From the opening minutes of Preacher’s second season, the Saint of Killers has been a ticking time bomb. Sure, we met this mysterious, homicidal cowboy way back in the show’s very second episode, but it wasn’t until he broke free of the hellish loop that trapped him in Ratwater circa 1881 that he emerged in the modern day, hunting a very specific preacher.
And now, that time bomb has finally gone off. The Saint of Killers has been stirring up havoc all season, starting with the massacre of cops who were unlucky enough to get between him and Jesse in “On the Road,” but after letting him lurk in the background of the narrative for a few episodes, Preacher finally brings the Saint into the spotlight in “Sokosha,” resulting in the season’s finest hour to date.
Preacher is a shaggy-dog story, so “Sokosha” takes its time establishing these life-or-death stakes. In the cold open, we’re introduced to Edwin R. Thibodeaux, a New Orleans resident whose dire financial straits lead him to accept a deal with a bizarre Japanese corporation with a name that’s translated as Soul Happy Go Go. For $150,000, Thibodeaux allows the corporation to extract 15 percent of his soul via a medical process that looks broadly comparable to drawing blood. Upon completion, the Soul Happy Go Go employee takes Thibodeaux’s soul fragment to the lavish mansion of a much wealthier New Orleans resident, who pays $2.7 million to have Thibodeaux’s soul implanted in his elderly wife — which, apparently, is enough to cure her Alzheimer’s.
This haunting little playlet is Preacher at its best: a weird, inventive concept that deftly intertwines questions about class, race, capitalism, and religion. Preacher doesn’t just take place in a world in which the immortal soul is definitively, demonstrably real; it takes place in a world in which human beings will learn that the immortal soul is definitively, demonstrably real, and they immediately try to figure out how they can make money on it.
There’s plenty of good and evil within the show’s overarching moral framework, but Preacher’s mythology includes just one character who totally lacks a soul: the Saint of Killers himself. It’s a part of what allows him to murder anyone, even children, without blinking — or go from room to room casually killing every person he comes across while looking for Jesse, as he does in “Sokosha.”
But newly armed with the knowledge that the Saint of Killers is still on their tail, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy won’t go down without a fight. As they hunt for a weakness that will slow the Saint down, they settle on a delightfully pragmatic plan for researching the apparently unstoppable murderer: getting a bunch of books on him at the New Orleans Public Library.
Preacher viewers already know most of the characters’ backstories, which were told in piecemeal fashion over the course of the first season. But it’s still a treat to watch Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy collectively figure out the Saint’s history over a massive stack of books, nonfiction histories, audiobooks, romance novels, children’s books, flip books, Mad Libs, and comic books (which, in a charming nod to Preacher’s source material, are actually just pages from the Preacher comics).
Unfortunately, while Jesse and the gang are researching the Saint of Killers, he’s getting closer and closer to them. He holds Denis hostage, forcing Jesse to confront him face-to-face. And that’s when Jesse, using both his research and his bravado, bluffs his way into a deal. He correctly guesses that the Saint of Killers actually just wants to join his dead wife and daughter in heaven. And if there’s one thing that’ll keep the Saint out of heaven, it’s his total lack of a soul.
So the Saint agrees not to kill Jesse outright. In return, Jesse promises to fetch a soul for the Saint within one hour — though the Saint keeps Tulip, Cassidy, and Denis as hostages to make sure Jesse doesn’t skip town again.
That’s when we suddenly circle back to that non sequitur of a cold open, where Edwin R. Thibodeaux sold 15 percent of his soul to Soul Happy Go Go. Jesse, as always, is old school, heading to a voodoo shop to try to acquire a soul for the Saint (and introducing himself as Jesse L’Angell, which is sure to raise the eyebrows of anyone familiar with the comics). Unfortunately, the proprietor tells Jesse that all the mom-and-pop voodoo shops have been pushed out by Soul Happy Go Go, which has used technology to streamline the dark art of soul-dealing. With the clock ticking, Jesse has no choice but to launch an attack on Soul Happy Go Go’s armored van. When his homemade bomb fails to make a dent in the truck, he uses Genesis instead, successfully convincing the employees to give him a soul to take back to the Saint.
Of course, there’s a problem. Like blood or organ donation, a soul donation requires a match — and none of the souls that Happy Go Go has in stock match the Saint’s type. So Jesse rolls up his sleeves and donates one percent of his own soul to take back to the Saint. (I suspect it’s no coincidence that the souls of these violent, supernaturally powered men were a match.) And so, Jesse gives the Saint the fragment of his own soul — the one thing the Saint couldn’t take by force alone. But like all monkey’s paw-esque desire, it comes with a catch: The Saint was only immune to Genesis because Genesis works through the soul. Now that the Saint has a soul, Jesse can order him around as easily as anyone else.
Jesse immediately orders the Saint to drop his guns and his saber, marches him into the back of the armored truck, and drives him straight out of the city and into a swamp. Until the still-immortal Saint manages to break out of the truck and swim up from the bottom of that swamp, Jesse and his friends are safe.
But Jesse’s victory comes at a cost, and we don’t quite know what it is yet. What does it mean to lose one percent of your soul, anyway? Our best hint comes at the end of the episode, when Jesse — now headed to a nearby plantation called Angelville — digs under some bathroom tiles and pulls out out a cache of guns. When we first saw Jesse at the beginning of the episode, he was grinning at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror, clearly proud that he resisted his worst and most violent instincts by leaving Viktor alive. Now, he’s as grim and sober as we’ve ever seen him. And he’s armed.
• “Sokosha” finally gives us the answer to the weird relationship between Cassidy and Denis, and it’s a good one. Denis isn’t Cassidy’s buddy or father or uncle; he’s Cassidy’s son. It’s a jarring reminder that Cassidy is an ageless and near-immortal vampire, and it makes his failure to speak any French — let alone pronounce Denis’s name correctly — that much more tragic. Who knows how many more fatherless children this 119-year-old vampire has left in his wake?
• Cassidy does offer Denis a belated apology gift: a brand-new TV with a Blu-Ray player and a Playstation 4, on which Denis promptly begins watching Mr. Magoo.
• We also get a sense of just how quickly Cassidy’s healing powers kick in. The Saint’s saber chops off all 10 of Cassidy’s fingers, but by the end of the episode, they’re coming back in pretty nicely.
• Chapter 57 of American Psychopaths is devoted to the Saint of Killers. Chapter 58 is devoted to Dick Cheney.
• A partial list of the titles in the imposing stack of library books about the Saint of Killers: Hell’s Butcher, Hamlet of Doom, Grit & Revenge, The Day the Cowboy Died, Saber, The Wounded Knee Massacre, Blood! The Grisly Battles That Built America, and a pair of romance novels titled Love’s Enduring Salvation and Love Conquers All. The Preacher art department clearly had a blast with this.
• The Mumbai Sky Tower Resort & Casino has an appropriately show-stopping funeral tribute to Fiore: “THE DAY THE DYING DIED!”
• Tulip’s “pancake” recipe basically turns pancakes into a delivery system for marshmallows, hot fudge, and whipped cream.