I feel like I’m watching Preacher try to pull off a particularly difficult jump from a balance beam. It did one flip last week, and it’s done another one with this week’s “Schwanzkopf” (which, yes, means “dickhead”). Whether or not those flips — and the entire season preceding them — amount to anything comes down to whether or not the show manages to stick the landing. But, of course, we’ll have to wait until next week’s finale to see.
The fact that we’ve now had two episodes in a row of mostly set-up speaks to just how big the ballgame’s gotten. If you recall, we started the season with about as self-contained a story as is possible for Preacher, with Jesse learning how to navigate life in Angelville. Though the back half of the season has certainly impressed in terms of how nuts the set pieces have gotten, the first half felt more narratively cohesive.
The Allfather is one of the casualties of the more slipshod structure of recent episodes, as, following a scuffle, Jesse manages to dispatch him by briefly transferring Genesis over and blowing him up. It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise given that he mostly seemed to be around to add to Preacher’s grotesque factor, and to make Starr look lovable. (It’s a bit of a pity given how great Jonny Coyne usually is — he deserved better!) Though I do now love Starr, that the Allfather could so easily come and go is just an illustration of the season’s weaknesses.
The main saving grace is, as generally seems to be the case on this show, the cast. Gags are paper-thin without substance to back them up, and by some stroke of divine luck, some of the finest actors presently working are delivering performances that are (from my mouth to the Emmy nominating committee’s ears) being tragically overlooked.
Joe Gilgun in particular has been terrific this season, admittedly in part due to the fact that he’s been allowed to carry his own storyline. To harken back to my point about how the show could easily be fronted by Tulip instead of Jesse, this season has made a compelling case for allowing Cassidy his own shot at the spotlight as well. (Oh, and also, if you haven’t seen the film This Is England and its accompanying TV series, do yourself a favor and check out Gilgun’s best work.)
To a certain degree, the disparities between Cassidy’s storyline and Jesse’s exemplify the highs and lows of the show. Like the first half of the season, Cassidy’s storyline is simpler in structure, allowing for more exploration of emotions; he’s been wrestling with vampirism since the beginning of the series, and his relationship with Eccarius is a fallout that’s been a long time coming. When Eccarius begs him to reconsider his stance, saying that they’re “this close to happiness,” Cassidy resigns himself to death, simply saying, “I’d rather be sad.” By contrast, Jesse’s storyline is much wilder, sacrificing that kind of investment in favor of balls-to-the-wall insanity.
Never has that been clearer than the stage set with the Allfather’s explosion, which covers the office in ground meat to a degree that’s reminiscent of Odin Quincannon’s mental breakdown in the first season. (Miss you, Odin!) Some parts of him are discernible, including — Preacher being Preacher — the Allfather’s asshole, out of which the vial containing Jesse’s soul neatly drops. Though Starr and Jesse fight through the bloody debris to the tune of “Joy to the World,” Jesse comes out on top (my condolences to whoever does the Grail’s drycleaning), which means two things: (1) He’s no longer beholden to the Grail for anything, and (2) he’s now equipped to kill Gran’ma.
Before he goes back to Angelville, though, he makes sure that the Grail is (at least temporarily) incapacitated, setting Humperdoo and all of his clones free. He can’t let them go through with the Allfather’s nuclear wipeout plan, but he can’t let Starr crown Humperdoo the Messiah, either. And so off the Humperdoos go, out into the world, and directly into traffic.
The craziest thing that happens in the episode, however, takes place in the not-quite-alpha, not-quite-beta thread following Tulip. Just as Featherstone’s about to board the bus to Hell, Tulip arrives to collect the suitcase of souls. Unfortunately, she’s spotted by Eugene, who immediately blows her cover. Though she tries to make a run for it, she’s no match for the Angel of Death, and is thrown onto the bus as Jody and Featherstone leave with the souls.
Despite Eugene and Hitler’s incessant bickering (largely worth it for Hitler’s use of, “It’s a free country,” when Eugene tells him to stop talking), Tulip cooks up a plan to escape, complete with little drawn diagrams that flash across the screen as she explains them. Not that they matter much, in the end, as men outfitted in SS uniforms show up with a tank in tow, and overturn the bus, adding “Nazis” to the list of players to keep in mind as Preacher heads into its season finale.
• Tulip has also managed to plant some seeds of discord in the Devil’s crew, as the Saint of Killers is now aware that neither she nor Eugene are dead, thereby breaking the rules, and Tulip has also called both the Saint and the Angel bitches in varying ways and to varying degrees for doing as the Devil tells them, which feels like it may come to bite the Devil in the ass in the end.
• One of the more unfortunate side effects of the number of storylines in play is that Jody and T.C. have been split up for some time now. T.C.’s borne the brunt of it, as he’s been stuck taking care of Gran’ma. Jody presents a more interesting conundrum. Jeremy Childs is so terrific that I’m genuinely a little nervous that the finale might be the last we see of Jody; from the beginning of the season, it’s been clear that there’s more to Jody than meets the eye, from his undefined history with Jesse’s mother, to the way he now seems to feel guilty about leaving Tulip behind. I want more!
• Pray for Cassidy, who is presently pinned to a pool table, to be slowly incinerated when the sunlight flows into the room just right. He’s planted the seeds of his escape in telling the old woman who owns the house to call one of the vampires who are supposedly on missionary work, but who we know were killed by Eccarius; hopefully the truth will set him free.
• Starr’s hats this week include a Kangol and a cowboy hat. Alas, one of Jesse’s first commands with his newfound voice is, “No more hats,” leading to a wig montage with a deeply depressed Starr. It’s the salt in the wound of Jesse’s refusal to be the new Messiah, foiling Starr’s plan of ridding the world of all undesirables: “Hipsters, Presbyterians, trade unionists, the Danes.”