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...
After a Cowboy-heavy episode, the aftereffects are still being felt, particularly for Tulip. Her brush with death – surely a common occurrence in her former criminal occupation – has left her rattled, and she's down to have a little fun when Jesse and Cassidy suggest it. It's a little frustrating that the show's apparent main driving plot (Jesse's search for God) can be abandoned, if only for an episode, so randomly. It's almost as if the writers decided that, with more episodes to fill, they're entitled to take a little time off and have some fun. But while the early going with the trio getting back to being friends and scamming the trigger-happy types in the bar is certainly entertaining, it's odd to note that the introduction of a new villain is much more compelling than anything the leads get up to in this hour. More on that in a moment...
The return of the Jesse/Tulip relationship drama is not a welcome one, even if it is being driven by Tulip's post-Cowboy trauma. Her dream sequences were effective, but a little easy to spot as such and there's only so much mileage you can get out of someone wandering round a dilapidated house. As for Cassidy and Denis' situation, the son of a vampire asking to become immortal isn't a new idea, but it is handled well between Joe Gilgun and Ronald Guttman. We probably could have done without the heavy handed glimpse at a dying man in the hospital hammering Cassidy's dilemma home, though it was enjoyable to see him dealing with being considered dead: "It happens a lot"...
But everything else was overshadowed by the proper introduction of the man who will presumably become the new big villain now the Saint is sitting in an armoured car somewhere at the bottom of a swamp. Herr Starr, played by Pip Torrens, is ripped straight from the pages of the comic and, with a slightly updated backstory (swapping his Wehrmacht past for time spent in Germany's anti-terrorist force), he's as awful and wonderful as fans of the source material might hope. Part of the Grail – the white-suited types that have already cause trouble for Jesse – he hunts down false prophets, like the doomed floating porcine that gives the episode its title. And what a creation! He's calculating, canny, deviant and disgusting when needed (witness the man using masturbation to get out of a choke hold during his selection process) and superbly drawn by the creative team. Torrens brings a still yet mercurial energy to him, and the sequence where he's recruited and tested by the Grail stands as one of the most entertaining the show has yet put on screen.
Everything with Starr overshadows the rest of the episode, and you find yourself almost hoping to cut back to whatever foul thing he's up to whenever we catch up with Jesse and co.
The one Jesse scene that did work was his conversation with the doomsday preacher (John Ales), who comes clean about his "source" but also digs deep into what really drives human fears. It's not, perhaps, all that essential, but it does work.
An episode of two halves, then, as Herr Starr enjoys a masterful introduction while our heroes spin their wheels. Tulip and Cassidy at least have some emotional material to work with, while Jesse still seems to be wandering through his mission with the bored attitude of a teenager on a school field trip. But with a caustic new villain on the scene, at least the back half of the season might recapture some of that vital spark.
Highlight: A Starr is born. Well, picked.
Lowlight: Jesse and Tulip: The Domestic Drama is not as compelling as its creators think it is.
Kill of the week: Everyone in the Vietnamese village. Those poor people. That poor porker!
MVP: Pip Torrens wins it for the sheer devious delight of Herr Starr.
Random thought: The Grail selection sequence was shown at Comic-Con. Wonder what the parents with kids in Hall H thought?
Airing on AMC Monday nights in the US, Preacher is available weekly on Amazon Prime Tuesdays in the UK.