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...
Can Jesse be a good substitute for Harrison Ford's Doctor Richard Kimble in The Fugitive? That was partly the question asked about the not-so-good Preacher this week as he fled Sheriff Root's custody and made his way – with the stolen Angel phone, no less – to the safest place he could think of... Tulip's uncle's place. It was a confusing week for those trying to keep track of Jesse's moral compass, which seems to spin as though near a magnet. One minute he's calling up Tulip to confess how much she means to him, the next he's casually ignoring the fact that his vampire best friend – who, we learn, he did actually put out a few weeks ago – has murdered the mayor (more on that particular issue in the "Emily" section.) It's not really the best way to write your main character, even in a show as stylised as Preacher, even if it was fun to have Cassidy and Jesse's friendship back on a somewhat even keel. Also gruesome-but-fun: of course Cassidy would know where to get hold of an angel's hand!
A less-than-satisfying week for Tulip too, though she has finally achieved her goal of tracking down the infamous Carlos, and is about to introduce him to her technique with a meat tenderiser. But it seems like a sudden, random pivot into that plot line, with no set up about how exactly she got to that point beyond finding his location in previous episodes (we suppose with only so much time to tell the story, even on TV, some things must be sacrificed for narrative swiftness). A better moment was her earlier time with the ill-fated menagerie of animals she was using as Cassidy's recovery meal.
If there was a character this week whose storyline veered the most, it would have to be Emily. So, this usually straightforward, decent young woman suddenly decides that the guy she's been sleeping with – for all his faults and utterly boring personality – is ripe for being fed to a vampire? We can understand her shock at learning about Cassidy's true nature, but does that really push her so far that she'll actually let Miles be slaughtered. We won't miss him much, but he wasn't exactly deserving of that fate.
After weeks of seeing snippets of his story, it might have seemed spoon-feeding to the audience to watch it all over again, but the show had something much cleverer on its mind. The visual audacity of the sequence running again and again quickly clued you in to the truth: the grizzled sharp-shooter with the itchiest trigger finger this side of Dirty Harry and the blood-soaked history is in Hell, relieving his family's death and the slaughter in Ratwater ad infinitum. It brought an incredible level of pathos and pain to a story that was already tough, and the Preacher team deserves much kudos for the sequence, even if it did open with a scene that would make Quentin Tarantino blanch and reach for the editing button.
Fiore and DeBlanc
Some fantastic work again from Anatol Yusef and Tom Brooke this week as the angels' personal lives are revealed (they're a couple) even as they go on a mission to hell. You might have been fooled into thinking that they were going to find and bring Eugene home... But no, they were looking to hire the Cowboy (will anyone refer to him as the Saint Of Killers before the season is out?) to kill Jesse. We might wonder why they can't do it themselves, but then they are angels and he does contain Genesis, which would probably see that coming from the pair. Got to love the Neil Gaiman-esque touches in the Distant Vistas travel agents' office where they book passage.
We're torn on this one. On the one hand, the Cowboy revelation was a masterstroke of editing (by Tyler L. Cook) and directing (by Breaking Bad veteran Michael Slovis, who is an executive producer here). And the whole of the angels' plot was a delight. But then you have the utterly confusing mess of the other characters: the Emily twist feels like a massive misstep. As does, to a much lesser degree given his emotional state, Sheriff Root simply deciding to "help" the Seraphim he discovers in the bathtub by killing her. Sure, we know she'll just return, but he doesn't. And despite her clearly terrible state, would a lawman truly just strangle someone? That's a debate that will rage. The Jesse and Cassidy scenes are fun, even if we wonder about Jesse's fragile mental state, and the Tulip moments seemed perfunctory, simply setting up whatever she'll do next week without feeling valuable.
Highlight: The angels are picked up in the same spot as Walter White (and others) in Breaking Bad when they're looking to start new lives. It even looks like the same dog runs across the street after the shuttle bus leaves.
Lowlight: Emily. Sorry, Em. We just don't buy you as someone who feeds an annoying boyfriend to a vampire. Talking of...
Kill of the week: Miles. We hardly knew ye. Or cared.
Quote of the week: "Jesse Custer, with the pretty girl and the kung fu moves. What do you have to be sorry for?" – Cassidy. You've met him, right, Cass?
MVP: Both DeBlanc and Fiore win it this week.
Random thought: Distant Vistas seems like a great cover for a place that can send people to hell (and Heaven, presumably, though that might be costlier) in an age where the internet has made travel agents all but extinct.
Airing on AMC Sunday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Mondays in the UK.