TV Review: Preacher, Season 1, Episode 5 "South Will Rise Again"
SYNOPSIS: After his stunt with Quincannon, Jesse is Annville's newest rock star. Tulip and Cassidy connect, and The Cowboy makes a tragic decision.
Last week saw a particularly slower burn of an episode than the already established slow burn of the show and "South Will Rise Again" kicks it up a tad, raising the stakes in terms of how Jesse Custer's power (and arrogance) starts to affect him and others around him. And, while this is a compelling aspect of Jesse's journey (and very overstated in the show rather than the comics), this real treat of this episode belongs to one man: The Cowboy aka The Saint of Killers.
We got our first tease of The Cowboy (played by Graham McTavish) in episode 2, where it's revealed in a flashback to the 1800's that he's headed to the town of Ratwater in order to get medicine for his ailing daughter. Since then it's been mum on his character, who continues his journey to Ratwater in the opening section of the episode. The town of Ratwater plays just like any other sleazy saloon-town stereotype you've ever seen in the Wild West, albeit a bit more graphic in terms of some of the shady shit going down there, including a boy being forced to watch his mother being raped. The Cowboy, after being told he'll have to wait a day to get the medicine he needs for his family, takes up residence at a table and sits silently as the madness of the environment carries on around him (including the aforementioned rape, as well as men trading in all manner of bloody scalps at the bar).
The Cowboy is approached by a Preacher in the saloon (not Jesse Custer, obviously) who recognizes him. This is likely an ode to the Preacher character from the Saint of Killers mini-series that traveled with a nasty piece of work named McCready (not as of yet introduced here-if at all). At any rate, The Cowboy gets his medicine and leaves town, again passing a large tree (which looks very much like the modern day tree near Jesse Custer's church) at the entrance of town with a number of naked and scalped bodies dangling by rope (same as we saw in episode 2). On his way back, The Cowboy encounters a wagon on its way to Ratwater with the same family that gave him food and warmth on the way there earlier. Seeing the boy in the back, The Cowboy has a crisis of conscience (especially after what he witnessed at the saloon) and takes off back to Ratwater, presumably to help the family.
Sadly, The Cowboy is rewarded for his efforts by finding out that the family in question was headed to the saloon to sell their own pile of bloody scalps and is summarily beaten by the men buying them, including the nasty Preacher from before. After limping back to his horse and preparing to head home, the nasty Preacher approaches The Cowboy, saying that he recognizes him as a former Confederate Soldier from the Civil War. "I ain't never seen a man more in love with killin' than you," he says, before shooting The Cowboys horse dead, once again impeding The Cowboy's journey home. Of course, once he finally gets there it's too late. His wife and daughter are long dead, their bodies being pecked by crows, sending The Cowboy to grab his guns and prepare for vengeance.
McTavish plays the dour, angry-looking Cowboy with just the right amount of sadness, pain, and don't-fuck-with-me attitude that sells the character, although I always felt he'd be A LOT more angry as per the way he was portrayed in the comics. That said, we've only JUST seen him get truly angry, so I'm now eager to see how deep we get into his rage after this (and his eventual confrontation(s) with Custer).
Meanwhile, back in the present day, the town of Annville is still reeling from Jesse Custer's life-changing Sermon that made the town's meat plant owner, Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) into a Christian (via the power of "The Word"). Custer is living up the newfound fame, while his church secretary, Emily (Lucy Griffiths) has grown suspect of this sudden turnaround in his personality. "It's not me," he says. "It's God." Jesse spends the episode holed up in a diner, engaging with all the locals, doling out advice, and using The Word when he feels it's time to drive his point home. His new power is obviously taking a hold over him and his arrogance in using it for such simple things as "Be patient" or "Use your best judgment" are obviously being set up for a massive fall (as was teased in the pilot with the advice to "open your heart").
Meanwhile, Sheriff Root seems to suffer from some paranoia and depression over his son, Eugene (aka Arseface), who is surprised by someone sneaking in and painting a sign that says "Finish the job" in red paint with an arrow pointing to an actual shotgun in the corner. Naturally, this affects both the Sheriff and Eugene, who share an uncomfortable breakfast the next morning that leads to Eugene seeking Custer's counsel.
After the bloody disaster of an introduction to each other in the last episode, Tulip and Cassidy awaken at her Uncle's house, where Cassidy professes that he's too old to play games and that he's got a crush on her after the previous evening's kiss (on the way to the hospital) and her knowledge that he is, in fact, a vampire. Tulip confesses that she has a "boyfriend" (Custer) and that's he's just waiting for him to quit his current job so they can go and kill "Carlos" the man they've teased in flashback that screwed them during a heist job of some sort long ago. Cassidy is keen on the idea of helping her with her plight, as well as convincing her that her boyfriend may not be worth the trouble. If only he knew. It should make for a fun reveal once we get there.
