TV Review: Preacher, Season 1, Episode 4 "Monster Swamp"
SYNOPSIS: Jesse makes Quincannon a bet he can't refuse, Cassidy works to fend off the angels, and Tulip tries to bring justice to Annville.
We hit the ground running with the fourth episode of Preacher, which has girls in underwear being chased in the dark by Odin Quincannon goons, in what turns out to be a game of kinky paintball. However, the game gets all too real when one of the girls is suddenly swallowed up in a sinkhole on Quincannon’s meat factory land. I hate it when kinky paintball is ruined by natural disasters, don’t you?
This sets up a new subplot of Quincannon’s land being plagued by such disasters, with the Mayor secretly meeting with environmental groups to help clean up the area and possibly combine efforts with Quincannon’s factory in doing so. Naturally, Quincannon being Quincannon, those suggestions are rebuked, in this case by having ol’ Odin himself take a piss inside the Mayor’s briefcase. “Plain as pie,” Quincannon says. Once again played with icky malice by the always reliable Jackie Earle Haley, Quincannon is being set up as the main bad for this season, with other villainous teases sneaking in from all over the planet (as well as Heaven).
This episode also sees a series of flashbacks of Jesse as a boy, interacting with his father during his preacher duties (Perhaps an unplanned ode to Father’s Day today?). We see Jesse set up the church for service in one flashback and in another we see him caught smoking outside the back of the church, which leads to a whipping in front of his friends, showing the committed nature of his father to Jesse’s upbringing, essentially trying to root out evil at the source. The final flashback reveals Jesse’s father being called to the elder Quincannon’s office (as we come to find out that Odin has inherited his meat-packing empire). Jesse, sitting in the lobby and waiting on his dad, steals an ash tray from a counter just as his father emerges from the office, a man screaming at him from behind. They leave and Jesse’s dad says, “Some people just can’t be saved” which is likely to resonate continually throughout the show and would certainly serve to dilute Jesse’s path as a Preacher that would doubt himself in the future (as Jesse did in his present form…until The Word arrived).
After killing the angels Fiore and DeBlanc a number of times before they revealed their true nature to him, Cassidy attempts to tell Jesse about them, warning him of their presence, rather than helping deliver him to them, as he said he’d do last episode. Jesse doesn’t take him seriously, especially since Cassidy is smoking an apple bong at the time. Cassidy says they need to get out of there.
“Road trip, you gotta know that’s where this is headed,” Cassidy says, which is a clever nod to the nature of the comics (and hopefully to the show) as it’s more of a globe-trotting adventure than a one-town journey. Cassidy wants Jesse to get away as he feels that people are going to want the power that’s inside of him. Jesse replies:
“And I’m gonna give it to em.“ which sets up his overall plan for this episode: To gather his flock at church, by recruiting as many people as he can for Sunday service, at which point he plans for “something big.”
He reveals as much to Lucy Griffith’s Emily, who is tasked with getting a big-screen TV to use for a raffle, as Jesse feels that would go a long way in getting people in for service. The exchanges between Jesse and Emily continue to be a tapdance between her obvious infatuation with him and his blindness to it, although they come very close to something more here. Still, the confession of feelings bubbles at the surface and presents a new kind of problem for Jesse that he didn’t really face in the comics.
I can’t say I’m exactly feeling these new characters in the show at this point. I get that they exist to add some more color and connectedness to the people of Annville, but they still haven’t hooked me yet. Griffiths is the most notable of the batch and we get a little more depth from her here as we find that the Mayor also acts as her babysitter, purely as a way to win her favor. However, Emily says that “I’m never gonna be with you, you know that right, Miles?” to which she then takes off her pants and leaves the room, leaving the Mayor to put away the dishes and follow her. It’s an intriguing angle and presents more questions to the nature of Emily’s intentions and desires on the whole, but we definitely need some bigger steps forward in these non-comic side characters.
