‘Preacher’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 2: ‘See’
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.
This week’s episode, “See,” finds Jesse trying to make good on his promise to be the shepherd to his flock, while Cassidy deals with some sinister pursuers, and Tulip plans out a big score. The episode was directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen and written by Sam Catlin.
Matt: After the big setpieces of last week’s pilot, this one calms down a bit (but just a little) to settle into the series formula. What’d you think of how things went, Elle?
Elle: I definitely enjoyed this episode considerably less than the first one. A big part of that is probably that I went in to the premiere with low expectations, but they were exceeded, which enabled me to be disappointed this time around. This episode felt like more set-up, and not a lot of pay off.
Matt: I’m with you. Aside from one big action scene that I enjoyed quite a bit and that we’ll get to, I felt like this episode was engaging in some wheel-spinning. It didn’t pay off on the momentum of the pilot quite like I hoped.
And it replaced a problem with another problem. To my great joy, the accents got better this time around. Dominic Cooper’s was notably better, I thought. But the massive confusion about just what denomination Jesse’s church actually is created a whole other set of distractions for me. They have baptisms where people get dunked in a bathtub. Okay. But they also have communion (called "communion" and not "the Lord's supper")? And confession? It all just feels like some churchy stuff thrown together.
Elle: I completely agree. It also occurred to me that the church is named “All Saints,” which seems weird unless it’s Catholic or Episcopal (I think those are the only ones who have saints?) but it’s obviously an independent church. There’s no hint of a diocese showing up to check on things.
I don’t know, I think we have to write it off to the property being created by an Irishman and adapted for TV by some Jewish guys, and nobody feeling the need to do much research into American Protestantism along the way.
Matt: Probably. I grew up Southern Baptist, so I have a certain expectation for what a Southern Protestant church ought to look like and do --- our friend and colleague Kieran Shiach got hung up on people calling Jesse by his title, “preacher,” which is one of the only things that rang true for me --- so it probably is more of a thing for me than lots of other viewers.
Weirdly enough, I didn’t get as distracted by it in the comic, but there was a lot less churching in the comic anyway. The only totally off thing there was the collar.
Elle: Full disclosure: I grew up in an Episcopal Church called All Saints. Our guy wore a white collar, but it was different from this show in literally every other way. Except for that vampire that was always hanging around.
Matt: Since we’re already nipping at the edges of it, we should probably go ahead and just get the crazy chainsaw fight in the church out of the way. It was the show going full Evil Dead or Dead Alive with the over-the-top gore, and I kinda loved it. It was certainly the most memorable scene of the episode.
Elle: I enjoyed it too. The crawling chainsaw bit was dumb in a way that totally worked, especially with Cassidy slipping on all the blood as he tries to catch it. I also liked that it was led into by a weird music box singalong. I wasn’t sure that worked as it was happening, but Cassidy showing up when I was still trying to figure out what’s up with these weirdos made it work a lot better. I think Cassidy’s probably the most fun character on the show, and also probably the most like he was in the comics (which doesn’t bode well for his likability down the road, but we’ll get there when we get there).
Matt: The crawling chainsaw and slipping on blood felt very inspired by the two movies I mentioned above, which are two of my favorites, so I bought into the scene wholesale.
As for what led into it, as well as the reveal that the two guys Cassidy dismembered and buried in a trunk are alive again, I feel like the show is getting me to, “What’s these guys’ deal?” but not quite to, “I have to know what’s up with these guys!” I think some of it viewers can put together themselves. The little lullaby singalong and threatened chainsawing of Jesse seemed to be methods of getting Genesis out of him. (I also liked how the lullaby sort of called back to the one in the cold open, even if they’re not really connected.) But aside from that, we don’t really know anything about these dudes. One might be Herr Starr? That’s all we’ve got.
Elle: Yeah, I’m definitely having a hard time caring about these guys. They haven’t displayed much in the way of personality, and maybe they can’t die (or something?) It would be weird if Herr Starr had some kind of self-resurrection or healing powers, since a major part of his arc in the comic is getting progressively maimed. Although… I might be okay with some of that being left out of the TV series to be honest.
Matt: The humiliation of Herr Starr is one of the things that does not totally hold up from the comic, no doubt.
Another story we’re getting piecemeal is the stuff with Quincannon, who was mentioned but not seen last episode. In this one, all we see of him and his company is a negotiation with a couple that leads to their house being demolished. I thought the way the scene played out, with the demolition happening as soon as the paper was signed, was pretty funny, but again, I just don’t know what to make of this corporate entity. I’m not sure if meting this stuff out in tiny portions is the best approach for all this.
