‘Preacher’ Post-Show Analysis Season 1, Episode 5: ‘South Will Rise Again’
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 finds Jesse holding court in a local diner, Tulip aiming once again to reverse Jesse’s turn to the Lord, some forgiveness for Eugene, and a surprising turn for Quincannon. "South Will Rise Again" was directed by Michael Slovis and written by Craig Rosenberg.
Matt: There was a lot of zigging when it seemed like the show was going to be zagging this episode. That ringing phone cliffhanger from last week led to... the phone not ringing anymore after the Adelphi wring their hands too much about it. The Cassidy/Tulip dynamic from the comic seemingly flips completely. Eugene’s story... well, I don’t know where that’s going.
And then there’s the fact that the episode begins with a nearly 10-minute flashback cold open about the Saint of Killers (he’s credited as “The Cowboy,” but his origin story is a very similar-but-truncated-version of the origin from the Saint of Killers miniseries). What’d you think of that opening sequence, Elle?
Elle: Honestly it mostly made me wish I was watching Deadwood instead of Preacher. It was well done and all, but I found it hard to get invested. I don’t know that the flashback is necessarily darker than some of the stuff going on in the present day on this show, but it lacks the humor that makes the other scenes tolerable for me. And I feel like, even if you hadn’t read the comics, the whole thing would still be incredibly predictable. It’s just a matter of how much human depravity can get in the Cowboy’s way before he makes it home to find his family dead. I’m more interested in what it will be like when the Saint of Killers shows up in the present. The guy they have in the role is perfectly cast and pretty scary, so it’ll be fun to see the main characters come up against him.
Matt: Yeah, I definitely got a Deadwood-as-a-horror-movie kind of vibe from the whole thing. I didn’t think the whole thing with the scalps (which kind of had the cadence of a joke, but also wasn’t funny) played as well as similar moments from Deadwood, and the scene where The Cowboy witnesses any number of crimes in the back room felt like overkill, to say the least.
That said, I did like the tableau of the crows flying out of his chimney at the end. That was a neat visual. And getting Graham McTavish (a Scottish character actor who often plays tough guys) to play the Saint is pretty inspired casting. We’re at the point where all the casting of Brits has to be an intentional choice, right?
Elle: Honestly I’m not sure if it’s an intentional choice or if that’s just the way things go with casting nowadays. Ever since Jimmy McNulty and Stringer Bell on The Wire were both played by British guys, the whole idea that we need our own American actors has been increasingly called into question. Either way, it’s not surprising that guy’s Scottish, and he definitely works in the role.
So once we get back to the present day, we get the return of Eugene, and a focus on him and his family that continues throughout the episode. It’s hard not to feel bad for all of them. The hatred Eugene gets from the whole town just for continuing to exist is pretty extreme, but not necessarily unbelievable. But the barely-contained hatred (or at least resentment) from his own father is the worst thing.
Matt: Speaking of Deadwood and non-British actors, can we talk about how great W. Earl Brown is? It’d be so easy for him to play Sheriff Root as nothing but hateful and harsh, but there’s a moment after he knocks away the omelet Eugene made for him (which looks awful but it’s the thought that counts) where you can see all these different emotions in his eyes. He immediately regrets telling Eugene to “finish the job” of committing suicide, like the graffiti left in his room earlier in the episode urged him, but he’s too proud or stubborn to say it. That one look says so much more than anything in the dialogue possibly could. It adds a whole lot of layers to the sheriff that the comic doesn’t have.
Elle: Brown is really doing a fantastic job of bringing depth to a character that could easily have been one-note, even in the way he’s written for the show.
So it’s clear in this episode that Jesse is taking things too far, right? There’s no way that holding court at the diner and using the Word on anyone with a problem is going to work out well for him, especially with Donnie piecing things together after Odin’s conversion last episode. Living in such a small town, Jesse could maybe be a little less public about throwing around his Actual Superpower, even if he believes he’s using it in the name of God. And although he doesn’t get around to it in this episode, he has plans for Sheriff Root now too, which sounds like dangerous territory.
Matt: Fiore and Deblanc make it pretty clear that things are about to get real when they come to the diner and tell Jesse that he’s using The Word too much. Someone else from Heaven is definitely coming, because someone is on the other end of that phone.
I’m interested to see how all this will dovetail. We’re halfway through the season now, so my assumption is that we’re on the other side of setup and headed toward a climax. The town is becoming acutely aware of Jesse’s power, Quincannon’s conversion is turning out to be something different than it seemed to be at first, Tulip is using Cassidy as a pawn to coerce Jesse back to the side of revenge, and then we’ve got all these forces amassing along the edges: Heaven, the Saint, the Grail. It’s a whole bunch of puzzle pieces from the comic, but the show has scrambled things up to the point that it’s hard to know where they’ll land.
Elle: Given the time they’re taking to set up the Saint of Killers, I think he’s a strong bet to show up in the season finale. Maybe they’ll bring in the Grail before that, and have the Saint show up in the middle of a confrontation with them. Does Carlos, the unseen guy who betrayed Tulip and Jesse, have something to do with the Grail? I’m not really clear on that, or if we’re even meant to know. But Tulip’s informant definitely works for the Grail, so those plot threads may well stay tangled up somehow.
Matt: I think we’re going to get to more of that plotline pretty fast, because after one last, failed public attempt to convince Jesse with words to come with her for revenge (involving the tragic death of a Komodo dragon), Tulip is setting up a big ploy to make it happen. Cassidy is openly head-over-heels for her, so she takes advantage and disinterestedly has sex with him in her car.
This has to be a jealousy play, but it’s also a pretty clever reversal of Cassidy’s big betrayal from the comics. I honestly didn’t think the writers would hit that beat so quickly, but reversing the power roles in it is a cool choice.
Elle: I admit, I was initially uneasy with Tulip having sex with him as a power play, but I can’t quite figure out if that reaction comes from a feminist place or a conservative one, so I’m putting it on a back burner until we see more of this plotline unfold. But I’m definitely more comfortable with Tulip manipulating Cassidy than vice versa, and with the way they’re being portrayed on the show it’s also more believable.
Matt: If there’s one thing Tulip’s been portrayed as from shot one in episode one, it’s resourceful, so it’s not like this is her only option, you know? This is a plan, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe about the character.
I guess we should talk a little about Donnie and Quincannon before we wrap up. I don’t have ton to say about Donnie’s spiral into sadness and epiphany about Jesse’s powers, but I do want to mention that the clip-on tie he’s wearing throughout the episode is hilarious. It’s my favorite detail.
Elle: I noticed that too! It’s great. But as for Quincannon, I honestly have no idea what’s going on with him. Did God tell him to shoot those people? Does he just think God wants him to shoot those people, and that’s enough? Is the Mayor still going to defer to him now that he’s watched him murder four people? Is there even going to be a town left by the end of Season 1? All of these questions and more are on my mind.
Matt: It has me thinking that Quincannon is “serving God” under some sort of weird technicality. Maybe his version of God wanted to keep these green energy folks out of Annville, or he’s his own god, or he sees business and church as very separate spheres. Whatever the case, he sure shot the hell out of those people, right in front of the very shocked mayor.
Elle: He really, really did. With this being the halfway point of the season, as you mentioned, there’s a real sense of escalation as of the end of this episode, which makes me more interested in what’s to come.
Matt: It looks like it’s going to get bloody. Well, bloodier. And in that regard, this show definitely lives up to the comic’s legacy.