Gimme Something to Watch: AMC’s Preacher (Season 1, Episode 9 “Finish The Song”)

Spoiler Warning: This post will be loaded with spoilers from the Preacher comics and television show. You can catch up on write-ups for previous episodes of Preacher here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Psalm Zero doesn’t have anything to do with the Preacher series, but Stranger to Violence is one of the very best records to drop in 2016.

“I love my horse. I love my wife. And I love my little girl”.

“Finish The Song.” holds to a tried and true tradition of comics, the origin story. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spider-Man. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of him, and he became the Batman. Al Simmons was murdered on assignment by his corrupt government, sold his soul to the Malebolgia, and became Spawn. The film Unbreakable (referenced in a previous Preacher article) broke down comic book archetypes (such as superhero weaknesses) while telling the origin story of its David Dunn and Elijah Price. As Hollywood continues to churn out superhero franchises one after another, the same origin stories are told again and again. Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, and Zack Snyder have all tackled Batman’s origin in their films. Why? It helps us to understand where our superheroes come from and their present motivations, and more importantly it helps us to understand that many of them were once like us. Sometimes villains have origins of their own. 1989’s Batman (referenced last week!) also showed us how Jack Napier became The Joker, because of Batman. The latest episode of Preacher unpacks the rest of The Cowboy’s origin story – how the Butcher of Gettysburg became The Saint of Killers. It’s one Hell of an origin.

“Finish The Song.” (that punctuation is in the title) stands out among the first season of Preacher for having the most straight up horror elements of the season so far. It also continues to show us the relationship dynamics between men of God and other powerful men, seen previously between John Custer and Odin Quincannon, and again between Jesse Custer and Quincannon. The episode’s cold open shows us the aftermath of corrupt preacher Macready’s foolish decision to gun down The Cowboy’s horse. The Cowboy returns to Ratwater, and in a Se7en “what’s in the box?!” moment dumps the heads of several children from a bundle in the town’s American flag. After that, no one is spared. Not even the Chinese singer. The massacre shines both in macabre atmosphere and for its violent spectacle. Preacher‘s first season has been uneven, and some would argue a bit slow moving, but it’s been ace for each and every one of its action sequences.

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The horror continues: two acts of mercy are executed in an unforgiving fashion. We see what disarticulation meant from earlier in the season. The Seraphim had her arms and legs amputated by Fiore, and the injuries treated, so she could be kept alive in a tub covered in ice. After DeBlanc and Fiore check out of their hotel, it’s Sheriff Root (who lost Jesse as a prisoner earlier in the episode) who gets the call. The Seraphim begs for Root to kill her, and after a moment’s consideration, he does. If you haven’t seen Deadwood, shame on you. W. Earl Brown (“Deadwood Dan”) nails the horrifying look of his mercy “kill,” as the Seraphim reinvigorates and slips away unnoticed.

The fate we suspected of Cassidy is just as we thought. He survived his trip into the daylight (and as we learn later, Jesse put him out with the fire extinguisher). Emily takes second shift from Tulip, who leaves on her own to murder Carlos, exclaiming she is through with Jesse Custer. It’s Emily who makes the most shocking decision of the episode, if only for being the most unexpected. I remarked last week about being disappointed with the corruption of Mayor Miles, but it made sense when Emily set up the mayor to be devoured by Cass. It was another moment straight out of a horror film: Emily calls Miles for help, gets him over to Uncle Walter’s place, appears behind him and locks him in a room with a starving vampire. The camera stays on Emily as Miles is killed. I had thought Emily was one of the better-equipped-morally characters on the show, and despite her trickery being an act of mercy for Cass, it was a huge surprise for me nonetheless. I wonder if Emily found out about last week’s spoiled milk.

