‘Preacher’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 6: ‘Sundowner’
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.
On this week’s episode, “Sundowner,” Jesse and Cassidy team up with the visiting angels to face down the charge of a much tougher visiting angel, Tulip and Emily finally get some face time and Jesse has a seeming change of attitude. The episode was directed by Guillermo Navarro and written by Nick Towne.
Matt: A few interesting things happened in this episode, but it ended up feeling a whole lot like a mid-season holding-pattern installment to me, Elle. We didn’t even get to see what Jesse was going to do with that loudspeaker he set up outside the church.
What’d you think of it, Elle?
Elle: I agree that there wasn’t a lot to this episode aside from a few key things that we’ll get to. Probably my favorite thing in it was the beginnings of a friendship between Tulip and Emily. Tulip walks right up to the line of becoming an unlikable stereotype of a deranged jealous ex, and then she immediately realizes what trap she’s falling into and turns out to be more than decent to Emily. And with Jesse becoming noticeably reckless, the alliance between these two women may become increasingly important.
Matt: I got a little antsy when Tulip came stomping in and yelling “Stay away from my boyfriend!” but it quickly veered away from that, which was a relief. I kinda read that whole situation differently from you, though. Maybe it’s more about what’s already been established with Tulip, but I definitely got the sense that Tulip might be toying with Emily a little bit. She’s already using Cassidy to angle toward getting Jesse to come back to crime, so I thought she may have decided to use that same finesse with Emily. But maybe there was a real bond there. It was left up to the viewer, clearly.
Elle: Yeah, I’m certainly not ruling out that reading. But considering the direction he seems to be headed in this episode, I worry that anybody, even Tulip, who thinks they can exert any control over Jesse Custer may be in for a rude awakening.
Matt: Jesse himself got a bit of an awakening in this one. His meeting in the diner with Deblanc and Fiore was interrupted by the appearance of a Seraphim, a silent, T-1000-like angel in the body of a suburban mom who is bound and determined to take back Genesis by force. That leads to a big action sequence in the hotel that leaves a lot of angel bodies behind, and results in numerous regenerations.
Elle: I liked the form the Seraphim took, because she wasn’t intimidating at all, but she also wasn’t a supermodel type, which is the other direction I expect a character like that to go in most genre shows. She was just someone most people wouldn’t look twice at, which is perfect. I also really enjoyed the shot of the big motel fight as seen through the hole in the wall. It was a nice way of framing the absurd volume of violence and chaos.
Matt: It was a very “Golden Age of TV” kind of shot, but I liked it, too. It added an artfulness to it and probably helped keep things within the show’s budgetary constraints. The optics of these four men (well, two of them are angels, but they’re male, and Cassidy’s a vampire, but I’m splitting hairs at this point) punching and tackling a woman were a little strange, but it wasn’t too hard to see just how powerful the Seraphim was, so you could kind of adjust your head to it.
What’s really interesting about the whole fight --- which I thought might be the whole episode, given that the title is the name of the hotel --- is the effect it has on Jesse. Mixed with the new information he got from Deblanc and Fiore about Genesis, it has more or less invigorated him. It wasn’t traumatizing, it was energizing. Galvanizing, even.
Elle: I’m not sure if the show is consciously playing with the expectation of people who’ve read the comic, or if it just feels that way sometimes, but these things keep happening where it seems like Jesse is surely going to decide he can’t be a preacher, or he can’t stay in Annville, and each time his response is to dig in deeper and become more determined to be the best preacher Annville’s ever seen. But it’s hard to imagine at this point that it’s going to go well for the town or for Jesse. And certainly not for Eugene.
Matt: No kidding. I have to say I definitely did not see that coming. Arseface got into a lot in the comic, but I don’t recall him spending any time in literal hell.
Elle: The sound effects when Jesse’s back was turned and Eugene was presumably being sucked into literal hell were really something else. It made me think about how carefully this show has avoided overt fantasy imagery so far, and I wonder how long it can keep that up. The comic was gritty, but it had angels with wings and so forth. We’ve yet to really see anything like that on the show.
Matt: The pilot had some shots of Genesis flying around and incinerating people, but aside from that, the show has definitely kept to earthly matters in its imagery. Even the angels respawning is represented by a flash of light and that’s it. They always do it just offscreen. I do wonder if that isn’t all building to some big heavenly or demonic imagery to close out the season, to make it more impactful. It feels more and more, as you said, like the people of Annville aren’t going to make it past the finale.
