Various elements of the episode will be discussed in this review, so beware spoilers. And watch the episode before you read on, lest you face the wrath of the almighty. Or Cassidy...
Signaling its intention to leap around in time when necessary, this second episode (the first full proper episode of the season) kicks us off in 1881. No context is offered for why we're following this mysterious, bearded fellow. Not even in the rest of the episode, so like a lot of the show, it's making us be patient for answers. But this is surely The Hobbit's Graham McTavish as the Saint Of Killers in his mortal life – especially since the final moment sees him riding into Ratwater, a place he wipes out in the comics. It's a beautifully shot sequence from directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. You can practically taste the dust in your mouth. And that final shot, of Native Americans hanging, scalped? Creepy as all get out.
The chemistry between Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga continues to burn brightly, especially in the scene where he's baptising some of the townsfolk. Cassidy, meanwhile, still proves to be a role that fits Joe Gilgun like a glove. The scene at the church also introduces another slightly off member of the community, Linus (Ptolemy Slocum), the local school bus driver who is having sexual thoughts about one of his young charges. You just know what's going to happen with him, but even with the predictability of the plot line, it's a handy way to introduce Jesse starting to use Genesis' (still unnamed in the show) power. Clearly, he doesn't quite have a grip on its darker side yet, though. As for his scenes with young Tracy Loach (Gianna LePera), who is in a coma after a nasty head injury, leaves you wondering whether anyone will truly get their wish when Jesse starts embracing Genesis' abilities.
Those who know the source material know that Odin – brought to life here as a sort of bespectacled, bald Colonel Sanders by Jackie Earle Haley – is actually from a later part of the comic book, but you can see why he might be a good character to have in the story from the start. He's a great creation, even if we only meet him briefly here. He's out of take over as much of the town as he can, and he's introduced buying up an older couple's land and knocking their house down without a second thought. And Donnie shows he can be casually violent with more than just his wife.
When he's not busy debating faith with Jesse and calling him out for his hypocrisy, Cassidy is becoming quite the drinking buddy for our preacher. Making mention of the fact that he can be boring, especially in comparison to Cassidy himself and Tulip, could be dangerous for the show that allows the two friends to be more fun. But then there's his confrontation with Fiore and DeBlanc, who show up to try to extract Genesis from Jesse. Their attempt, with a song, a coffee can and a steampunk gramophone is like something out of a Neil Gaiman story more than Preacher, but it still works. And there's another fantastic fight scene, this time between Cassidy and the "agents" when he discovers them trying to take a chainsaw to Jesse. Bloody and violent, it's also blackly funny, in keeping with how the show's clashes have been established already.
Another fun scene later in the episode blends exposition on the crime that Tulip wants Jesse to take part in. The revelation that Jesse's ankle isn't actually chained to anything is a happy subversion of a scene that looked like it might turn into something from 24. We're also treated to her hustling a group of Quincannon's guys at poker while at a local brothel. Ruth Negga proves she can be mischievous and dangerous all in one package.
After the bombast of the pilot, the first episode is something of a bumpy return to the ground, as we learn what the series will be going forward, at least in more regular form. Obviously it can't live up to everybody's introduction from the initial taste, but it's clear that Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are going to take their inspiration from Breaking Bad (and Better Call Saul), and let things unfold at a leisurely pace. That could be frustrating in the long run, especially if you're hoping for some of the madness of the comics on a weekly basis, but it does offer that big, crazed fight scene. It's nice to see Jackie Earle Haley underplaying it (so far) as Quincannon, though we can imagine he has other sides to him.
Highlight: The fight between Cassidy, Fiore and DeBlanc. Blood, guts, and a scene that wouldn't look out of place in an Evil Dead movie.
Lowlight: The chat between Jesse and Eugene feels like filler and it's heavy handed in restating the theme. And yes, we know it sets up Jesse going to "talk" to Linus, but it doesn't completely work.
Kill of the week: Fiore and DeBlanc, who end up stuffed into a trunk thanks to Cassidy. Who wants to bet that's not the last we see of 'em?
Quote of the week: "He's walking the Earth with a face like an arsehole..." And lo, a nickname is (almost) born.
MVP: Odin. A man who can make raw facts and figures seem interesting. And comes across as threatening even when he's being jovial.
Random thought: Cassidy thinks The Big Lebowski is overrated. He's not going to have to worry about vampire hunters, because Coen fans will kill him first.
Airing on AMC Sunday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Mondays in the UK.