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Tulip gets little screen time this week, again, but we get some closure on the Carlos this week. After telling Emily she could have Jesse, Tulip tracks down Carlos. We hear Jesse’s voicemail/apology (“until the end of the world”) while Tulip listens, and the reveal is that she is staring at Carlos the whole time. Pan out to the classic TV/film table of sharp objects, Tulip’s approach with a meat tenderizer, and cut. It’s been said a million times by better writers than me, but often what’s imagined is much scarier than what’s shown. I’m sure I’m not alone in being happy the Carlos subplot is over, as it never seemed to have much to do with this story.

During the episode’s climax, for a moment, I thought my TV was broken. “Finish The Song.” shows us The Cowboy’s story from the beginning, and then shows it again and again, down to every bloody detail. It’s The Cowboy’s own personal Hell. He’s forced to relive the tragic events surrounding his family’s demise and the massacre at Ratwater. As we’ve speculated for weeks, he is Fiore and DeBlanc’s “other option.” He is stopped at the bar by the pair, and shoots DeBlanc in the face when DeBlanc insists he comes along without any information. Fiore, scared shitless, tells him their job for him is to kill a preacher.

So. Sheriff Root is after an escaped Jesse Custer. Jesse and Cassidy have reunited as mates, and Cassidy figures out a way to use the direct phone to Heaven. Carlos is out of the way. Miles is dead. Quincannon is eagerly anticipating Jesse’s denouncement of God. The Seraphim is back on the hunt for Fiore and DeBlanc. As penultimate episodes go, “Finish The Song.” does a fantastic job setting up Preacher’s season finale – it’s also been one of my favorite episodes this season.

Differences between the graphic novel, speculations, and stray observations:

  • In the comics, a third angel wakes up The Saint of Killers from his grave in Ratwater and is killed; in the TV show, Fiore and DeBlanc traveled to TSOK’s Hell and DeBlanc is the one who takes a bullet for it. I wonder, and I’m hoping, that DeBlanc can survive a bullet from TSOK.

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  • “The big one, in back with me, for twenty minutes.” “If that’s what it takes.”
  • I’m not sure if Fiore and DeBlanc are presumed to be in a romantic relationship, or just the best of friends.
  • It was awesome to see Cassidy show Jesse where the corpses were buried, after Jesse blew him off in “Monster Swamp.” Did anyone think those two wouldn’t make amends quickly?
  • That damn loudspeaker better still be on the church.

“Finish The Song.” 5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell!

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Stay tuned for the next write-up of episode 10, the season finale!

For anyone having trouble watching the series, the first season is available on the Playstation Store.

Images via AMC and Garth Ennis’ Preacher graphic novel.

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Published on: July 28, 2016

Filled Under: Nerd Shit, Reviews

Views: 623

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  • Joaquin Stick

    Nice work Ed. I liked the episode as well, even though the repeating Saint of Killers part was kinda boring to watch, since I understood what they were trying to do after the second repeat, so like 6 more started to get obnoxious. Can’t wait for the finale!

    Interesting note about same-sex couples that are angels, I am currently reading “His Dark Materials”, the YA series (not really by choice), and there is a similar situation with angels in that story. Weird coincidence I guess? (If that’s what this show is going for).

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      I can not wait for the frickin’ finale next week!

      Probably a weird coincidence, but not sure…

    • RJA

      The Saint of Killers part was a bit much indeed – 2 or 3 times would have produced enough effect. And considering we only have 1 episode left, felt like a waste of screen time!

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        I might be dumb but during the first run through I didn’t understand why they were showing it again, lol

    • Abradolf Lincler

      *offensive religious comment

      in all seriousness, angelic figures have been portrayed as androgynous throughout history

      • Dubbbz

        Many of the angelic beings in the Bible aren’t even humanoid to boot. Thrones are basically spinning, flaming wheels.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus™

          For real?

          • Dubbbz

            Yes. Also cherubim are wild. In the Book of Ezekiel and (at least some) Christian icons, the cherub is depicted as having a number of wing pairs, and four faces: that of a lion (representative of all wild animals), an ox (domestic animals), a human (humanity), and an eagle (aves).

