“South Will Rise Again” finds us halfway through the season, and after the dizzying pace of the pilot, Preacher seems to have slowed to something of a crawl. But while there was a lot of repetition this week, there were also hints that the back end of this series may throw things back into full throttle. Here’s hoping…
A strong opening, as we returned to Ratwater for another installment in the story of the mysterious cowboy figure (to those not familiar with the source material, at least). It’s still not clear what his connection is to present-day Annville, but his scenes were unsettling and compelling. The discordant soundtrack, the disturbing scenario involving a child witnessing his mother’s sexual assault, the image of the bodies swinging from the hanging tree, the horror of the cowboy’s moral compulsion to do a good deed being his tragic downfall, all of these elements combined to create another miniature western, and left me wanting more. The sight of Graham McTavish‘s gnarled figure, silhouetted in his doorway, while the crows went about their grizzly and noisy business was the stuff of nightmares. And it was great!
Back in the present day, Jesse was feeling very smug about being a conduit for the voice of God, Cassidy had his undead heart set on Tulip (and procuring copious amounts of narcotics, of course), Tulip was still trying to lure Jesse back to the dark side, Emily was still moping over the preacher, and Fiore and DeBlanc were still trying to get whatever’s inside of Jesse, out of him, whilst avoiding the wrath of Heaven.
There was some forward momentum in Eugene Root’s arc. After having a shotgun left in his room and a message encouraging him to ‘finish the job’ daubed on his wall, poor Eugene also incurred his father’s temper when it came to light that he had tried to visit comatose Tracy. Alongside The Cowboy, it was Eugene who brought the emotional weight to this episode. As if hearing his father echo the sentiments of the vandals wasn’t hard enough to watch, seeing Eugene plead with Jesse to help him fix the Sheriff’s pain was downright gutting. Jesse – hopped up on his victory in converting Quincannon to Christianity – took the wretched Eugene to see Tracy’s mother, and after stopping her from killing him with a baseball bat, ordered her to forgive him. This was a genuinely touching moment, laced with a sense of foreboding. We still didn’t find out why Mrs. Loach called Eugene a murderer, or just what shames Sheriff Root so deeply that he wishes his son hadn’t survived his suicide attempt.
Another interesting development was Donny Schenck’s realisation that Jesse is wielding real power. His interactions with Betsy in this episode were interesting in light of the early conclusions we were steered to draw about their relationship. Far from being a helpless victim, it seemed like Betsy may be very much in control of their warped marriage, even threatening to sleep with someone in her office if her shaken husband didn’t return to work at the Meat and Power plant. After Donny confided his fears about Jesse’s mind control abilities, following their run-in in the bathroom stall, Betsy appeared very on board with the idea of vengeance.
Speaking of which, Tulip was still banging that drum (and banging Cassidy). She told the vampire about Carlos and her obsession with getting her ex-boyfriend to help her exact revenge, and Cassidy told her about the ins and outs of vampirism. Neither one seems to have worked out the other’s connection to Jesse yet, but Tulip’s facilitation of Cassidy’s drug purchase, and their dead-eyed bunk up in the back of her car suggested that she has a plan in mind. We also got another glimpse into Jesse’s former bad boy life, courtesy of Tulip, who regaled the patrons of the diner with a slightly surreal tale about the preacher blowing the head off a drug dealer’s pet Komodo dragon for looking at her ass.
Wayward angels, Fiore and DeBlanc, finally got some face time with Jesse, and explained to the (slightly less smug) preacher that it’s not the voice of God residing inside him. To illustrate this, we closed with Quincannon calling a meeting with Miles and the green energy people, whose plans he literally pissed on last week. Seemingly imbued with the light of his new-found religion, Odin cheerfully made small talk and poured everyone a drink, before blowing them all away with a shotgun in front of a bewildered Mayor Person. Was he doing God’s work, or is he simply immune to Jesse’s considerable powers of persuasion? Only time will tell.
Final Grade: C
+ The grim aesthetic of the Ratwater opening, juxtaposed with the immense beauty of the sunrise which Jesse was admiring after the opening titles was very effective.
+ I’m actually starting to feel real affection for DeBlanc and Fiore. They are kind of adorable.
+ I felt a momentary twinge of sympathy for Donny despite the fact he’s a pretty terrible guy, so kudos for the writing and to Derek Wilson for his performance.
– Tulip’s blinding and repetitive preoccupation with getting Jesse back on side is starting to negate her badass-ery.
– Quincannon’s rampage would have been more shocking if we’d had more insight into his character before now. I don’t feel we know him well enough for his actions to surprise us.
– The reveal that Jesse is not filled with the Holy Spirit seemed a bit too easy. It was telling, not showing. I could have done with the preacher learning the hard way – by seeing the screwy consequences of his well-intentioned commands.
Although he’s had some great moments, I don’t feel like Dominic Cooper has had a real chance to demonstrate his acting chops. Jesse has been largely passive in many ways, which makes sense because he’s literally a vessel, but there’s a danger of his character feeling insipid at times. Now the cat is out of the bag, I hope we will see his character being more proactive than reactive.
What did you think? Will the second half of the season soar again like a mythical, fiery bird, or after a few slow weeks, is it as dead as a used sparkler? Sound off in the comments or tell us on Twitter!