Gaza doesn’t have anything to do with the Preacher series, but they rule.
“God may not make mistakes, but people are bloody famous for it!”
In the Preacher graphic novel, Garth Ennis’ Jesse Custer is the quintessential Good Guy as defined in the film Unbreakable: handsome, square-jawed, broad shouldered, and a defender of the weak. Jesse Custer, despite his flaws and failings, is the most moral character in Preacher, even more moral than God. He’s not conflicted outside of the very beginning of that story. He never wavers in his conviction to hold God accountable. In a way, he is also the Everyman: hard drinking, hard fighting, true to his friends, and relatable even to the variety of freaks he encounters in his mission. That was the graphic novel, but this, this is TV. Serialized dramas of the last ten years have been filled with anti-heroes or even villains as protagonists, most perfectly depicted by the five season story arc of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. The events of “Sundowner” have left and will leave many of us, as viewers, wondering on which side of good/bad this Jesse Custer is going to land.
The cold open for “Sundowner” unpacks the meat (pun intended) of the first season so far, and unleashes one of the series’ most electrifying fight scenes. Fiore and DeBlanc, Genesis’ bumbling custodians, carry on their discussion with Jesse from “South Will Rise Again.” DeBlanc even gives Jesse the whole story under duress from Jesse’s new supernatural power (so Genesis is an angel demon baby?), before they are interrupted by a Seraphim, Angel of the First Order. Fiore and DeBlanc should have answered that phone last week, and are wanted men in Heaven for their subversive activities on Earth. Like Fiore and DeBlanc, this angel has the power to be “reinvigorated,” coming back to life immediately following her demise. A pitched battle in their hotel room, smartly shot through a hole in the wall, piles up copies of Fiore, DeBlanc, and the Seraphim, and ends when the Seraphim is finally subdued and “disarticulated” by Fiore, which, while unexplained exactly, seems to be a gory way to preserve the angel’s life.
When Jesse parts ways from the angels, “Sundowner” explores his increasing grandiosity and denial of those close to him, through a series of encounters. Cassidy initially tries talking Jesse down, during the installation of Chekov’s Loudspeaker on his church. Mayor Miles comes to Jesse for help (and decides in the end to cover up Odin’s murder spree from the last episode); Miles’ internal conflict mirrors that of Custer, but Custer can’t see it – “Either you and God are saying the exact same thing, either that or you aren’t hearing God at all.” Jesse faces increased disapproval from Emily, who is less than impressed when Jesse asks if what he is doing is good. Eugene again comes to Jesse at the end of the episode; more on that in a moment.
Tulip gets rounded out a bit in “Sundowner.” Initially, she invades Emily’s home to threaten her and tells her to keep away from Custer. The two bond after Tulip’s apology and efforts to fix “the art thing” she broke making her threats. We learn Tulip once had a child of her own. Tulip even offers to help Emily run church errands while Emily’s child is sick; it’s tough to tell if this is the first genuinely kind act Tulip has committed or just another way to manipulate Jesse. It leads to the first scene that Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy share together: Cassidy discovers Tulip is Jesse’s tulip while hidden from Jesse behind a door. It’s well shot, and conveys the heartbreak Cassidy is feeling over Tulip. Admittedly, that happened fast. If you recall my write up from last week, I just hated Cassidy and Tulip sleeping together so quickly in “South Will Rise Again.” That scene is actually partially redeemed this week by the broken expression on Cassidy’s face as Jesse and Tulip leave him in the closet.
In his writeup on the same episode, Zack Handlen of the AV Club says it isn’t saying much to call Eugene Preacher’s heart. I agree with that sentiment 100%. It’s Eugene, the sweet, helpful, and grossly disfigured boy, who more than anyone on Preacher reflects on the nature of right and wrong, and seems to show any awareness about real faith. Jesse has already moved past that by “Sundowner.” I’m hoping something happens to show Jesse along the way and moves him back to center (and I suspect it will by the end of this season). Jesse is conservative religion personified as a television character, elite in his rightness and judgmental to those who won’t see things his way. A subplot involving boys from Eugene’s school befriending him hints at danger, but ends up being an act of kindness – kindness Eugene doesn’t feel he deserves. This leads to a confrontation between Eugene and Jesse at the end of the episode. Eugene explains to Jesse that what he is doing is “cheating” which only enrages Jesse – “I don’t need to be lectured on sin by someone like you.” As Eugene follows Jesse to the doors of his church, telling him to stop what he is doing, Jesse uses The Voice in an unexpected and startling way when he shouts “GO TO HELL, EUGENE!” Eugene’s absence is more brutal than Odin’s murder spree, and we are left with a grossly different Jesse Custer than the one envisioned by Garth Ennis.
Some differences between the graphic novel and “Sundowner,” plus stray observations:
- In the comics, the angels can be killed like normal men; they didn’t have the power to come back to life again and again.
- In the comics, Jesse’s use of The Voice involves killing The Reaver Cleaver outright and burning up his twisted family, but he never used his power to teleport someone to Hell or any other location.
- That makes two references to Jesse’s family: first in “See” (someone “else” taught him to fight) and now getting his skull tattoo from a “mean old lady.” Jody and Gran’ma are coming! I’m a little nervous about who they could possibly cast to fill these roles.
- Fiore and DeBlance make mention of the “other option.” My money is that option is The Saint of Killers, and they’re going to have to wake him up very soon.
- Catch the Nirvana sticker in Eugene’s locker?
No Odin Quincannon this week, and no Donny.
“Sundowner” gets 5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell!
Stay tuned for the next write-up of episode 7.
For anyone having trouble watching the series, the first season is available on the Playstation Store.
Images via AMC.