witty, original script and visual gags aplenty. The madcap cast of characters has amazed throughout – Joseph Gilgun’s Cassidy in particular. This final episode may not have lived up to everything it promised, but it did a damn good job of capping off what has been an incredible, absurd season of TV. We should all be converts by now. Consider it your mission to go out and spread the Good Word.
- Annville, that misunderstood little town, wiped off the map by cow farts
- the central trio of Custer, Tulip and Cassidy – brilliant from beginning to end
- the final reveal, and allusion to the continuing adventures of Preacher
- some narrative threads that were too quickly and conveniently resolved
- the anticlimactic climax – yes it was meant to be, but still…