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TV Review: Preacher, Season 1, Episode 9 "Finish The Song"

07.26.2016

SYNOPSIS: Jesse is on the run while those around him face life-altering decisions. The Cowboy returns to Ratwater to exact his revenge.

REVIEW: The penultimate episode of Preacher featured the return of The Saint of Killers, as played by Graham McTavish, who has become the most intriguing enigma on the show, even overshadowing the titular character of Jesse Custer. You can take that as good or bad, I suppose, but there you have it. Personally, I think Jesse is far too reserved at this point to even be a match for The Saint, but that's a failing of how he's written more so than anything else. These are two characters that go head-to-head in a big way and over a long course of time in the comics and there was never a point where you felt one would overpower the other.

The episode opens back in Ratwater, 1881, with The Saint returning to the town after finding out his wife and daughter died of sickness (or did they?) before he could make it back safely with the medicine he sought, having been delayed by an evil preacher (not Custer) who shot his horse. Consumed with vengeance, The Saint enters the saloon he was at when delayed, finding the same preacher, goons, and even the "friendly" kid he met at the beginning of his quest. The preacher calls out The Saint as "The Butcher of Gettysburg" but says he can be saved by proclaiming his love for Jesus.

The Saint replies to this calling with "I love my horse. I love my wife and I love my little girl. And as for Jesus...he can join us all in hell." It's at this point that he tosses a bunch of severed heads to the floor, orders the man singing a song in the saloon to "finish the song" as he slaughters everyone in the room, men, women, and children. Afterwards, he has a drink at the bar, while everything quakes around him. Tough stuff and very consistent with the savage nature of The Saint from the comics. If the showrunners have gotten anything right about this first season, it's the execution of The Saint, and McTavish is in fine form as the instrument of death itself.

We then cut back to present day with Jesse Custer in the back of Sheriff Root's car, being escorted to jail. Root asks Jesse where Eugune/Arseface is and Jesse replies, "I sent him to hell." Root then gives another long-winded story to drive home a point about child killers, but Jesse doesn't stick around. "I'm sorry, Sheriff," he says. "I'll see you Sunday." Jesse then escapes the car, leaping out while it's moving.

Meanwhile, Fiore and DeBlanc, looking at the "other option" after failing to retrieve Genesis from Custer in the last episode, visit a "travel agent" and ask for a trip to Hell. They negotiate their trip (traveling as "serial killers") and get everything set up. But, returning to their hotel room they have a bit of a crisis about following through and decide on a coin toss to decide if they go to Heaven and confess or go to Hell for "the other option". The coin toss wins for Heaven, but they can't find the phone to call in, thereby leaving them only with the Hell option. We later see a shot of Jesse hiding out from the cops and clutching the phone in his hands.

Emily shows up to Tulip's place, I'm guessing by invite from Tulip as it's not entirely clear. There are all manner of critters in the house, from goats to gerbils and Tulip tells Emily that Cassidy is a vampire and that he got in sunlight and isn't healing well. They then have a weird conversation about Jesse being in trouble (with his Quincannon bet that put the church at stake) and Tulip all of a sudden doesn't care about Jesse and says that Emily can be his girlfriend, to which she says she is already with The Mayor. Tulip then leaves, saying "I'm gonna kill a man in Albuquerque," presumably Carlos, reviving that subplot that's gone nowhere. Emily, now in charge of babysitting Tulip's locked-up pet vampire, Cassidy, picks up one of the many rodents in the house to go and feed him, receiving a call from The Mayor saying he'll take care of the kids and will stay over that night, to which she agrees. She then places a guinea pig in Cassidy's room and we get a look at his charred and sickly body after his sunlight bath a few episodes ago. 

Emily then sits down in the house and is watching PSYCHO (I mean, why not?), in particular a scene between Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh talking about escaping their lives. This seems to have a rather profound effect on Emily, who promptly calls The Mayor (who is at Odin Quincannon's office for some reason, watching a bunch of goons fight...weird for weird's sake, I guess), telling him that "he's escaped" and to come to the O'Hare house to help her. Of course, the Mayor shows up, entering the house (hey, it's Annville, just come on in) and following the sounds of Cassidy freaking out in his locked room. The Mayor enters the room and Emily suddenly appears behind him, closing and locking the door with him inside. Cassidy then attacks, killing him and, presumably, feeding on him. Emily holds the door shut to make sure the Mayor can't escape.

Now, this is a dark moment for Emily and I'm not quite sure it's earned. To this point, the Mayor has certainly proven to be a spineless coward that's in love with her, doing pretty much whatever she wants, including watching her kids, doing her laundry, etc. And yet, because Jesse "fires" her and she suddenly watches PSYCHO, she's ready to kill the guy? I'm not buying it. The conflict simply never resonated deeply enough that she was trying to escape him so badly that she'd kill him. If anything, she just seemed annoyed, but to set him to be murdered by a vampire? Just doesn't make sense and it's another example of this show's biggest problem: lack of consistency.

And, the next scene doesn't help matters either. We cut to Sheriff Root coming to the Sundowner Hotel to investigate Fiore and DeBlanc's room after the owner discovered blood all over the place and a little surprise in the bathroom; the "trapped" angel from Heaven that they fought a few episodes ago, finally defeated (but kept alive) with her arms and legs severed, but trapped in the bathtub. Root is shocked (I mean, obviously) and calls for an ambulance, while reassuring her she'll be okay. However, she begs for Root to kill her, which he obliges after only a few requests to do so. Root chokes her to death, allowing her to "repopulate" and continue her mission to capture Fiore and DeBlanc.

