Preacher – Season 1 Episode 2
Preacher returns from its one week hiatus after the pilot episode literally exploded onto our screens. And it’s probably just as well that they took that break – the irreverence and violence exhibited in the small sample we’ve seen so far really isn’t appropriate for the Memorial Day holiday!
This week we learn a little more about our trio of protagonists, and observe Jesse Custer attempt to go about his business helping the townsfolk in his own misanthropic way. The disdain Dominic Cooper is able to bring to the part is palpable, as is the genuine struggle rooted within Custer. You can tell that he knows what the right course of action is, but that he finds it incredibly difficult to summon the will to proceed.
It’s pleasing to see that the town of Annville, Texas is becoming a character in its own right. The many strange inhabitants and occurrences give the mundane small town real personality. One fine example that’s easy to miss is the town’s high school mascot (featured in episode one) sitting with a prostitute in his lap at the back of a scene in the Toadvine Whorehouse. No reference is made to his presence and the giant beaming cartoon head is so incongruous, yet so perfectly Annville. There sorts of references are scattered throughout and present the town as twisted, yet charming in its own way. Often setting isn’t considered in this much detail, merely providing a backdrop for the action, but here you get a clear sense of what a weird little place Annville is.
One of the parishioners troubling Custer in this episode is Linus (the marvellously monikered Ptolemy Slocum), the town’s school bus driver. After a group baptism session, Linus confesses to Custer about his unhealthy desires for a young girl that rides his bus. Custer is visibly disturbed by Linus’ story (and also the bus driver’s nonchalance towards his admission) restraining himself from assaulting Linus right there on the church pews. Throughout the rest of the episode, Custer spies the school bus travelling around the town, and is continually reminded of his responsibility to act.
The plot comes full circle when Custer, prompted by a conversation with the tragicomic ‘Arseface’ (Ian Colletti), realises that some people are unable to change. Custer, filled with righteous purpose, proceeds to Linus’ house to dish out some justice. The preacher menacingly gives Linus the time it takes to run a bath to plead his case before mirroring the opening scene torture/baptising the sinner into submission. Custer once again invokes the word of God to prevent Linus from acting on his paedophilic desires. The bloody consequences that resulted from Custer’s use of his power in the last episode are not realised, and may yet occur somewhere down the line.
Cassidy reveals more about himself to Custer over a drinking session in the church (which includes a disagreement over The Big Lebowski). Cassidy admits that he’s a 119 year old vampire, which the preacher laughs off before succumbing to one of Cassidy’s home-made alcoholic concoctions. This means that Custer misses a fantastic fight sequence between Cassidy and the two hitmen from the last episode. Highlights this time include the use of a bible as a bludgeon, and a hilariously ludicrous severed arm being dragged around by a spinning chainsaw. Unhappy with just a Coen brothers reference, Cassidy also manages to squeeze in a quote from Scarface. The whole scene is gloriously gruesome, maintaining the high standard set last week.
At various points in this episode Tulip pops up to remind Custer (and reinforce the idea with the audience) that the preacher has a troubled past, as a “bad, bad man”, as she continues in her endeavour to recruit him to be part of her mysterious plan. The scheme is held tantalisingly out of view of the audience, and we can only imagine the scale of the mayhem that might ensue based on what little we know of the characters (and the show) so far. In one funny exchange Tulip abducts Custer, letting him think that he’s been captured and chained up in some torture porn hellhole (another Annville staple), only for him to realise that it was all part of a ‘role-play’ game designed to win him over to her cause.
There are still many plotlines and characters that we know very little about. Jackie Earle Haley’s Odin Quincannon is a complete mystery, as is the entire cold open. Set in 1881, there’s barely any noticeable reference to those washed out, dusty western scenes throughout the rest of the episode. Perhaps these are deliberate Easter Eggs – sly winks placed here for fans of the comics; those in the know. For the rest of us, we’re left completely in the dark. Yes, there’s a certain exhilaration to the oddity of it all (and we should assume that everything we see will pay off at some point), but the lack of explanation for what’s happening can begin to feel a bit heavy handed at times.
The pacing (especially in the first half) of this episode also can’t live up to the breakneck speed of the pilot. There we bore witness to multiple high velocity action sequences, introducing us to the cast of crazy characters, and although the fight scene in episode two is as gleefully gory as any from the pilot, it falls in the middle of vast stretches of inactivity. Some of the dialogue bridging the gaps is great, but our expectations for the episode as a whole have been set ridiculously high by the emphatic triumph of what has come before.
It was always going to be difficult to hang with madness that was the pilot episode. Perhaps there’s more subtlety on display here, but we didn’t come for subtlety. It’s great to see Custer wrestle with his past, as well as accepting his calling to help his flock. Cassidy exhibits yet more inventive ways to batter and dismember his victims – we should be genuinely excited for his next choice of weapon. Annville is evolving to a character in its own right – a very evocative setting that already feels like one of TV’s most unique locations. The various mysterious aspects of the plot will probably continue to intrigue and infuriate – don’t expect answers any time soon!
- the perfectly realised weird world of Annville
- another helping of cartoon ultraviolence
- strong performances of engaging characters
- pacing issues that were absent last week
- the trickle of information that could become infuriating for the uninitiated