TV Review: Preacher, Season 1 finale, "Call and Response"
SYNOPSIS: It is the day the entire town has been waiting for, as Jesse tries to follow through on his promise to get answers from Heaven.
REVIEW: Well the finale to the first season of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's seminal work, Preacher, has come to a head after a promising start that ebbed and flowed for the past nine episodes in a slow burn of odd choices in character and story that has left many of the comic fans left scratching their heads and many non-comic fans with a sense of surprise and enjoyment (albeit, still with many non-fans not "getting it"). Mixed bag is being generous, as there's been some outright baffling changes from the comic that often beg why they even bothered to adapt, but I've stayed the course to see how it all would shake out, hoping for an M. Night Shyamalan finale that would leave me eating crow. So, did that happen? Let's dig in and find out.
We kick things off with Jesse and Cassidy now on the run after digging up an angel hand to use the God phone last episode. Jesse is hanging out at Donnie's for some reason and Cassidy is now in jail. How they got to this point? Chalk it up to more of the show's erratic storytelling, I suppose. Anyway, Sheriff Root, still focused on finding Eugene, has a captive audience with Cassidy and settles in for some good ol' fashioned questioning tactics; complete with a thermos of blood, a revolver, and a manilla folder stacked with news clippings on Cassidy's criminal past that goes back to the 1940's. Root has seemingly embraced that Cassidy is more than he seems and when found out, Cassidy leaps to attack, but is instead shot, revealing that he is, in face, more than he seems. Root offers a paper cup full of blood to Cassidy after shooting him. "C'mon, Vampire. It's gonna be a long night."
Tulip tracks Jesse down to Donnie's place, where Jesse is staying by his own free will, and it's revealed that Donnie welcomed him to hide out there. Apparantly, after showing mercy by not using The Word to have Donnie kill himself in the gas station men's room, Donnie has had a change of heart (even though none of his actions leading up to this reveal have denoted that). Donnie, so it seems, is now on Team Preacher. Tulip isn't really buying it and she steps outside to talke with Jesse. There's an awkward exchange about Jesse's out-of-the-blue phone call last episode where he basically confessed his love for her ("Hey Tulip, I just ate pancakes.") and is now head over heels after avoiding her all season long. If there's one relationship I should've bought into by now, especially since it's so pivotal to everything in this story, it should be Jesse and Tulip. Unfortunately, it's as half-baked as it can be right now.
However, Tulip reveals she's got some "junk in the trunk" for Jesse to take care of and it's not what you'd think. No, it's their mutual enemy, Carlos, who is literally tied up in her trunk. Tulip tells Jesse to "kill him", which promptly takes us to a flashback of the heist-gone-wrong we've been teased with all season. Jesse and Tulip are seen breaking into safety deposit boxes, with a timed device on the safe. Jesse finds a double-fist dildo in one of them and makes some lewd jokes, which I'm guessing is supposed to show the "old" Jesse Custer, but it's hardly the hard-as-nails badass he's known as. I didn't comb through every volume again with a microscope, but this whole criminal heist thing is new territory, as is their nemesis Carlos, and I'm not sure it really measures up. In the end, it's just a way to connect Tulip and Jesse before the "Preacher days", but it just doesn't connect the way it should.
Anyway, we see them joke with Carlos a bit and he seems to take it the wrong way as he goes back into the bank where everyone is either tied up or cowering. Carlos takes out a knife and cuts one of the security guards loose. We then cut to Jesse's smoking gun after shooting the security guard in the head, Tulip doubling over in pain, saying "The baby" as Carlos speeds away. Again, a whole other direction from the characters in the comics and I wouldn't say a damn thing if it didn't make Tulip and Jesse more like scumbag criminals rather than the rowdy and rebellious types they've always been known as. Still, Tulip always had a checkered past, so it does still line up to a point, just more so with her than Jesse.
Cut back to Carlos in the trunk, Jesse looking intense. "Why?" he askes Carlos repeatedly. "You were happy," is his response. Jesse slams the trunk.
Meanwhile, we get a closer look at the underground Quincannon facility that's been teased all season, which apparently is a dumping ground for cow manure that's overfilling by the moment.
Back at the jail, Root and Cassidy bond over "vampires, government agents, psychopathic preachers" as Root continues to try and uncover the location of Eugene. Cassidy taps into Root's motives for looking for his son, as Eugene is such a mess (literally and figuratively), which prompts Root to lose it and empty the gun on Cassidy. But, with little else to ask and no answers coming to satisfy, Root lets Cassidy go.
Back at Donnie's place, Tulip and Cassidy argue over killing Carlos, with Tulip's argument being that "someone's got to pay" as she lost her baby in the process and that Carlos' motives for double-crossing them was simply out of spite. Jesse is reluctant as always, but is convinced enough to grab a gun and head out to the car. "I'm goin' to hell anyway." Jesse prepares to shoot Carlos, but suddenly Tulip appears, this time having her own change of heart. She embraces Jesse and says "This is the most beautiful thing anyone's ever done for me," in a kind of TRUE ROMANCE-style sequence. Jesse is still committed to killing Carlos, though, and they have some more back-and-forth over it, before Tulip settles it with "It's the thought that counts." So, pretty much after trying to get Jesse to go with her to kill Carlos, she really just wanted to see if he'd actually do it, rather than follow through. Hmm. Okay.