The problem I have here is that none of this adds up. Neither Emily killing the Mayor nor Root killing the angel make any sense. Root is a true son of a bitch in the comics (think R. Lee Ermey as a Sheriff), but in the show he's been a fairly gentle and humble soul. Emily has been conflicted and vulnerable, but murderous? No. Now, we could argue that sometimes people just snap, given enough things built up in their lives and a mental imbalance taking place, but the performances and tension never gave that impression for Emily or Root. It's a light switch change of character that, while shocking, just doesn't feel earned for either.

Jesse then shows up at Tulip's place, just as Emily is setting the rodents in the house "free" in the yard. They have a brief conversation that seems fairly nonchalant given that the last time they spoke Jesse fired her and that she's obviously still in love with him. Jesse then goes in the house to see the nightmare that's become of Cassidy. "I told you what I was. And now you see." The two of a brief conversation and it's revealed that Jesse actually put out the flames when Cassidy set himself on fire, which is something left unclear when that happened a few episodes ago. Cassidy is thankful for that. "You put me out. That's what matters." Jesse then agrees to help Cassidy get rid of the Mayor's body and they are buds again. Nothing like covering up a murder to forge a lifelong friendship. 

Meanwhile, back at Quincannon's we get a nice little scene of exposition with Quincannon laying out that Jesse escaped police custody and that he'll be at church on Sunday where he'll denounce God in front of the whole town and the "greatest lie" will be revealed. Okay, we get it. Jesse will be at church on Sunday.

Back at Tulip's place, Cassidy starts playing with the angel phone that Jesse has. Jesse reminds Cassidy that only "angel hands" can use the phone, to which Cassidy says he knows where they can find some (where he buried a set of bodies of Fiore and DeBlanc). Then, we get another un-earned moment, with Jesse calling Tulip (getting her voice mail) suddenly in love with her again because he ate pancakes that morning and remembered a time when she put M&M's in her pancakes. "It's just you. Until the end of the world." As the message is playing, we cut to Tulip in Albuquerque with a man, bloody and beaten, tied to a chair. She stands up, grabbing a meat tenderizer and says, "All right, Carlos."

The problem I have here is that, while in the comics we see the highs and lows of Jesse and Tulip, we get enough build up to understand why they're together and actually root for them to stay that way. Here, we have nothing but strife between the two and there isn't a single moment that's worked to really reconnect them that felt genuine; It's all flip-of-the-switch changes of heart that just don't add up. Jesse confessing his love for Tulip should feel like a truly earned moment, but it doesn't. It feels like they ran out of time and needed to get to this point no matter what, so it's shoehorned in.

We then jump back to The Saint of Killers and rewatch all the moments of his backstory again from previous episodes, which build in a slow loop to a fast jump cut of a recurring nightmare and it becomes obvious that The Saint is trapped in an endless cycle of reliving the worst moment of his life, ending with him at the bar, having a drink, the world around him quaking as a massive storm rolls in. It goes on for far too long, really, but ends with Fiore and DeBlanc entering the saloon and approaching The Saint to make him an offer, while revealing that we are, in fact, in hell. "You want this to end? You want to be free of all this? We have a job for you." He asks what the job is and DeBlanc tells him to come with them and he'll tell him. The Saint shoots him, turning to Fiore with the same question. Fiore tells him. "We want you to kill someone," says Fiore. "Who?"

"A preacher."

The storm builds and overtakes the town of Ratwater (or the town in Hell, however you want to look at it) and we cycle through time to get back to the town of Annville, where Jesse and Cassidy are digging up the "angel hands" that Cassidy buried a while back, then tossing in The Mayor and Cassidy's animal corpses into the hole. As they start to fill the hole, Cassidy says, "God, eh? Comin' to Texas."

"Yep," says Jesse. "Well, that'll be somethin'," Cassidy says as they continue to fill the hole.

So, the build up for the final episode is obviously a showdown with God, which certainly takes place in the comics, but not for a good while. It's another sign of the major deviations this show has taken from the source, which may well have been for budget and/or not knowing if they'd ever get a second season, but it's a bit frustrating to endure for those familiar with the books (although I've spoken to at least one person that likes the changes, so there's that. Still way in the minority on that one, though.) I think they biggest problem I have in general is the overall lack of consistency in character more so than story. I've read all of The Walking Dead comics (up to current) and read all of the Game of Thrones books and never had as big a problem with them in terms of changes as I do with Preacher, due largely to the fact that they just aren't necessary ones.

However, if the characters really stood out and were personified with who they are in the books (which matters greatly), then it would be a lot easier get past those issues. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Everyone just seems to be acting irrationally and the standout character is the one who hardly says anything; The Saint of Killers. At this point, I'd be more interested in seeing his mini-series adapted than Preacher, but I'm going to hold out hope that things get better in the second season. The finale will no doubt leave things wide open, but hopefully on a path that's more akin with what makes this story worth adapting, rather than taking it further down a road that makes you wonder why they even attempted to tell it.

COMIC CONNECTIONS:

The only real connection here is to The Saint of Killers being approached by the angels to take out Custer, but it happened quite a bit differently in the comics, but close enough that it still resonates with the source.

Source: JoBlo.com

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