Not to bang the same drum I was beating last week, but there are times when I think that Preacher ought to be The Tulip Show. It would make more sense, what with how the show’s other two leads circle around her. And, not to be a drag, but the love triangle doesn’t really ruffle my jimmies. Though the mythos of Preacher belongs to Jesse, it’s more interesting in how it relates to Tulip.
To be clear, Dominic Cooper is terrific. The problem with Jesse is that the show hasn’t quite figured out how to make him a proper antihero. He’s got assholish qualities — and we’ve seen plenty of them — but he has to remain sympathetic to some degree in order for an audience to stick with him. (In fairness to Preacher, it’s a difficult needle to thread.) “The Tombs” doubles down on that precept.
As it turns out, there’s a bigger history to Madame Boyd and the L’Angelles than just being rival practitioners of magic. As teenagers, Boyd and Jesse used to be sweethearts (which for Jesse, seemed to be a bit of a rebound from Tulip). Unsurprisingly, it ended in a mess. After Jesse dumped Boyd, calling her trash, Boyd’s brother Kenny came to confront Jesse while he was holding court in the Tombs.
Boyd attributes Kenny’s death in the ensuing fight to L’Angelle bloodlust, but when Jesse gets to tell his side of the story to Tulip, he says it was in self-defense. His sudden break-up with Boyd wasn’t out of spite, but because he wanted to protect her from his grandmother. His reason for being an asshole now is much the same — it isn’t safe for Tulip or Cassidy in Angelville, and he sees it as being better to drive them away than to let them stick around and suffer.
On paper, it’s a noble impulse, but it’s a bit boring as a narrative device. We get it! Jesse’s actually a good soul! And? Though it’s fun to watch the parallels between young Jesse and present Jesse as they act as master of the house (er, Tombs), it’s establishing Angelville’s mores more than lending any further depth to Jesse.
That’s why it’s such a relief that Tulip’s decided to stick around despite the risks. She’s got something to prove that isn’t quite as rote as what Jesse’s working with, and she now knows, thanks to Boyd, that the only way to get rid of the curse on Jesse is to get rid of Gran’ma, herself.
It’s also Tulip who finally actually gets Cassidy out of Angelville, or at least on his way. Jesse’s attempt at getting Cassidy out is valiant — after Cassidy wins his first fight (and, heartbreakingly, panics as soon as he realizes the other man is dead), Jesse cuts him limb from limb and tries to ship him, packing peanuts and all, to New Orleans. But Jesse isn’t Cassidy’s North Star. He’s following Tulip, and so Cassidy reassembles himself and returns to the Tombs, this time taking on Jesse himself.
Jesse comes out of it as the victor, stabbing Cassidy with the remnants of a baseball bat in plain sight of Tulip, who almost believes Boyd’s story until Jesse has the chance to explain himself. In the hubbub that follows, Tulip sneaks Cassidy out and puts him on the bus to New Orleans. Unfortunately, Featherstone is sitting a few seats behind him, which would seem to suggest that Cassidy isn’t going too far.
The crucial point here is that Cassidy elects not to use the love potion on Tulip. The episode is loaded with moments that ought to have an emotional impact, but none land quite so effectively as that single moment between Tulip and Cassidy. Though the show usually loads its dramatic moments with elements of horror or comedy, it lets this single moment breathe. It’s wrenching when Cassidy confesses his love for Tulip, only to have her tell him that it’s not reciprocated. Forlornly, he pockets the love potion, and leaves.
Cassidy isn’t the only one on the move. A good chunk of the episode is spent getting reacquainted with the Killer of Saints (Graham McTavish, absolute ledge) — and getting to know this world’s iteration of the Devil. Though the Killer running amok wasn’t a good look for Hell, what’s even worse is having Arseface and Hitler traipsing around back among the living. (Particularly Hitler, I assume. You don’t want to be the person, or devil, who let the great dictator get away.) The Devil — red skin, big horns, furry haunches and all – treats his talk with the Killer like a chill sesh. Basically, if the Killer scratches his back by getting Arseface and Hitler back, the Devil will return the favor, and help him get Jesse Custer once and for all. Granted, he has to make an example of the Killer, first, and has him lashed for almost the entire duration of the episode, to the point that when the Killer turns around to leave, we can see his spine and ribcage where his clothes, skin, and muscle have been lashed away. (Gross.)
With the Killer back in play, things are starting to ramp up. We haven’t yet checked in on Arseface and Hitler, either, so it’ll be interesting to see if Preacher can keep all of those balls in the air while keeping Angelville’s shenanigans interesting.
• The Devil’s idea of a nice time is — honestly fine. “Breathe some air, eat a Slim Jim.” Yeah, why not!
• There are a lot more pop culture references in this episode, from young Jesse’s fondness for Gladiator (“Are you not entertained?” is a bit of a running gag) to Cassidy rattling off Cape Fear and Star Wars as he lists fictitious examples of escapes that didn’t involve being chopped up and shipped in a box.
• I love Jody so much. I love how much he loves to punch (“I’m gonna destroy your friend tonight!”) and I love that he loves swirled frozen yogurt. He is an absolute unit and I love him. (I also love the store that he and Jesse drive to, which doesn’t seem to have a name aside from signs that say, “NO BOTTLES, NO CANS, JUST KEGS.” Gets straight to the point!)
• This is neither here nor there, but the costume designers consistently do an amazing job with Tulip’s wardrobe. There are so many bold floral patterns, and I’m obsessed with them all.