I admit I was initially a little worried when Cassidy split off from the pack. Juggling multiple narrative threads isn’t easy on the best of days, and Preacher is generally strongest when it lets its characters bounce off of each other. Luckily, “Les Enfants du Sang” mostly manages a neat balance, though whether it’s sustainable is a different question.
Lest we forget, there are a lot of moving parts on the board, and more waiting to be introduced. Or reintroduced, as is the case with Arseface, whose discovery of the destruction of Annvile (remember Annville?) opens the episode. His horror, however, is only temporary, as he decides that God must have some greater plan for him, having spared him from perishing along with the rest of his entire town.
His sense of optimism doesn’t even wane when he’s unofficially adopted by the Saint of Killers (I say “unofficially” because the Killer doesn’t bother filling out the requisite paperwork). Though the Killer tries to shake the faith out of him, it’s no dice. Eugene’s certain that God has a hand in everything, and his conviction is firm to the point that even the Killer seems a little stricken. (Are we looking at another attempted redemptive arc, here? In case you’ve forgotten, the majority of Eugene’s time last season was spent with none other than Hitler himself, who is now the only major player we haven’t seen yet.)
Now, Eugene’s plot doesn’t yet tie directly back to what everyone else is up to, but the knotted mess of Custer and company is being kept impressively cohesive so far. Though Cassidy is up to his own thing for most of the episode, it’s not for nothing. His introduction to Les Enfants du Sang builds upon his emotional core — upon the heartbreaking farewell that Cassidy bid Tulip in “The Tombs” — and ensures the episode’s finale packs a punch.
Though Eccarius may seem like a joke, to the point that Cassidy calls him a “weird, more boring George Washington,” there’s a fundamental loneliness underlying both characters that creates something of a microcosm of what the show does best. Yes, it’s irreverent; yes, it’s insane; but it’s best when it can turn the outrage and disbelief it tries to stoke into something more genuine. Eccarius showing Cassidy what he can do — from flying to turning into a cat to glamouring people — isn’t showing off as much as it is an attempt to make Cassidy stay. They’re going to live forever, but the people around them won’t. When Tulip calls and tells him to hang on, he tells her as much. “The you and Jesses of this world — I’ve gone through thousands of them, and I’ll go through thousands more.”
It’s tragic, even more so given how well Joe Gilgun plays both Cassidy’s earnestness and his use of humor as a defense mechanism. His return to Eccarius is difficult to stomach given that, just moments earlier, we’d seen him try to attack him, horrified that he’s turning others into vampires and taking advantage of his “children” for their blood, which leads into the season’s starkest moment yet. “What do you need me for?” Cassidy asks, to which Eccarius responds, “I was looking for a friend. Aren’t you?”
It’s a vulnerability that’s in short supply in Angelville. In order to spare Tulip’s soul from becoming Gran’ma’s lunch, Jesse and Tulip cook up a plan to rob a bank — more specifically, to rob Sabina’s lockbox of souls. In order to accomplish that, they stage a series of distractions. Firstly, in order to get Sabina’s spit (the lockboxes in the Bank of the Bayou can only be opened by their owner’s saliva), Jesse first provokes Sabina to try to get her to spit in his face, then seduces her, kissing her to get the required saliva sample. Then, to slow down the police response, TC goes buck naked to a petting zoo (which apparently happens often enough that the police know to prioritize it over a bank robbery) and Jody heads over to Sabina’s to slaughter a handful of her men.
Souls successfully procured, they head back to Angelville — but Gran’ma needs one more soul. So she takes Sabina’s, and when she proposes they leave her in the Tombs, Jesse shoots Sabina dead. He’ll pay his debt, he says, but he’s going to do it his way, which means it’s time to call up the Grail.
Unfortunately, the Grail is going through some trouble of its own. The Allfather has come to oversee things personally, and as it turns out, his plans for the future involve nuclear catastrophe, as “only fire can pave the way for our Lord.” Starr can’t have that, which means that along with accelerating Humperdoo’s schedule to try to keep the Allfather appeased, he’ll have to accelerate his own plans to try to usurp him.
That isn’t going to be easy, especially given the Allfather’s disposition. When Hoover says he doesn’t seem so scary, Starr says the Allfather makes him “look like a conscientious objector,” citing an instance in which the Allfather had sat upon (and burst) a man’s head for touching his Hot Pocket. And as part of what appears to be a test of loyalty, the Allfather has Starr eat an entire horse with him. The cutting of the meat — and the Allfather’s subsequent vomiting — is one of the grossest things I’ve seen on the show so far, which is saying a lot given Preacher’s penchant for shocks. As indicated by Starr’s rigor mortis smile when he realizes what he’s going to have to deal with, it doesn’t bode well for the Grail, which in turn doesn’t bode well for Jesse Custer.
• Starr’s love affair with hats continues, though, as we’re reminded this week, it’s less out of Starr’s sense of fashion and more to cover up the wound Tulip gave him a few episodes back. I know I harped on about him last week, but Torrens really is great in the role; he seems happy when Featherstone once again tells him she loves his hat, though he immediately sours when she says it reminds her of Cabaret, and Hoover chimes in to agree — “the Liza Minnelli role.” Starr’s reaction (“I need to be alone”) is priceless.
• Les Enfants du Sang take refuge in the basement of one of their member’s grandmother’s house. She’s tremendously sweet, not even batting an eye when Cassidy tells her he’s been smoking crack, and seeming not to mind when he borrows one of her dresses while his clothes go through the wash. May she escape this season unscathed.