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...
The third episode of this new season cranks the gear down once more, for a slow-paced search plot that's high on jazz noodling and, aside from a check-in with the show's past and a quick chance for Jesse to play hero (or so he thinks), light on incident. It also plays up the weirdness that the creative team want to bring to an already odd story. Before we catch up with the Preacher and his friends, we flash back to Eugene Root's origin story – or at least see how he became Arseface. Essentially, he's so far in the "friend zone" with Tracy Loach (Gianna LePera, handed some actual dialogue instead of one line) that even an attempt to kiss his clear crush object results in her resuming a previously thwarted suicide attempt. It's a pleasure to have Ian Colletti back, bringing real sweetness and a lack of guile to Eugene, even if it's only a quick visit to his past and then the painful revelation that he is indeed in hell. A cell in hell, no less. The show is portraying the place as a featureless concrete prison, one that contains... Adolf Hitler. Yes, if you had "Noah Taylor turns up as history's worst monster" on your bingo card, we are very worried about you. But congratulations! We're interested to see where this one goes without becoming truly offensive...
In N'Orleans, where Cassidy seems happy (and has a weird, French-speaking "friend" called Dennis, who agrees to let them stay at his home), the main trio are still on the hunt for God. Dennis aside, Joe Gilgun doesn't get an awful lot to do this week, what with following Tulip like a concerned puppy.
Jesse, however, is convinced that the city is the place to go to find God, especially since he knows the deity is a fan of jazz. We're treated to more than one rendition of a track apparently called Walk To The Park, but more accurately described by Tulip as "two cats having sex in an airport". The whole episode for the most part feels like jazz noodling – a lot of wandering about, a little flair thrown in here and there (such as the guy in the dog gimp suit we don't want to think too much about) and some dead ends. Whether a factor of the season's expanded run of episodes or the need to deal out the plot in smaller chunks, it doesn't always work.
Still, at least we get to watch Jesse causing trouble occasionally and helping – again, so he thinks – singer Lara Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery) when a "super-secret crypto-religious fascist organization with designs on total world domination" tries to kidnap her. As it turns out, she's in on the whole thing and Jesse is about to be in yet more trouble, especially with a weird guy called Herr Starr (Pip Torrens) taking his case. Readers of the comic know what Lara, Malcolm Barrett's mysterious bartender and Starr are all about, but TV viewers will have to find out more as the show allows.
Damsels doesn't quite maintain the quality of the previous two episodes, but there are still little moments to enjoy. And aside from the occasional stumble (see below), Michael Slovis' keen eye as director means that the visuals are interesting even as the story (credited this week to Sara Goodman) squats in place for the most part. Check out some great shots, such as the arrival at Lara's home or the fantastic moment of Victor's men filling the laundromat out of focus after finding Tulip.
If it perhaps isn't as rewarding an episode for Joe Gilgun and Ruth Negga, it does at least expand out the strange world of the show a little further.
Highlight: Lara Featherstone outsmarting a drunk would-be suitor. And maybe also the effective fight between Jesse and the white-suited goons.
Lowlight: Even with the endlessly inventive Michael Slovis behind the camera, the search montage just comes across as another neon-lit cliché.
Kill of the week: No one actually dies, but both Tracy and Eugene come close.
MVP: Ian Colletti scores this week, for the layers he typically brings to poor Eugene.
Random thought: This is actually Noah Taylor's second time playing Hitler after 2002's Adolf-as-frustrated artist drama Max.
Airing on AMC Monday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Tuesdays in the UK.