Preacher – Season 1 Episode 7
“Go to Hell Eugene!” – Jesse Custer’s exasperated command to Eugene ‘Arseface’ Root at the conclusion of last week’s episode still rings throughout All Saints’ church. The order of service Eugene had been holding moments before flutters to the ground as Custer realises the gravity of what he’s just done. You’d expect the nominal hero of Preacher to be horrified at consigning one of Annville’s most oddly-lovable characters to an eternity of torment, but instead Custer coldly turns and resumes his day, proceeding as if nothing had happened. Fortunately for fans of justice, Cassidy, skulking in the shadows of the church balcony, bears witness to Custer’s crime, and resolves to remonstrate with the wayward priest.
Examination of Custer’s fall forms much of the bulk of the narrative of this episode, as the extent of Genesis’ corruption of the born-again protagonist is exposed. We also learn more about the shared history between Tulip and Custer through a succession of sepia-toned flashbacks, many of which tie in with the glimpses we’ve seen in previous episodes. A series of revelations between characters also serves to develop established relationships, shaking things up just in time for the final three episodes, the home stretch of Preacher’s first season.
Cassidy’s complex friendship with Custer is put to the test. The vampire has previously described the preacher as his best friend, and it seems that he won’t stand idly by and watch Custer consumed by Genesis. Earlier in the season, Cassidy had encouraged Custer to exploit the power, but having witnessed Eugene’s banishment, he confronts Custer, determined to highlight the corrupting influence it’s having. In a desperate attempt to demonstrate how warped Custer’s idea of God is, Cassidy reveals his vampirism (and therefore the extent of Custer’s delusion) by stepping unprotected into the sunlight. The bursting-into-flames-to-prove-a-point idea is a cool concept that’s unfortunately let down by the visual effects. It’s especially disappointing as the CGI has been particularly strong throughout the season, handling all manner of insane scenarios with ease.
Tulip and Custer’s past together is revealed to stretch all the way back to early childhood. We learn that they’ve been getting into mischief together since elementary school and that Tulip was cared for by the Custers as her own family were neglectful. Young Jesse’s relationship with his father is complicated when the elder Custer arranges to have Tulip taken into the State’s care. Robbed of his friend and playmate, young Jesse prays for terrible things to happen to his father, and when tragedy eventually befalls the family, the younger Custer feels entirely responsible. This may explain Jesse Custer’s subsequent delinquency and relatively recent return to the church. The scenes of the relationship between the kids work well in explaining present day Tulip’s dogged determination to reconnect with Custer, and add a poignancy to their relationship that wasn’t as evident before.
The contrast between dark and light plays a significant role in the episode; the majority of the scenes involving Custer taking place in increasing levels of darkness, reflecting his slide from righteousness into sin. He began the season turning his back on his violent past, looking to help the citizens of Annville, but Custer’s abuse of the power of Genesis has led him down a dark path; he believed he was carrying out God’s will whilst blinded to the reality that he was bending others to his own. It’s telling that when series villain Quincannon confronts Custer about their bet and the deeds to the church land, the former is haloed in light and the latter shrouded in shadow. Unfortunately, there’s just too much darkness. In the past, Annville’s seedier side has been pierced by acidic neon or the harsh Texan sun, but Custer’s scenes in this episode are almost entirely engulfed by the cloying murk. Yes, we’re supposed to appreciate Custer’s struggle with the malignant evil within, but we shouldn’t have to turn the contrast all the way up to have any idea of what’s going on.
The finer details of the direction in this episode definitely deserve to be celebrated. There are lots of clever transitions, juxtapositions and nods towards Eugene’s fiery fate throughout. During the intro, the camera pans down to the floorboards, hinting at his descent into hell. From there we begin to hear what sounds like the torture of eternally condemned souls before we cut to Quincannon beatifically enjoying the braying echoes of his slaughterhouse. Elsewhere, we catch up with young Jesse and Tulip guiltily detained outside their elementary school principal’s office. Blink and you’ll miss it, but the poster on the wall cartoonishly educates about fire safety – stop, drop and roll. Slightly less subtly, later on in the episode, as Sheriff Root enquires about Eugene’s whereabouts, Tulip’s hash browns catch fire in the kitchen grill. Everyone but Custer leaps into action whilst the priest sits and contemplates the consequences of his damning words. These notes add to the story, but even incidental touches like a sequence of disapproving neighbours culminating in the high school mascot shaking their heads at Tulip as they pass by helps to enrich the show. It all ties in with the intelligent writing, and seems to perfectly mirror elements such as the liberal scattering of witty references – this episode alone features nods to The Godfather and most of the Coen Brothers back catalogue.
The episode concludes with the ominous sight of Quincannon leading scores of his QM&P men in an assault on All Saints’ church. It looks like he’s ready for war. We’ll have to wait till next week to discover what steps the rapidly unravelling Custer will take to defend his father’s legacy.
This is an interesting episode that explains a lot about how our protagonists relate to each other. The exploration of the shared past between Custer and Tulip establishes their backstory, and cements their future together. Custer’s obsession with the power of Genesis continues to send him spiralling out of control, pushing his relationship with Cassidy to the limit. The interplay between the central trio will be fascinating to watch as the series reaches its conclusion. The smart writing and direction are highlights, and help elevate episodes such as this one that are a little lacking in the pace or action departments.
- Custer losing himself to the power of Genesis
- character revelations that should pay off down the line
- subtle, clever touches in the writing and direction
- darkness that should be reserved for Blu-Ray player demonstrations
- disappointing CGI during Cassidy’s self-immolation