Preacher – Season 1 Episode 5
“South Will Rise Again”
Another week in Annville and we’re beginning to be presented with some answers about the life and times of eponymous Preacher, Jesse Custer. But as we’ve come to learn, with this show these sorts of revelations don’t come without many more mysterious and tantalising plot points being dangled in front of us, like corpses from the Ratwater hanging tree.
Speaking of which, we’re treated to an extended opening sequence, based in the Wild West town last seen a couple of episodes ago. Despite the length of these scenes, we really learn very little about what’s going on, or how it all relates to events in the present day. Ratwater is a debaucherous settlement where drinking, whoring and ‘injun’ (or Mexican) scalp trading are all commonplace. When the mysterious stranger we’ve seen briefly before rides in and decides to lay some justice on the sinful citizens, he’s swiftly shown the boot, although he makes sure to protect a vial of something precious he’s just traded for at a local store. Allusions to the Battle of Gettysburg and a history with the town’s less-than-pious preacher are all we’re given before the title sequence kicks in and we’re left wondering how this will all piece together. Other than the potential for Ratwater to evolve into Annville, and the likelihood of Quincannon family involvement, viewers unfamiliar with the source material will be left befuddled, hoping that there’s some payoff down the line. Fans of the graphic novel are probably nodding right now.
Back in more familiar territory, the reaction to Jesse Custer’s landmark sermon and Odin Quincannon’s miraculous conversion is taking hold of Annville. Despite Emily’s (Lucy Griffiths) best efforts, Custer laps up the attention and local celebrity he’s gained amongst the townsfolk. Holding court in the diner, he makes liberal use of the power of The Word with a willing succession of people for an audience. You really get a sense of Custer’s ego shining through here, and as much as he’d claim he’s in it for the good of his congregation, Cooper perfectly conveys the smugness and self-satisfaction the preacher is feeling at being the centre of attention.
This episode, the Tulip and Cassidy double act established last week is given some additional play. In a nice rumination on traditional vampire mythology, Tulip quizzes Cassidy on his bloodlust, and how well he fits into the stereotype. It’s another fine example of the throwaway pop culture references that pepper every episode, and quickly establishes the ‘rules’ governing our favourite Irish junkie bloodsucker without feeling too much like exposition. The interaction between Cassidy and Tulip also sheds light on her relationship with Custer, which turns out to have been of a romantic nature. It looks as though there could be the makings of a love triangle here, which could turn out to be very interesting considering how volatile the three protagonists are.
We’re finally exposed to some further insight about Eugene aka ‘Arseface’ (Ian Colletti) and his place within Annville’s community. We’ve known that he’s looked down upon by the townsfolk, but apart from his unusual appearance (which Custer has told us was self-inflicted), we’ve had few hints as to why he’s so reviled. It’s eventually revealed (well, as revealed as things get with Preacher) that Arseface was involved in the events that led to Tracy Loach’s head injury and subsequent catatonic condition. The situation has placed Arseface’s father, Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) under great pressure, and has led to the deterioration of their relationship. Colletti deserves praise for the work he’s doing, as the touchingly timorous Arseface. Wearing an amazing prosthetic that covers more than half of his face and limits his speech, Colletti manages to generate substantial audience sympathy for the character, almost entirely with the incredible expression of his eyes. Arseface is an unlikely hero, but he seems like one of the only pure characters in Annville, and it will be interesting to see how he’s involved in the plot over the second half of the season.
Elsewhere, the hapless cockney angels finally catch up with Custer and deliver some news about his newfound power; news that seems to contradict what he (and by extension we) had previously thought about the nature of The Word. This seems to play out unexpectedly though the newly –repentant Quincannon, and the actions he takes with his new business partners at the end of the episode (Jackie Earle Haley looks like he’s enjoying the range afforded to him by his character, which is always fun for us to watch). How will this affect the others Custer has ‘helped’ with The Word? We’ll have to wait and see.
We should take a moment to celebrate the visuals in this series, and those in this episode in particular. Landscape is shot in a particularly atmospheric manner, which when used in juxtaposition with some of the more bombastic action, and even dialogue, creates a very distinctive cinematic aura. From the washed out vistas of the Western desert scrub to the garish neon of whorehouses and strip clubs acerbically piercing the dark of the Annville night, the environments leap right off the screen. Perhaps TV shows in general are just getting better at this sort of thing, but Preacher in particular does a great job of establishing not just a sense, but a tangible feel of these places.
There’s a lot to like about this episode, as the plot is definitely thickening. Plenty still remains unsaid, to the point of being incomprehensible, but the development of Arseface, as well as the continued entanglements of Custer, Tulip and Cassidy are certainly entertaining. Quincannon’s turn as a reformed maniac is amusing and the writing continues to be witty and shocking in equal measure. If only there was a bit more action…
• Colletti shining as Arseface
• witty and shocking writing
• fantastic visuals
• esoteric denial of information
• yet again, a lack of madcap action