Tulip later finds Jesse holed up at the diner and interjects while he's spreading his "Word" to the locals, outing him as a "bad man" to see if that will turn his followers against him. Jesse turns it back, though, by admitting to it and saying that he's changed. Before they can go any further, though, Eugene shows up, seeking help after his issues with his dad, the Sheriff. Jesse gets an idea to help bring some closure to his plight by taking him to Tracy's house (the girl in a coma that Jesse "awoke" using The Word). Although it's still unclear what part Eugene played in Tracy's condition, her mother hasn't let it go and upon seeing Eugene in Jesse's truck, she goes ape shit and smashes the hell out of it before Jesse uses The Word to stop her and, eventually, forces her to "forgive" Eugene, which she does. It's a great display of the true and immediate power of The Word and teases the possibility of how it could be used in some more, shall we say, exciting sequences.
As far as Odin Quincannon goes...well, now that he's on track to "serve God" after the last episode's sermon, the odd meat-industry town mogul has a change of heart in meeting with the Green Acre environmentalist group he shunned before, telling the mayor to set up a meeting with them. His (broken) right hand man, Donne (Derek Wilson) continues to be completely shaken to the core by Jesse's presence and actions against him (broken arm, use of The Word to nearly commit suicide, etc.) and we get more than we need of him whining and groveling about it. Perhaps something big or interesting will come of Donnie, but as of now it just feels like the character that will inevitably "lost it" and make some broad attempt on Jesse's life (again). I can't imagine where else he'll go, but I hope it's somewhere other than where it seems.
Later, the Green Acre executives show up for a meeting with Quincannon at his office, all jovial and prepared to do business now that he's onboard to do so. However, as you may have predicted, The Word has had a very different effect on Quincannon's interpretation and he proceeds to mow them all down with a shotgun, revealing his true nature. It's not quite the bloody and perverse reveal we know from the comics, but it no less pushes Quincannon forward as the murderous lunatic he is from there.
After her run-in with Jesse at the diner, Tulip decides to fall deeper into her despairing pit of darkness by robbing a drug store and taking a bottle of opiates to the local strip club where Cassidy is just leaving. She tosses him the pills as a gesture of friendship (or loneliness, perhaps?) and they proceed to have sex in the back of her car. A nod to their relationship in the comics, which was a short lived affair on the sexual front, but it's obvious by Tulip's expression that it's not exactly something she's doing out of passion or desire.
Meanwhile, our favorite two angels, Fiore and DeBlanc prepare to answer the "Heavean phone" in their hotel room, which started ringing at the end of the last episode. However, before they can pick up, it stops. They then decide to enlist the Sheriff to take them to Jesse (still at the diner) where they reveal their true nature: They are angels from Heaven sent there to retrieve Jesse's newfound power and put it back in a can ("It lives in there."). Jesse thinks he has God inside of him, but the angels correct him. "What's inside of you...it isn't God." They're concerned with him using the "enormous power" as much as he has and it's obvious that they have come to collect.
So, we continue the slow burn, which makes the show consistent, if nothing else, and each character takes a step forward in their respective journey through the show in this episode. While I still feel we need to up the ante in terms of the action aspect of the show. While we got a bit of that at the end with Quincannon and have had some cool bits so far (mostly involving Cassidy) the action from the comics, which is often quick, brutal, over-the-top, and often shockingly comical, is strangely light in the show. While I enjoy what's happening and how the style, acting, and flavor of the adaptation has gone, I'm really hoping for a focus on some of the wilder aspects of the comic, which was always a big draw to keep reading. All that said, Preacher is still fun as hell and if these slow reveals build to a satisfying climax then it will likely end up being something that works stronger as a whole, rather than each individual piece. Also, while I really like Dominic Cooper in the role of Jesse, I'm ready to see some more of the rougher, more take-no-shit aspect of the character, which was teased in the Pilot but has since been replaced with a man obsessed with his new power (a new journey for the character from the comics, who used it sparingly, not with reckless abandon), rather than a man on a peaceful mission. I know it's leading to that, but it's taking its sweet ass time in doing so.
- As in the comics, Ruth Negga's Tulip and Joseph Gilgan's Cassidy hook up, albeit not quite in the exact context of the comics.
- Some major Saint of Killers reveals in this one, particularly more on his slow-revealing origin that highlights his journey to get medicine from Ratwater to take back home for his ailing daughter. Much of what we see onscreen is directly from the Saint of Killers mini-series by Preacher writer Garth Ennis that delves into the origin of "The Cowboy" and how he came to be who (or what) he is today (which has yet to be revealed on the show). Check out Preacher: The Saint of Killers mini-series to get more in-depth on this. It's a great read.
- We finally see the murderous nature of Odin Quincannon, which is amplified to insane levels of perversion in the comics. We'll see if they take it that far...