TV Review - Preacher, Season 1, Episode 2 "See"
SYNOPSIS: Jesse tries to be a "good preacher," unaware that a mysterious duo is after him. Meanwhile we meet the enigmatic Cowboy.
REVIEW: If you were slightly jarred by the changes and variations to the comic in the pilot episode, Preacher’s second episode in the series kicks off with something that will drive fans absolutely crazy in the best possible way: The introduction of The Saint of Killers, which pulls directly from the source. Graham McTavish (THE HOBBIT TRILOGY, Outlander, CREED) takes on the signature role of “The Cowboy” and the opening of the episode puts us right into his boots.
The episode gets into some more “cinematic” territory as we witness the simple introduction of the Saint of Killers, who sets off into town to get medicine for his ailing daughter. He speaks no words in the entire sequence, save for two, which sums up his attitude about the world quite simpy. The shots are framed for maximum landscape effect and you genuinely feel the vast loneliness of 1881, something that gives weight to the contrasting modern-day story that’s going on with Custer and his crew. We get a quick peek at a sign leading to the town of Ratwater and see a group of Native Americans hanging dead and mutilated from a tree, once again tapping into the unflinching brutality of the comics.
In present day we now have Dominic Cooper’s Jesse Custer firmly rooted in Annville and freshly invigorated to “save” the people of the town, opening with a baptizing ceremony in front of the church. Custer asks each member to name their savior as Jesus before dunking them, but of course his long-lost love, Tulip (Ruth Negga) shows up to taunt him for his efforts and attempt to bring him back to his deeply hidden dark side to help her with an unnamed job. Custer pushes away her advances, but you can tell her very presence affects his standing.
Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is now working for the church as a shitty repairman who seems to drink more of the church wine and sleep through the day than anything else. In addition, the church receptionist, Emily, played by Lucy Griffiths, is steadfast in supporting Jesse’s efforts to save the town, but her awkward glances and exchanges with him once again show that her motives are hardly for the church, but for Jesse himself. Ultimately, Jesse is embracing his congregation, which is almost like an alternate reality of the comics where he never left Annville. It’s an interesting “what if…” take on the original story and allows for some interesting exploration of the congregation that was turned to dust in a single panel of the comics.
Case in point: Jesse struggles with a school bus driver confessing to having sexual urges toward a little girl and the struggle on his face indicates he’d rather beat the man senseless rather than give him sound Godly advice. Cooper exudes a quiet anger that is quickly becoming a trademark to his interpretation of the character, who struggles to do good, but finds himself faced with the desire to take justice into his own hands rather than allow the Lord to do his work. Jesse is still reeling from the effects of being “possessed” by a power he does not understand and while in quiet contemplation at the church we can hear dogs barking in the distance in annoying unison, which prompts him to inadvertently silence them while using The Word. The discovery of his power is at hand.
This episode also sees the introduction of fan-favorite bad guy Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) who shows up to appropriate some local land to expand his meat-packing facility, taking out a couple’s home. Donnie (Derek Wilson) returns as a man working as Quincannon’s “right hand” man, although his right hand is currently in a cast after Jesse’s beat-down at the bar in the pilot episode. After Odin Quincannon takes over the couple’s home, Donnie ends up smashing in the face of a fellow worker, showing that he’s even more of a brutal asshole than we’ve already seen, which is certainly something Jesse will have to deal with again.
My favorite scenes of the episode take place inside Jesse’s church. The first part is a great bonding scene between Jesse and Cassidy, drinking some whiskey, smoking cigarettes and talking about everything from Jesse’s mission in life to whether or not The Big Lebowski is a good movie or not. Cassidy even confesses to being a century-old vampire that’s being hunted by a religious vampire hunting cult, although Jesse takes it as a joke, while Cassidy seems curious about Jesse’s true nature, especially the darker side he witnessed in the episode one bar brawl. Jesse’s response is a great tease of his past, too, which once again plants some good seeds for future stories.
“Who taught you to fight like that? Your da?”
“To fight? No, that was someone else.”
The scene ends with Custer taking a sip of Cassidy’s “special” whiskey, which knocks him out cold on the church floor. Meanwhile, The Adelphi Angels, Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatol Yusef) are holed up in a hotel, carrying a trunk of tools. They leave with the trunk and are next seen at the church standing over the passed out Custer, kicking off my second favorite sequence in the episode. Using an old can and some type of old-school device and weird magic, they attempt to retrieve that which has possessed Jesse, but it doesn’t go as planned, at which point they decide to go even older school: Chainsaw.
