It’s been a few weeks since Preacher checked in on Eugene “Arseface” Root, which means we’re overdue for another trip to Hell. When we left Eugene, he was joining his fellow inmates in kicking the crap out of Adolf Hitler to prove that he wasn’t such a nice guy after all. In Hell, it seems, being nice is enough to merit additional punishment.
Weeks later, Eugene certainly looks the part of a hardened inmate, lifting weights and sporting a new back tattoo. (TRACY in big gothic letters, in reference to the girl he purportedly killed to wind up in Hell in the first place.) But does acting like a bad person turn you into a bad person? Hitler — who remains, incongruously, the nicest inmate in Hell — decides to test that theory by goading Eugene into doing something nice. For this unforgivable crime, Eugene is sentenced to a few hours in the Hole.
In substance, the Hole resembles Hell’s more traditional punishment: Repeating the worst moment of your life on a loop, powerless to do anything to change it. But the Hole relies on an additional piece of technology called an extrapolator, which twists the memory to match your worst fears. Here, Tracy doesn’t reject Eugene and turn the gun on herself, resulting in Eugene’s own panicked and botched suicide attempt. Instead, she returns his affections (and joins him in a duet of Semisonic’s “Closing Time”), but tells him he’s already too late. Instead, she hooks up with Jesse right in front of Eugene. As Eugene sobs and puts the shotgun to his chin, Jesse urges him to shoot himself, orgasming just as Eugene pulls the trigger.
So, yeah, Hell seems like a pretty bad place and the Hole seems like it might be the worst part of it. Eugene’s memories are traumatic enough, and the mocking presence of Jesse — who served as both a personal mentor and a symbol of the religious beliefs that kept Eugene alive following his near-suicide — seem like more than enough reason to get out of Hell before someone kicks him down into the Hole again. Eugene clearly isn’t in a position to hang around Hell much longer without going completely insane, so I suspect he’ll take Hitler up on his offer to help him escape. Personally, I wouldn’t trust Hitler, but it’s not like Eugene can be choosy.
For now, Eugene is trapped in his own self-contained micro-narrative in Hell, though maybe not for much longer. Too bad it’s not like things are going much better on Earth. Let’s start with Cassidy, who spends much of the episode watching his son Denis as he crawls toward death. Both Cassidy and Denis know that there’s only one thing that can save him: becoming a vampire. Although Cassidy is uniquely qualified to turn Denis into a vampire, he has repeatedly refused, citing his own unhappiness as a basically immortal being.
There are a lot of interesting questions about the practical implications of becoming a vampire, and “Holes” doesn’t quite answer all of them. Cassidy recounts the downsides of being a vampire: pain still hurts, drugs don’t work, going to the beach is a no-no, you’ll be stuck watching the deaths of everybody you love. (“Yep, that sucks,” deadpans Tulip.) All those concerns aside, isn’t it a little late for Denis to become a vampire? Does Denis really want to live forever when he’s stuck in a moldy old apartment in New Orleans, occupying a wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea-ing body?
This is a busy episode of Preacher, so we never really get around to answering those questions. Denis’s drama happens in the shadow of Tulip, who continues to grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder after almost getting murdered by the Saint of Killers. Tulip’s PTSD is an interesting problem for the show to tackle, because she’s exactly the kind of person who would never openly acknowledge that she has PTSD. In last week’s episode, Tulip directly faced her fear by going to the Hurt Locker, donning a bulletproof vest, and letting dudes pay money to shoot her in the chest. This week, Tulip takes a less explosive approach: replacing the damaged refrigerator and spackling over the bullet holes left by the Saint of Killers in each of the nearby apartments.
It’s not hard to read the symbolism in Tulip literally rolling up her sleeves and covering up any evidence of the violence that nearly resulted in her death, but it’s still an effective window into the trauma she refuses to discuss. Unfortunately, it puts her directly in the path of a different violent threat: Lara Featherstone, who has occupied a nearby apartment to monitor Jesse on behalf of the Grail. While Lara effectively masquerades as a woman hiding out from a violent ex, Tulip clearly senses that there’s something up with this mysterious new neighbor, but she doesn’t figure out what it is, and the two women tentatively bond over Booberry cereal and a hypothetical plan to go to the Hurt Locker sometime. Chalk that up to yet another ticking time bomb that will surely go off in the episodes to come.
That leaves us with Jesse, whose single-minded quest to find God inspires him to blow off both Cassidy and Tulip’s problems, to their irritation (obvious to us, but not to him). Instead, Jesse goes to Circuit Works, a Best Buy–esque electronics store where a couple of geeks help him analyze the God audition tape that remains Jesse’s sole lead. Enhancing a screenshot of the gun barrel reveals that the serial numbers have been sanded off. Enhancing a brief reflection in the film slate reveals not a face, but a coffee pot. It’s another dead end. Jesse walks away defeated, asking the geeks to shred the disc.
They do … but not before we see that the underside of the disc is stamped with the logo for Grail Industries. It’s a little annoying that the solution to this weeks-long mystery was printed on the dang disc the whole time, but I guess that’s the kind of tunnel vision that can set in when you’re looking for clues everywhere but right in front of you. Plus, the Grail Industries thing is a lucky break. Jesse doesn’t know it yet, but the man with the answers about God is probably Herr Starr, the man who, conveniently, is also looking for him.
• Are we supposed to be rooting for Jesse and Tulip’s relationship anymore? Apart from their near-marriage at the Mumbai Sky Tower — and I guess that time when Jesse decided, uh, not to kill her husband — they have been passive-aggressive assholes to each other. Cassidy’s feelings for Tulip may be unrequited, but at least they have actual conversations.
• Before the big reveal of the Grail Industries logo on the disc, Jesse sits on a couch in the store, surrounded by TVs playing an ad for Grail Industries. Is some higher power trying to point him in the right direction? If so, what does it mean that he’s too dense to notice?
• It’s not clear at the end of the episode whether Cassidy will bite Denis and turn him into a vampire, but if I had to guess, the dark expression on Cassidy’s face certainly looks like the kind of expression you’d have right before you sucked somebody’s blood. (I also wonder if the episode’s title is, among other things, a clever veiled reference to the two little holes Cassidy’s fangs will leave in Denis’s neck.)
• I believe this is the first episode to reveal Cassidy’s real name: Proinsias (pronounced PRON-shass). We also learn that he has a brother.
• Cassidy’s home remedy for insomnia: a dram of whiskey, a dram of honey, and one or two pellets of rat poison.
• Throughout the episode, Cassidy sings a dirty little song called “Charlotte the Harlot.” I couldn’t track down the exact version he was singing, but you can read the lyrics for a similar variation here.
• I’m amused by Hell’s pettier torments, which include an out-of-order vending machine and a basketball hoop with a deflated ball.
• Hell also has a very specific punishment for its resident caveman: a TV playing a Yule Log–esque video of a roaring fire, which confuses and terrifies him.