‘Preacher’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 10: ‘Call and Response’
AMC’s Preacher follows small-town Texas pastor Jesse Custer, his former partner-in-crime Tulip, and a foul-mouthed Irish vampire named Cassidy as they attempt to find God in a godless world. Matt Wilson, a devotee of the Vertigo comic series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, and Elle Collins, a returning parishioner with a dose of skepticism, are checking in to see what they find on the dusty trail in ComicsAlliance’s new recap series, Gospel Truth.
In this week’s season finale, “Call and Response,” Jesse and Tulip finally get their hands on an old partner, Jesse calls up God, and everything changes. Sam Catlin wrote and directed the episode.
Matt: Elle, excuse me if I’m overstepping here, but I feel like this episode proved that this season could have just been two episodes long and lost nothing at all. The pilot and this one had basically all the plot in it. Would you agree, or am I being overly critical?
Elle: No, I’m totally with you on that. My second thought after watching this episode was that this entire season seems pretty pointless in retrospect. My first thought was that Emily deserved better. She was the only Annville character I really developed any attachment to, and while I can’t see how there would be anything for her to do going forward, her death felt like the biggest tragedy of this pretty ridiculous finale.
Matt: I’m so conflicted about the whole thing. On the one hand, the show finally feels like Preacher. We end the episode where the comic more or less began, essentially making this entire first season a prologue. There’s a TV version of Ennis’ crass humor --- the ball gag and the fist-ended sex toy are the best examples --- for better or worse. More than at any point previously, this felt like an adaptation of the comic.
But I also feel like I invested more hours into it than I probably should have. If the bus driver’s just going to die in The Purge or whatever this turned into at the end, why bother?
Elle: I mean, at least they resolved the bus driver subplot, considering it’s just been ignored for like five episodes, but I completely agree. It’s hard to even really want to recap this episode, because it’s like, who really cares about the complex scene between Sheriff Root and Cassidy in the jail, when Root presumably blew up with the rest of the town, and Cassidy shows no signs that he’ll ever think of that conversation again?
Matt: Of the people of Annville, I hope we find out Sheriff Root survived somehow. Emily more or less had her story. Quincannon basically resolved his. But Eugene’s still in hell (as we are reminded in a confusing moment at the end), so the sheriff still has stuff to tie up.
Plus, I just really love W. Earl Brown’s acting. He brings so much to this. That interrogation scene was probably the best of the episode. The scene where he mercy kills the angel not knowing she’s an angel was great, too, and all because of his performance.
Elle: He’s one of those actors who does amazing things with whatever material he gets. His performance is one of several things about this show that has been making me want to find the time to rewatch Deadwood, because he was great as Dan Dority on that show too. And I agree now that you point it out, it does feel like Root might turn back up at some point. And he was so memorable on this season that all they’d have to do next season is cut to his face, and it will constitute a dramatic reveal.
Matt: Speaking of reveals, what’d you think of the Impostor God letting everyone know that God is missing? On the one hand, that’s a pretty neat twist, and another step to getting our characters on the road. On the other, how would anyone in that congregation not point out immediately that this guy on the Heaven phone at best looks like a community theater actor in Godspell, quoting scripture badly?
Elle: That scene was so ridiculous I could hardly believe it was happening on my television. I mean, I know it was supposed to seem that way, to set up the reveal that it was a sham, but still. I was talking a few weeks ago about how the show has mostly avoided overtly fantastic imagery, and now here we are in the season finale, watching a giant glowing white-bearded God on a throne appearing before a whole congregation.
That was also when I knew everybody was going to die. There was no way all those people were going to get to go out into the world with what they’d seen and heard. I was surprised when they made it out of the church alive.
Matt: I thought the way the town ended up being destroyed was kinda clunky. When Jesse says Tulip wants French fries and they leave, he might as well have said, “We have to leave town so we survive the explosion.” And then the whole methane thing. They could have built to it, right? They had a whole season. We got a few shots of the exhaust valves here and there, but that was it.
Elle: There was one scene, in one of the episodes I recapped with Chris, that showed the guy at the plant having to release the pressure by pushing the combination of buttons that the sex worker he had hired didn’t know how to push in this episode. But I agree, it was not well-handled. In fact I thought that set-up was building to something else entirely. I was expecting maybe the Saint of Killers, or something even bigger and scarier, to burst out of Hell when that pressure built up too far. But then, like you say, it turned out just to be a convenient way to kill the whole town at once.
Matt: I do want to note that some of this stuff we’re bringing up isn’t entirely the show’s fault. I just think this season was a particularly bad example of the Prestige Cable trend of essentially putting everything in the finale and the premiere. We’re awash with overloaded season finales, and I feel like this was just an egregious version of that.
For example, what even happened to Carlos? When we last see him, he’s tied up and almost zombie-like in his manner. But Tulip and Jesse didn’t kill him. So what happened? It’s vague to the point of being forgettable.
Elle: The whole Carlos thing seemed like a plot that was completely abandoned and then had to be nominally tied up in the finale just so people wouldn’t ask about it. At the beginning of the season, Tulip wanting Jesse to go kill Carlos with her was such a big deal. And then it got deemphasized in favor of all the other plots. So then Tulip just goes and kidnaps him on her own offscreen and brings him back no problem, and then yeah I’m not sure exactly what happened, except I guess they beat him up. And he doesn’t even turn out to be a crime lord or a tough guy, just a nebbishy former partner who was jealous of their love. The whole thing is so much slighter than it seems like it was originally planned to be.
Matt: I’m really inclined to refer to this as “season zero” of Preacher. It has all the trappings of a #0 comic, doesn’t it? Lots of explanations of things that don’t really need explaining, subplots that don’t matter in the end anyway, and setup for what’s already a perfectly fine start.
Elle: Actually, that makes perfect sense. Or you could refer to it in 2016 terms, as Preacher Rebirth #1.
Matt: Ha! Someone please go back to that one second or so we saw Herr Starr in episode... four, I think, and add in an editor’s note that says, “For more of Herr Starr and The Grail, check out Preacher Season 2! --- Ed.”
Elle: Oh man, I can’t believe there was a point when I thought he would be a major player in this finale. Now I’m guessing that haven’t even really cast him yet, or at least hadn’t when he appeared.
Matt: With all this, I guess the big question is whether you’re excited for the next season. What say you, Elle?
Elle: For now, let’s just say I’m curious about the next season. But I’m also happy to have a break before it gets here.
Matt: I hope that the producers and writers having a break helps, too. I think there’s a lot of potential in this season. The acting has been superb for the most part, bad accents in the pilot aside. I talked about W. Earl Brown, but Ruth Negga and Joe Gilgun nail their parts beyond belief. The show has a good look. The music choices are great. I love Jesse’s hair in Dallas. The tone is basically there. Season two could be great. I think the big problems have been pacing and some weird storytelling choices. Those are fixable things.
Elle: You make a really good point. I’m certainly willing to give Season 2 a chance, and hopefully we can meet back here next year and talk about it.
Matt: Until then, Elle. And possibly the end of the world.