‘Preacher’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 9: ‘Finish the Song’
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, Matt Wilson is still away on sabbatical, so veteran Comics Alliance recapper Chris Haley is back with the congregation.
In this week’s "Finish the Song," Jesse goes on the lam, Emily finds a way to resolve things with Miles, and the Saint of Killers gets a new job. The episode was directed by Michael Slovis and written by Craig Rosenberg.
Elle: So Chris, if you didn’t catch up on any earlier episodes since last week, you might have been confused by the flashback to the Old West, to tell the last bit of the Saint of Killers’ origin. I think this was the fourth flashback about him, spread across the season. Fortunately, if you were lost at first, the episode eventually filled you in by showing the entire story over again like five times with increasing speed. And that’s only one of the things that accelerated in this episode.
Chris: I was indeed a little confused about that, but they did a good job of laying it all out there by the end. I felt a little bit like I was in Hell watching them keep running through it over and over, before I realized what they were trying to show me. At first I thought, “Wow, is the episode really this short for time that they have to pad it out with showing this over and over?” Then what was actually happening dawned on me, and I felt appropriately stupid.
Elle: Well to be fair, they were still showing it over and over again. It was super-repetitive and filled some time, even if it also served a narrative purpose. Since we’re already talking about this bit, I’m going to jump ahead to the end, and say that it took me an absurdly long time to figure out what was going on.
Even when the angels came down the stairs, and we had seen them on their way to Hell, I thought we were still in the past, and these same angels had been sent to Earth back then to deal with this guy. But I’m not going to blame the show’s storytelling for my failure to catch on. It was very helpful of them to eventually flash the word “HELL” in giant letters on the screen though.
Chris: It certainly explained why they put “Albuquerque” up there earlier, or have they been doing that the whole season?
Elle: I think they’ve been doing it every time something happens outside of Annville. But “Hell” is bound to be more eye-catching than “Albuquerque.”
So the number one thing I want to talk about this episode is Emily feeding Miles to Cassidy. It was such a fascinating move for her, and unlike anything there’s been the slightest hint of her being capable of before. But last episode when he sided with Quincannon, she realized what a creep he actually is, and he’s been after her to have a serious relationship with him for who knows how long (definitely way before the show began). So it was clear that she realized she needed a way to escape from him (especially since recent events have emboldened him), and Cassidy just turned out to be a very convenient way to do that.
Chris: Yeah, I 100% did not see that coming. This is a little off this particular topic, but I think it speaks to how surprising that moment was. We mentioned it more than once last week, but this week it felt even more so like this show has a serious tone problem. And not that any of the tones or styles it seems to play around in don’t work, but that it’s trying to do them all at once is really… frustrating. I think that’s the best word for it.
I think this show could double-down a little bit on any of them and really make it work, but trying to keep up with all of these characters and threads, all of which seem to have their own style, and many of which seem to think they are in completely different shows, just makes the experience less enjoyable than I think it could be. I don’t dislike this show at all, but does that make sense?
Elle: Oh, totally. Tone is this show’s biggest problem by far. And sometimes those tones collide in a jarring way in one scene. Like the two angels, who are usually kind of goofy, coming face to face with the Saint of Killers. How are these characters on the same series? And that scene with the Sheriff finding the woman in a bathtub. Those of us who’ve been watching the series know that she’s a much more dangerous breed of angel who was trying to kill the other two angels and Jesse. And like the other angels, she resurrects in a new body every time she dies. So you have this scene where the Sheriff thinks he’s performing the terrible act of mercy by killing someone who’s been horribly victimized and wants to die, but then she she appears behind him thinking, “Haha, now I’ve escaped,” and the Sheriff never has a clue. It’s weird.
Chris: Oh boy, yeah, I was definitely wondering what that was about. Also, it’s not just me that thinks that was super messed up that the Sheriff did that, right? I mean, when someone has clearly been involved in something horrific, they’re going to be in shock or not in their right minds. You don’t just do whatever they say, you wait for the ambulance to get there. Dude is terrible at his job!
Elle: Yeah, that was messed up. I think maybe we were supposed to relate it to the fact that he’s Arseface’s dad, so he has seen first hand how messed up your life can be after a disfiguring trauma. And of course he thinks his son is dead now (although he’s really not dead, he’s just in Hell) and the supposed murderer had just escaped his custody. So clearly he was in a weird place, emotionally. Not that that would make it okay, except that she was just a killer angel anyway, and he didn’t really kill anyone.
Chris: Yeah, I guess I can buy that. He’s in a pretty traumatized place himself, so maybe I should cut him some slack.
Elle: But that reminds me that we’ve come this far and we haven’t talked about Jesse Custer. He still doesn’t want to use his power, which still seems like weird choice, but I guess they’re saving up for whatever nonsense he’s going to do in the season finale. I’m glad he and Cassidy are friends again, in any case. I hope a reconciliation with Tulip comes next.
Chris: Yeah, seemed like there were a few good spots for him to make the most of it, this week. But forget his “power”, there were some spots where it would have been beneficial to him to just talk period. Like, just try to explain things a little, maybe?
I did enjoy his reconciliation scene with Cassidy though, and his phone call to Tulip as well. If there’s not a makeup coming there, that woman is made of far sterner stuff than me, I can tell you that much.
Elle: Matt and I talked before about how it seems like maybe the whole first season is a setup that leads to a second season that looks a lot more like the comic, with Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy on the road with people after them. I have to say that seems more and more likely, what with the Sheriff and others thinking Jesse’s a murderer, and Odin about to bulldoze the church. And of course the Saint of Killers will be on his way shortly. If that change does happen, the only character I’ll miss is Emily, but considering she fed her only reliable babysitter to a vampire, I can’t imagine she’ll be able to come along.
Chris: Yeah, with only one episode to go, and one hell of a setup in place for what they’re claiming is going to go down, I’m very curious to see what’s in store for her. Well, I mean, I’m curious about what’s in store for everyone, but she had a surprisingly sharp turn this week.
Elle: Agreed. There’s definitely a strong feeling of everything coming to a head this episode, so that the season finale seems to be rumbling like an oncoming storm, not unlike the one that rolled in while the Saint of Killers was massacring that whole saloon full of people. I think Matt will be back next week, but I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the finale.
Chris: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to talking about it with you either way! For whatever we want to complain about with this show, that’s got to be a good sign for it.