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            Dubbbz dropping the big knowledge.

          • Waynecro

            Of course, a lot of these weird descriptions of angels come from the visions of prophets and stuff. When angels actually interact with people in a biblical story, they often look like humans (in the Sodom and Gomorrah story, for example). The reason for this is simple: ancient aliens.

          • Dubbbz

            Clearly.

          • So you’re saying you should be terrified of cherubim also (eagle face)?

          • Dubbbz

            Clearly..

          • Doot.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            A flaming, spinning wheel angel is way more badass than a humanoid.

          • Dubbbz

            Yah, I wish more fictional depictions of angelic beings went for the weird. There is a lot of weird stuff they could do.

          • Guacamole Jim

            “As I looked, a stormy wind came out of the north: a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like gleaming amber. In the middle of it was something like four living creatures. This was their appearance: they were of human form. Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another; each of them moved straight ahead, without turning as they moved. As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle; such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. Each moved straight ahead; wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.”

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            That’s gnarly Jim.

        • Abradolf Lincler

          to say nothing about the depictions of demonic figures. their de-anthropomorphizing is more understandable contextually

      • Joaquin Stick

        This is what I was thinking. I only knew about those two examples, but I was curious to know if that was a common thing for angels. Glad I started this weird tangent. I want to learn more now!

  • Waynecro

    Excellent article as always, Edward. I enjoyed this episode a lot–especially how quickly Cassidy and Jesse made up. That’s such a bro phenomenon.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      I really thought they did TSOK honor from the comic.

      • Waynecro

        Yeah, I’m really looking forward to seeing TSOK’s killing power unleashed on the modern world. Man, the finale has the potential to be so spectacular.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus™

          That bar room massacre was pretty well done!

          • Waynecro

            They certainly showed it enough times!

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            Lol. I thought he was gonna spare the singer when he holstered his gun.

          • Waynecro

            I thought he was going to spare the poor guy at first as well. But I guess he wouldn’t be the Saint of Killers if he let people live willy-nilly.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            Waynecro do you think DeBlanc survived?

          • Waynecro

            I was wondering about that. If angels die in hell, are they permanently dead? Or do they respawn on Earth or in heaven? Was the gunslinger already the Saint of Killers (gifted with magical killing power) when he shot DeBlanc in hell, or was he just a guy in hell at that point? I suspect DeBlanc will come back, but I’m really not sure.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            I think he must have already been TSOK if they went down to get him for a “job”. The angels’ reinvigoration is different from the comics of course, the angels could be killed in the comics… I hope he survives but the reason I think he might be dead is how scared Fiore was after DeBlanc got shot like “oh shit this is for real”.

          • Waynecro

            As you say, the situation is quite different from the situation in the comics, so determining what is going on is tricky. In the comics, the gunslinger became the Saint of Killers (gaining supernatural killing abilities), and then heaven put him into hibernation for future use. In the show, he’s just a guy in hell. I mean, nothing they’ve showed has indicated that he has any supernatural powers beyond an extremely strong desire to kill (a strong desire to kill preachers especially, because of his hatred of that preacher in the saloon). So if he’s just a normal guy in hell, his bullets shouldn’t have a supernatural effect on DeBlanc. I do wonder, though, why Fiore was so terrified in that moment. It could be because DeBlanc is permanently dead, but it may also be a natural reaction to the gunslinger’s shooting DeBlanc with no hesitation whatsoever and the gunslinger’s obvious hatred.

  • Damn, some of those screen shots look real gnarly Ed. Eventually I’ll check this show out…. Uh.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      Tyree when you get around to it, you’d love this episode in particular.

      • Excellent! I need to start watching some shows again. I’ve really fell far behind on everything. I still need to finish season 2 of Fargo.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus™

          We just started HBO’s The Night Of, three episodes in and it’s been real good.