But, Carlos doesn't get away that easy, as they untie him, hand him a crowbar and a gun and ask if he's "ready." Carlos is obviously confused at what the hell is happening and we get a cool shot of Jesse and Tulip standing together with Dominic Cooper giving a strong Jesse Custer smirk, saying "Tough shit." Now, THAT'S the Jesse Custer we haven't seen enough of. In fact, hardly at all, so it was cool to get a taste of what could be with him in this show. We later cut to Carlos, beaten and bloody, limping through the neighborhoods of Annville.
Later, Jesse and Tulip, along with some help from Donnie and his wife, make their way back to the church to prepare for Sunday's service. Jesse lays out the "Godphone" and severed angel hand on the pulpit, ready to give God a ring. Outside the church sign reads: Today: Meet God. Tomorrow: TBD. Tulip, who seems to be coming around to what's going on with Jesse (although still having never seen him use The Word) asks what he thinks will happen. Jesse says he doesn't know. "Well, no matter what, we're getting french fries after."
The inside of the church is packed with a who's who of Annville and of course Cassidy turns up to witness the mayhem. Emily is there as well, regardless of being scorned time and again by Jesse. Ever the faithful. Jackie Earle Haley's Odin Quincannon shows up and decides to start the sermon for Jesse, calling him out as "full of shit", saying the only real God is "the God of meat." Thanks for that, Odin. Jesse then picks up the Godphone and dials it up with the severed angel hand. And that's where shit gets crazy and, although nowhere near what was in the comics, is still pretty fun.
A white, bearded, "God" appears, acting like a really bad imposter (which we find out, of course, he is) and after some back-and-forth decides to take some questions from the flock, including the age old "Why do bad things happen to good people?" gem and even the Quincannon goon that got his dick shot off by Jesse asking if God can put it back on. Jesse, however, is no fool, and calls this "God" out as an imposter and uses The Word to ask "Where is God?" to which the imposter reveals: "I don't know. None of us do. He's missing. God is missing. We don't know where he is. Maybe he's down there. We don't know!"
The transmission ends and, with nothing left to do, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy leave the church to get some french fries. With the realization that there basically is no God, the congregation goes into a frenzy, beating the crap out of each other with Odin Quincannon calling for Jesse to "denounce him." We then see Emily at her home telling her kids that nothing's changed and that they don't need God and never did, while the rest of the town goes a little batshit. The bus driver from earlier in the season is killed by the girls he lusted over, the school mascots hang themselves, the vegetated Jessica is smothered by her mom, Quincannon makes a "meat puppet" wrapped in his dead daughter's clothes, and the Methane Reactor finally overflows, sending methane overflow into all of Annville, igniting from a burning cigarette and blowing up the entire town, including Jesse's church. Now that's the finale I was hoping for, to be quite honest. It may not be exactly what transpired on the page, but it got us pretty close to the right end result and spared us from having to spend another minute in Annville. Thank "God".
We then catch up with Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy sitting in a diner, deciding on their next move (ironically, the starting point of the entire comic). "The plan is simple. Find God." Tulip is questionable to this, while Cassidy is all in. "I'm sorry, we're just gonne, like, drive around, shooting people, gettin' wasted and looking for God?" Jesse, for the first time, now has a mission. "Well, God wants our help, we'll help him. If he doesn't...we're gonna kick his ass." Jesse then proves the power of The Word to Tulip, commanding her to kiss him, to which she does, but then follows up with a punch to the face. "Don't ever do that again." We then cut to the trio, loaded up in Tulip's car, and speeding off into a world of adventure. Finally.
But, before the episode closes, we see the blonde angel wandering the ruins of Annville, when suddenly she's shot from behind and killed. The Saint of Killers has arrived on Earth. He stand over the fallen angel and looks out with only one word on his lips. "Preacher."
So, a strong finish to perhaps one of the shakiest, strangest, and perplexing first seasons to one of the most beloved and cherished batshit crazy comics ever made. Did it pull the M. Night Shyamalan and get us back on track? Well...yeah. It kinda did. While it did it in a REALLY slow burn kind of way (it just barely got through the first few issues of the comic) and wasted A LOT of time with some ho-hum characters (that just got blown up in the end anyway), it still managed to course correct in a major way by burning Annville to the ground and getting these three characters on the road and on their real mission.
While I was ready to write this off as a botched attempt to adapt an amazing comic, Catlin and crew managed to put the narrative right back where it should be, even if the path to get there was a bit of a mess. They got lost along the way and took some ridiculous and backward routes to get to this point, but I feel like there's hope again for the show. I just wish it didn't take ten episodes to get here and in a way I'm being more forgiving simply BECAUSE we got to this point, more out of relief than anything. Beyond that, my theory that this season would probably be best enjoyed as a binge watch is further solidified with the finale. There's really no other way to watch it and I feel like they almost made it that way. It's been a rough-as-hell start, but this is most certainly a case where the finale redeemed the whole damn season.
Preacher, it would seem, can still be saved.
It's a bit all over the map, but there's quite a few nods in this episode.
- Odin Quincannon embracing his "meat puppet" is an ode to the comic, but not sexualized or nearly as perverse as his obsession in the comics.
- While God never appeared in Jesse's church and addressed the people, the angels did, in fact, use a "fake God" to try and fool Jesse initially, with Jesse using The Word rather quickly to get the truth out of them about God having "quit".
- In the comics it is Geneses "entering" Jesse that causes the church to be destroyed and everyone in it to be killed. While they did it very differently, it was cool to see the decimation of the church (and all of Annville) as it's a shade of what happened in the comics and at least puts the show on the path it belongs.