Gimme Something to Watch: AMC’s Preacher (Season 1, Episodes 2 & 3)
Spoiler Warning: This post will be loaded with spoilers from the Preacher comics and television show. You can catch up on the write-up for the first episode of Preacher here.
Oxbow doesn’t have anything to do with the Preacher series, but they rule.
“Be here, work hard, help others, preach the gospel, be one of the good guys”.
That’s God’s plan for Jesse Custer, as spoken by Jesse to Cassidy during Preacher’s second episode, “See.” There is a much older Yiddish proverb which states “man plans, and God laughs,” which is a more fitting mission statement for the second and third (“Possibilities”) episodes of this series. “See” follows an internally conflicted Jesse Custer as he reaches out to help the citizens of Annville, with mixed results throughout.
One of the biggest moments of fan service and an enigma for those unfamiliar with the source material occurs during the cold open of the second episode. For those unfamiliar, a “cold open” is the scene that takes place before the credits during a television show. Many of the best scenes from HBO’s The Wire took place during the opening segments. Viewers of syndicated drama should not be unfamiliar with mysterious cold opens; look no further than the pink teddy bear from Breaking Bad’s second season, which appeared at the beginning of four episodes! A title card sending the viewer back to 1881 signifies a new element to the story, and introduces us to one of Preacher’s greatest antagonists – the Saint of Killers. Despite some breathtaking scenery, the intro is quiet, drawn out, and grim, and shows us not everyone believes America is a paradise.
Fast forward to the present day, where two main points of emphasis coincide around Jesse Custer: his efforts to help out and spread the good word to the citizens of Annville, and his increased awareness of the strange new power he possesses. In the episode’s first modern scene, Jesse baptizes many of Annville’s residents: Emily, the bus driver, the mayor, Eugene/Arseface, and Tulip, and hears a troubling confession from the busdriver afterwards. Throughout “See,” Jesse encounters many of the residents post-baptism, with their various reactions to and struggles after being saved. Jesse is also rebuffed by Terri Loach in his effort to reach out to her; she tells him that words won’t open the eyes of her comatose daughter, or help her to ride horses again.
Two episode highlights revolve around Cassidy. First, Jesse and Cassidy drink, argue, speak philosophically, and bond before Cassidy drugs Custer and steals his wallet and truck. In the first two episodes, two of my favorite scenes involve the back and forth dialogue and differing world views of these two main characters. As Cassidy makes his getaway, a moment of conscience steers him back to the Annville church, where he discovers the two strange investigators attempting to remove the “comet” from Custer with a chainsaw. The second highlight is another bloody battle between Cassidy and those two, involving death by a Bible and the second by chainsaw – Cassidy emerges victorious. The fight is as tense and well done as those from the pilot, and involves a bit of gory slapstick as Cassidy slips on blood chasing down the agent’s chainsaw-wielding severed arm.
Eugene/Arseface acts as a foil to move the plot forward as he did in the pilot, standing as a reflection of Jesse’s own internal struggle with faith. Arseface tells Jesse that no matter how hard he tries, he just stays the same, which we see plainly reflected in Jesse. This prompts Jesse to visit the busdriver, who previously confessed his pedophilic fantasies. Jesse breaks into the man’s home, assaults him, and gives him a second baptism in a tub of scalding water, ultimately discovering his powers when he commands to bus driver a third time to “FORGET HER.” The following morning, Jesse visits the comatose Loach girl and asks the mother if he can pray with her. We see Jesse putting the Word of God to use one final time, as he commands the comatose girl – “OPEN YOUR EYES.” We also see the murdered and dismembered agents alive and intact speaking to Sheriff Root, which gives us the impression they may be even harder to kill than Cassidy.
One of the cool things about writing up two episodes at a time is covering cliffhangers that happened at the end of the second episode “See,” and seeing them resolved in the following third episode, “Possibilities.” The comatose girl opens her eyes. Jesse finds himself in full control of his powers. We learn the identity of the resurrecting investigators, as one of them explains to Cassidy that they are from Heaven. Cassidy later makes a deal with them to be the middleman in the efforts to recover the “comet” from Jesse. Tulip’s story arc over the first three episodes is revealed. Her “job” is not a typical score for cash, but rather a revenge mission against a man named Carlos who fled the scene of a previous bank robbery involving Jesse and Tulip. The flashback to a murdered security guard with Jesse holding the gun comes as a bit of a shock. We also get a closer look at Odin Quincannon, and just how creepy he can turn out to be.
The cold open finds Tulip talking to Dany, who prior to the third episode had only been mentioned and not seen onscreen. Tulip trades the map she fought for in the pilot to Dany, for the last known address of a man named Carlos, the object of Tulip’s obsession thus far. Two important small details to note: the map is property of Grail Industries, who comic readers will remember as all powerful Grail organization, and the introduction of who is likely to be Herr Starr, another of Jesse’s great antagonists, leaving the fourth annual Houston snuff film festival.
The episode then unpacks many of the above mentioned story lines simultaneously, to the episode’s detriment. With so much happening in “Possibilities,” I can imagine those unfamiliar with the comics to be lost in the shuffle. My feelings about Tulip have shifted radically over her three episode story arc. I thought she was really bad ass in the pilot, but her pursuit of Jesse has become rather annoying. The third episode suffers from the lack of a well-executed fight scene, and loses a bit of directorial flair without Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the helm. The third episode isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely lacks the impact of the first two episodes.
At the end of the third episode, it’s Donny, rather than Eugene/Arseface, who moves the plot forward for Jesse. Donny confronts Jesse in the restroom of a truckstop gas station with a gun. Jesse, now aware and in control of his powers, reacts calmly, and nearly forces Donny to commit suicide. Jesse, who clearly seemed to be enjoying tormenting Donny with his powers, has a change of heart at the last moment. He lets Donny live and leave, saying to himself that he understands. We see Jesse in the episode’s final scene preparing a eulogy for Ted (who cut out his heart in the pilot episode), still trying to save the citizens of Annville.
Let’s cover some of the main differences between the graphic novel and these two episodes:
- In the comics, the Saint of Killers is introduced early on as he is woken from his grave by an unfortunate Adelphi angel; in the show we are introduced to his origin story right off the bat.
- In the comics, Jesse discovers his powers by ordering a platoon of police officers to drop their weapons; in the show, Jesse discovers them by wiping the brain of the bus driver. He also never used his powers to wake someone from a coma.
- In the comics, Jesse and Tulip weren’t murderous bank robbers prior to their reconnecting in the present.
- In the show, the Cassidy and Tulip relationship hasn’t even been hinted at yet.
- Jesse and Cassidy did not meet the angels until nearly the end of the comic series.
- Like Odin Quincannon, Herr Starr and the Grail organization took some time to appear in the story. Herr Starr was wearing a hat during his introduction; he didn’t wear his trademark hat in the comics series until after his head was disfigured to look like a dong.
- The comics didn’t have comparable characters to Emily or Carlos as far as I can tell.
Season One Episode Two “See” 4.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Season One Episode Three “Possibilities” 3 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Stay tuned for the next write-up of episodes 4 and 5.
For anyone having trouble watching the series, the first season is available on the Playstation Store.