Preacher – Season 1 Episode 4
After a fairly downbeat episode last week, AMC needed Preacher to bounce back strong. The first couple of episodes held so much promise, giving us the gifts of relentless action and gore. Yes, some contrast was necessary, as we’d all be burned out after ten weeks of non-stop mayhem, but it’s beginning to look like the explosive opening to the tale of a washed-up Texas preacher blessed with miraculous powers was merely an attention-grabbing ploy to keep us coming back for the rest of the narrative, which may or may not unfold at a more leisurely rate.
Episode three was light on both action and plot, which meant that it paled in comparison to its predecessors. Thankfully, this week’s offering contains more of a discernible narrative, which serves to develop the relationships between some of the previously established characters of the peculiar town of Annville.
The cold open gets us off to a strong start once again. What at first seems to be a girl in her underwear running for her life from a mysterious assailant turns out to be another of Annville’s oddities – a game which the Johns at the Toadvine Whorehouse hunt down the prostitutes with paintball guns. It all comes to a messy end, which sets Tulip off on a quest to aid the mistreated women of the brothel. If you’re playing Preacher pop-culture reference bingo, Chinatown is your most obvious nod here. The horror movie tropes, misdirection and diffusion of tension through humour are fast becoming greatly appreciated staples of the Preacher brand.
Themes of family and legacy are explored throughout this episode as Jesse Custer muses on a childhood spent at his father’s side. So far we’ve only seen glimpses of Custer’s old man, in what appears to be a flashback to his assassination. Here, in sepia-toned cutaways, we witness young Jesse dutifully helping out around the church and accompanying his father on errands (one of which revolves around a distressing event at Qunicannon’s office – look for this to play out further down the line). We also realise that Custer’s father could be a strict man, publically whipping young Jesse for an indiscretion as an example to the other kids. These scenes provide some insight into what may have led Custer away from the church, into his life of sin and vice with Tulip, and eventual return to his faith.
Speaking of Tulip, she’s finally given time away from pestering Custer in a plotline in which she comes to the defence of the girls of the Toadvine Whorehouse. Her connection to the place appears to stretch back into her childhood, and her devotion to helping the prostitutes is a nice change of pace from the revenge narrative to which she’s been chained for the last three weeks. Before she gets the chance to lead a rebellion though, she mistakes Cassidy for one of the abusive patrons, and throws him out a window. During the resulting hospital trip, Tulip is exposed to Cassidy’s literal thirst for blood when she discovers him feasting in a blood bank. This revelation could have interesting consequences for the pair, as Tulip seems like the sort that could use an ultraviolent Irish vampire by her side. We’ll have to wait and see.
Elsewhere in the episode, Cassidy attempts to make a deal with the angels he was trying to murder last week. His motivations seem mixed, as he does warn Custer about the resiliently reincarnated men, but after the preacher dismisses Cassidy, the drug-addled vampire takes it upon himself to strike a bargain with the heavenly hitmen. Claiming that Custer has a hankering for classified substances, Cassidy suggests to the hitmen that drugs could be their route to retrieving the power that has found a home inside Custer. Of course Cassidy is only really looking for his next fix, so it’s unclear whether he would really give up Custer, and settles for money. In a funny juxtaposition, the hitmen decide that they have to trust Cassidy, just as we’re treated to a scene of him enjoying the chemical and sexual proceeds of the angels’ funds.
We’re finally exposed to more details about nominal villain Odin Quincannon (he plays Q*bert!) and his family’s industrial dynasty during a scene with Annville’s downtrodden mayor, Miles Person (played wonderfully ineffectually by Ricky Mabe). In reaction to the mayor’s business proposal, Quincannon rattles off his family’s uncompromising history in the region. From this we can tell that he’s a stubborn man, but that he also feels a great deal of duty to act in a manner befitting his name. In true antagonistic form, Quincannon closes the exchange by literally pissing on the mayor’s plans. It’s another comically absurd touch which helps further develop the visceral (and often scatological) nature of the show.
“Monster Swamp” is a strong outing for Preacher, if not quite living up to the highs of the first two episodes. It’s definitely an improvement on last week, which looks increasingly like something of an aberration. This week once again lacked the action that helps provide a lot of the black comedy, but the character and plot developments go some way to making up for this. There are still plenty of unexplained narrative threads at this point, but as light is shed on other aspects of life in Annville these are beginning to feel more enticing than frustrating, as they did previously. All told, this episode was a move in the right direction, which is certainly encouraging as Preacher approaches the midpoint of its debut season.
- the development of the protagonists
- yet more black comedy and pop culture references
- the progression of the narrative
- a disappointing lack of action
- another slowly paced episode