Elle: That was my biggest problem with this episode, and the scene you’re talking about is the best example. We’re getting such little pieces of things that it felt hard to care. The demolition was funny, but it didn’t seem like we learned much from it, except, “Here’s some guys who exist, and are not nice to each other.”
I felt similarly about the opening Old West flashback sequence. Am I right in assuming that this is the guy who becomes the Saint of Killers? Because right now he’s just some guy in a completely different setting from the rest of the show, and again it’s difficult to feel invested.
Matt: I’m not 100 percent on it being the Saint of Killers, but all the visual clues are there, so I’d say it’s a good guess. I actually didn’t mind the little snippet there. I feel like there’s enough there to build a mystery, and since it was in the cold open I’m a little more accepting of that kind of storytelling there. It’s just a problem when it’s used for every story. Even Tulip’s story is presented that way here. We hear her tell Jesse about this job she has for someone named Dany, but that’s all we get. We hear her talk about her uncle, but we don’t see him. Not everything can be a tease, you know?
Elle: Exactly! I’m also concerned about Tulip as a character. Ruth Negga is so likable and brings so much to the part, but the way they’ve changed the show, I’m afraid, has a negative impact on who Tulip is and how she works. Because if Jesse’s going to stay in this town and stay a preacher, how long can Tulip just try to pressure him into going back to a life of crime? And how long can she stay a sympathetic character while doing that? Something’s gotta give in that subplot, because if it lingers too long it will curdle.
Matt: Though the pilot had me definitely thinking the show would continue with Jesse helping one of his congregation members every week, this one made me think it can’t last. I think he’s going to break and help Tulip sooner rather than later. I don’t think they can drag that out for too long.
Plus, it seems like they’re going to run out of preacher plots pretty quickly. In this one, he knocks out two: First, Jesse uses the Word of God to tell a pedophile to forget about a little girl who rides on his school bus. Then he uses it to tell a comatose-but-conscious teenage girl to open her eyes. He punished a sinner and healed the infirm. Is there that much more to do?
Elle: That’s a good point. And the other thing is that this a small town, and he can’t just go around doing this stuff without it being the only thing anyone’s talking about. The school bus driver is yelling “Preacher what did you do to me?” as Jesse flees his house. That’s already going to get around.
Also, this is a nitpick because Jesse’s only just learning about his powers. But don’t tell the pedophile “Forget that one girl,” tell him, “Never molest a child!” Just saying.
Matt: I also wondered if him forgetting the girl would mean he just wouldn’t stop at her house on the way to school. She’s still got to ride the bus. I actually found that whole thing to be very clunky. Jesse coming into his house and punching him and putting him in the bathtub for a second baptism was pretty good, but I feel like having the guy know his brain had been altered somehow was just a way for Jesse to realize he had this power. In the comic, people were unaware that the Word of God was being used on them, and I think that ultimately worked better.
Elle: Agreed. I spent a lot of this episode impatient for Jesse to learn about the Word (just because it feels like we should be getting there quicker), and I didn’t love the way it ended with him telling the girl to open her eyes and we didn’t see what happens. I get that it’s a cliffhanger, but the questions it left me with seem like the wrong sort. If she’s in a persistent vegetative state or whatever (and has a big hole in her head, as we saw), opening her eyes isn’t going to do much, is it? If he tells her to heal, will she heal? I didn’t think he had that power before, but as we’ve discussed it’s been many years since I read the comic.
Matt: If last week was any indication, the show is adding a major layer of monkey’s paw literalism to the Word (the comic had a little, but it was rarely played for laughs or irony as I recall), so I do wonder if the big reveal isn’t going to be the girl opening her eyes but being in incredible pain and unable to move or speak. I suspect this will be part of Jesse learning how to use the Word wisely.
Elle: That makes sense. I don’t know that I want to watch it happen, but here we are.
Speaking of general unpleasantness, I’m still trying to figure out Eugene’s role in the show, and I feel like the show is too. Every time he shows up, I expect him to repeat Alexandra Cabot’s joke from the movie Josie and the Pussycats: “I'm here because I was in the comic book.”
Matt: He served as a bit of a counterpoint to the bus driver in this one --- he asks for another baptism but doesn’t really need it; Jesse forces a second baptism on the driver --- but yeah, I don’t know what he’s really there for. I hope they figure out something for him. Surely there’s a plan.
Elle: This show is making Jesse Custers of us all. Let’s do our best to have faith that there’s a plan, not just for Arseface, but for everyone.
Matt: Maybe the dudes who make this show will abide. (Cassidy would hate that forced reference.)