Cassidy later talks to the angels, Fiore and DeBlanc again, who are frustrated that he didn’t just bring Jesse to them. Cassidy tries to get more information about what exactly is inside of Jesse, but they won’t budge. Cassidy plays the part of the goofy, idiotic inside man that will help them out, but it feels more like he’s gathering info from them to help Jesse, rather than turncoat and serve his own interests. He asks for payment, but they don’t have much so he cleans out their wallets for what’s there, which leads him to the local whorehouse, for a round of drugs and women. That’s the Cassidy we know and love, eh?
Fiore says he doesn’t trust Cassidy and pulls out another strange device and says they need to “call them” which denotes that they have superiors to report to…the rub is that their superiors don’t know they’re gone yet. They stare at the device ominously (which I’ll call the “Heaven Phone”) and you know that sucker’s going to ring at some point.
We then see the wake of the “sinkhole girl “ (at the local whorehouse nonetheless) and Tulip decides to lecture everyone about her senseless death, particularly Clyde, a Quincannon goon who says they lost nothing but a good piece of ass. Losing her temper, Tulip later bursts into a room that she thinks has Clyde in it, but instead beats Cassidy, still reveling in his drug-and-prostitute binge, out of a window, rendering him a good bloody mess, complete with a large shard of glass stuck in his neck.
Having got the wrong guy, Tulip scoops Cassidy up and races him to the hospital, at which point, lying in her lap, he asks for a kiss. She obliges. Once at the hospital, Cassidy feasts on some stored bloodbags, revealing his true nature to Tulip. A strange, yet fitting introduction of the two characters to one another, who will certainly have some things to talk about now that they’ve met, especially since they both have a very similar interest: Jesse Custer.
We then see Jesse in Odin Quincannon’s office, painting figurines for an Alamo battlefield set. Jesse is trying to recruit Quincannon to come to church, as he wants to get more leaders of the community there. They then spin into a theological debate about the afterlife, with Jesse and Quincannon arguing over what may or may not be there when they did. Jesse makes a deal to hand over his father’s land to Quincannon if he agrees to come to church and doesn’t leave a Christian. It’s obvious that Jesse has big plans to use “The Word” on his congregation to make them all believers.
Finally, Sunday service arrives and it’s a packed house. Jesse gets into his sermon and breaks it all down, saying that basically nothing will save anyone there. “The world is turning to shit. And you know what? It’s all your fault.” Although, after all that, Jesse says he can bring them back to God, basically by turning one of those who is so far gone from God back to him. Quincannon is in attendance and Jesse approaches him, asking if he’ll serve God, to which Quincannon says, “Nope!”
At that point, Jesse uses The Word and Quincannon responds that he will serve God, to everyone’s amazement. The deed is done and Jesse’s plan is in motion, but as we saw in the pilot episode, Jesse has much to learn about the “literal” power of “The Word” and you just know this can’t end well for him or Quincannon.
And, of course, we then end with the “Heaven Phone” giving the angels a ring in their hotel room. This episode is, like most of the show so far, another slow burn. However, my concern is that the slow burn is going to turn into someone blowing on sparks in the kindling, rather than a roaring fire by the end. As a die-hard fan of the comics, I want to see this thing go all the way from beginning to end, but with episodes like this early on, it feels like more viewers will be dropping off than checking in. That doesn’t take away from the fun characters, the heat-soaked aesthetic, or tease of insane possibility, but it’s time to up the ante in a big way. Let off some fireworks to get people invested and then let that slow burn sink in later. It’s still an engaging episode that moves things along, but the pace needs to pick up in a big way if it's going to keep viewers invested.
The only real nod to the comics that I caught in this episode was Cassidy’s line of “Road trip, you gotta know that’s where this is headed,” which is exactly how the comic unfolds. My hope is that this not only a nod, but a tease of what’s to come, as I’m waning on the town and setting of Annville at this point.