Elle: I think we talked early on about how the decision to keep the show in one place was surely to do with budget, and now it occurs to me that there could have been some kind of agreement to keep the first season in one place while they prove the show has legs, and then maybe they’ll go on the road. That’s just a thought, but with the kind of climax this season seems to be building toward, it’s hard to imagine the Season 2 premiere opening on another Sunday morning in Annville with things much the same as they’ve always been.
Matt: While we’re discussing budgetary matters, this felt like a very budget-conscious episode (aside from what was probably an expensive opening action sequence). At first I had pegged it a bottle episode in the hotel, but instead it ended up being a collection of little mini-bottle episodes. There’s Tulip and Emily in the house, Jesse and Cassidy setting up the loudspeaker outside the church, Eugene finally making some friends, and the mayor trying and failing to deal with the fallout of Quincannon’s shotgun spree last episode. There was cleanup and there was setup, with some good character stuff, but not a ton of forward plot momentum.
Elle: It’s true, and even the big action sequence with the Seraphim was less a climax to anything and more of a demonstration for the benefit of both Jesse and the viewer that there are bigger badder things coming.
Speaking of Eugene and his new friends, did we know he was still in high school? Maybe we totally did, but I was thinking he was 20ish. I guess his messed up face makes it hard to judge his age. And it probably doesn’t matter now, since he’s in hell and all.
Matt: The actor who plays him, Ian Colletti, is definitely older than high-school age, so it wasn’t a stretch to assume he was older. I did like the scene where he was by the locker and answered a “Hey Eugene” with “sorry.” I knew that kid. I was a step away from being that kid at some points.
Elle: Oh, I was too, to be sure. I honestly have no idea if we’ve seen the last of Eugene or not. I won’t be surprised if he makes it back somehow, and there’s certainly more you could do with him, but if they wanted to write him off the show, that’s certainly been accomplished as of this episode. And then there’s the whole thing where he’s the sheriff’s son and vanished after going to have a private talk with Jesse. That probably has consequences to come.
Matt: A big part of Arseface’s character in the comic was him seeking revenge on Jesse for forcing his father to do some unsavory acts to himself. I doubt that will happen on this basic cable television show, even if it is TV-MA, so this could be a way to set Eugene on that path while also keeping the sheriff on the board.
Elle: That’s a really good point that I hadn’t thought about. Given his current location, he may be recruited into the larger heaven/hell conflict that’s discussed in this episode, which in turn could give him a way back to Earth and a chance to pursue revenge on Jesse.
The absence of Odin Quincannon from this episode seemed odd after last week. He didn’t end that episode in a way that implied he has any interest in keeping quiet and going unnoticed at this point. Also the mayor’s willingness to clean up after him is apparently more or less infinite.
Matt: I figure the non-fictional reason was that Jackie Earle Haley is only contracted for a certain number of episodes, and this wasn’t one of them, but the choice to focus on the mayor was a strange, lateral move. Do you think the continued establishing of the mayor as a lackey and an indecisive person is going to pay off somehow? This show has an almost Twin Peaks-like penchant for honing in on these secondary characters, but I almost feel like it’s all going to get wiped away. Like a big prank on the audience.
Elle: Regardless of what happens to the rest of the town, I think there’s no way the mayor doesn’t end up dead. Either he picks the wrong moment to stand up for himself, or the wrong moment not to, and somebody (quite possibly Odin) is going to shoot him in the head. And probably the main narrative function of that will be to have some kind of effect on Emily, since she’s the only person who seems to care about him even a little bit.
Matt: That seems as likely as anything.
So how about that loudspeaker, huh? It is unusually ominous for a piece of sound-amplifying equipment.
Elle: It sure is. And the question isn’t just what Jesse plans to say through it, it’s what else he may ended up saying through it if things get weird. And who will hear him. Jesse’s really playing with fire, and so far he’s dealing with that by gathering more and more gasoline.
Matt: I think his line in this episode when Cassidy asks if he doesn’t have to do what the angels say, “I only have to answer to God,” is an indicator of how the show might be diverging from the comics. Comics Jesse is angry at God from the beginning, and here he’s trying to act as His conduit. Jesse’s intuiting that he knows what God wants, and that he’s been chosen. I don’t know if that’s going to lead to disillusionment or if that’s his deal now.
Elle: Man, things on this show are already so heightened, and Grail hasn’t even shown up yet.
Matt: I have a feeling that loudspeaker, whatever is said over it, will draw some attention.
Elle: So we have what, four episodes left this season? And we still have Odin to deal with, plus maybe Grail, the Saint of Killers (or at least one more flashback about him), Carlos, more monsters from Heaven, and that loudspeaker. I imagine the pace might pick up a bit from here on.
Matt: Plus we’ve got to meet the stylist that gave Jesse his dark new look! So much to wrap up!