Luckily, Cassidy is there, who engages the Angels in a bloody and clumsy battle on the church floor, mistaking the angels as part of the cult that’s trying to track him down, effectively saving Jesse’s life. The scene plays like something out of an Evil Dead film more than anything, a perfect compliment to the series and it’s comic roots, which is filled with these types of strange, awkward, awesome, shocking, bloody and brutal exchanges. It’s a great example of what the show is capable of. Cassidy then chops up the Angels, puts them in their box, cleans up the church and later buries them in a field nearby. All in a night’s work.
Later, Custer awakens, hung over and uninformed about what went down with the angels and Cassidy, and goes on a house call to visit with a girl named Tracy, who is in a bedridden comatose state after an accident of some sort. Jesse talks to her mother, attempting to comfort her. But, he finds that both Tracy and her mother are unreachable and not interested in being comforted, having no faith in God or his miracles. Jesses leaves, frustrated.
Later, Tulip uses a baby seat in the road to lure Jesse in, tasering him and then chaining him up in a whorehouse where she once again attempts to crack his shell of trying to do good and help her with whatever criminal mission she has in mind. Jesse resists, but she is unrelenting, saying, “It’s only a matter of time before you’re you all over again”, which continues to be a recurring them for Jesse and a huge part of his struggle in this series. Tulip makes it clear that she won’t stop until he agrees to help her before finally freeing him.
Eugene aka Arseface (Ian Colletti) confronts Preacher later on, saying that he doesn’t think the Baptism at the opening of the episode worked and that he may need to try it again. He says he feels the same no matter how hard he tries, once again hammering home the internal battle that Jesse is fighting. Jesse, feeling conflicted once again, heads off on a mission of his own, breaking into the home of the bus driver that confessed to him about having impure thoughts about a little girl on his bus.
He catches the man in the bathroom, punches him, and says “You’re gonna forget her” as the man tries to rationalize that he’s sick and addicted. But, Jesse isn’t having it. Again, Cooper’s quiet cool comes into effect here and you really start to get a feel for the conflict that Jesse carries; a man trying to good, but rooted in much “tougher” ways of dealing out that good. He attempts another “baptism” (this time with scalding hot water) repeating “forget her” which triggers The Word yet again. This entire sequence is the clincher to Jesse discovering the power of his "words".
The episode closes with two revelations: Cassidy is seen finishing up the burial of the “dead angels” as Sheriff Hugo Root (W. Earl Brown) is meeting with the same two men across town in a hotel, showing that these guys aren’t exactly going to be easy to take down and certainly not of this world.
Custer, now realizing the power of “The Word” that possesses him, goes back to revisit the comatose girl to perform another “test” of his powers, a sign that Custer is on a mission to understand that which now possesses him. This episode is a great follow-up to the pilot, which builds on every character and their place in the show (and it’s new direction from the comics). It’s a slower burn, but not without progress, especially in highlighting Jesse’s internal struggle with being a good Preacher, while fighting his true nature to accomplish said good in more violent means. Cooper is excellent as Jesse, again making a more nuanced version of the comic character, but one that no less has the same energy and charismas as he does in the comics.
The biggest bump up for this episode for me was the interactions between Jesse and Cassidy, particularly the church scene where they’re simply “smokin’ and jokin’”. It’s scenes like this that serve to build their relationship, which is an essential one to his broader journey. It’s great to see the showrunners paying attention to that, while still building a world that echoes the comics, while still finding its own voice. The hyper-violent church scene is a great indication of things to come if that’s how the showdowns will play out throughout the series, which gives me great hope in seeing some of the more violent and iconic scenes come to life.
COMIC CONNECTIONS (AND OMISSIONS):
- Saint of Killers intro featuring comic-accurate origins and tease of the the town of Ratwater
- Custer’s heartbeat can be seen after he passes out in the church with Genesis inside him mirroring the Angel/Demon tryst that gave birth to his possessed spirit. A clever nod.
- First appearance of Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) who has the look down pat, but we’ve yet to see his more disgusting habits.