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Review: Preacher 2×01 “On the Road” & 2×02 “Mumbai Sky Tower”

Written by Katie Young

Preacher‘s first season introduced us to the bizarre inhabitants of Annville, who made up Jesse Custer’s troubled congregation, only to raze the town spectacularly to the ground in the finale, taking out everyone except poor old Eugene Root, who is currently residing in Hell – thanks to his preacher. Blissfully unaware of the mass devastation were Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy who had set out in search of God in Tulip’s muscle car, finally getting to the point fans of the comics had been dying to reach all season. This year started with a double episode premiere, and it did not disappoint.

“On the Road” thrust us right into the middle of the grindhouse thrill-ride we’ve all been waiting for. Yee-hah! The Bonnie and Clyde dynamic between Jesse and Tulip was playfully thrown off by the addition of a third wheel – the vampire Cassidy – and further complicated by the fact Jesse has no idea that his girlfriend and the bloodsucker did the nasty behind his back. While Cassidy obviously has a crush on Tulip, Joseph Gilgun never leaves us in any doubt of his loyalty to Jesse, and how tortured the vampire is by his transgression, and probably the knowledge he would do it again in a heartbeat. If vampires have heartbeats…

The opening car chase, hilariously sound-tracked by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, was as ballsy a set piece as could have been expected to kick off this new phase. Jesse’s use of ‘The Voice’ to stop the cops in their pursuit was reminiscent of a cat toying with a mouse, the malice there immediately mitigated by the appearance of the Saint of Killers. But even throughout the relentless bloodshed, there was humour, courtesy of Cassidy’s desperate struggle to stay out of the sun, and Tulip being forced to siphon gas from a car with a dead officer’s entrails.

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Having escaped with their lives, Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy continued their search for God, gas, and a way for Tulip to get the taste of intestine out of her mouth (hot sauce and milkshake, if you’re wondering), leaving a befuddled convenience store attendant to the mercies of the Cowboy from Hell, who was hot on their tails. They went to see Mike, an old preacher friend of Jesse’s father with a habit of locking up his parishioners in a covered cage to cure them of their vices. Like most characters in Preacher, Mike’s moral compass was a little screwy to say the least, and Jesse’s unwillingness to intervene on Ashleigh’s behalf, believing it to be ‘none of their business’, was made all the more sinister given that the girl was left incarcerated for an addiction to social media after Mike’s suicide. But his willingness to put them up, his revelation that one of his congregation had claimed to have seen God in her strip club, and his self-sacrifice in order to prevent telling the Saint of Killers where Jesse had gone, all suggested a certain degree of honour.

Typically for Jesse Custer, his plan to visit Tammy with Tulip and Cassidy, and to cajole information out of his star witness resulted in her death by misadventure. He did manage to extract one pertinent piece of information before she gasped her last though – God wasn’t in her bar for the lap dancers. He was there for the jazz. Jazz. Ugh. I knew there was a reason me and God don’t get along!

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Having started with an explosive encounter, “On the Road” finished with a bang too. Well, two bangs actually. Jesse and Tulip finally got to consummate their reunion (while the hapless Cassidy listened in the adjoining room), and the padre was a sitting duck for the Cowboy’s bullets after he went outside for a post-coital smoke. The realisation that Genesis couldn’t stop the Saint was genuinely frightening and made for a decent cliffhanger.

So a full throttle start to the new season. I am still struggling to reconcile the deep love Cassidy and Tulip have for Jesse with the man himself. Obviously neither Tulip nor the vampire are the most upstanding of citizens (Tulip’s assertion that it would be better to beat intel out of Tammy than to mess with her brain being just one example of her seriously messed up logic) but they both have codes of ethics (however dubious) and demonstrate a sense of loyalty and emotional connection. Jesse, on the other hand, seems drunk on his power to manipulate at will. His failure to concede that very bad things happen around him make him seem both arrogant and ignorant, and I’m not getting the sense of right of wrong we’re constantly told he has. My misgivings about the lead aside, this was a high-octane, pacy episode which made me laugh, wince, and got my pulse racing.

Final Grade: B

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The second episode in the double premiere, “Mumbai Sky Tower”, picked up where we left off, with Jesse facing the Saint’s gun, and an intervention (although perhaps not of the divine kind). After a passing driver accidentally took the first bullet with Jesse’s name on it, a group of ‘gun aficionados’ staying at the motel tried to shoot the Hellish cowboy down, to no avail. It’s worth noting that Jesse at least tried to get the motel guests to run when it becomes apparent The Voice doesn’t have any affect on the Saint. After another mass slaughter, and a bizarre vending machine exchange with a man who’d had his arm blown off, our trio managed to make a getaway in Tulip’s car, but not before they saw a news report about the methane explosion in Annville. Seeing Jesse and especially Tulip (who has lost Walter, her only relative) mourn their town made the first season seem like less of an elaborate joke set up, in which the explosion was the punchline, and both characters seem warmer.

While the losses prompted Jesse to propose to Tulip in the titular casino hotel, and we had a stark reminder of Tulip’s baggage in the form of Gary, one of Victor’s men, determined to bring her to heel and ruining her marriage plans in the process, the bulk of this episode dealt with Fiore, the surviving angel who hired the Saint of Killers to take down Genesis. Having lost DeBlanc to the cowboy’s gun, Fiore checked in to the hotel to kill himself but, as we know, angels just regenerate once they die. After a public display of frustration, Fiore accidentally became a successful ‘magician’, dying on stage each night and going by the moniker, The Great Ganesh.

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There’s something inherently tragic about a creature that has nothing left to live for but can’t die, and while there was plenty of black humour in this episode, Fiore really was a pitiful thing. Jesse tried to coerce him into calling off the hitman, but once again demonstrated monstrous arrogance in his belief that Genesis was meant for him, and that he was destined for great things. Cassidy stepped in, promising to persuade Fiore to help them in under three hours.

The scenes of Cassidy and Fiore doing speedballs, building a pillow fort, reading Archie comics, and taking a bath together were as strangely touching as they were funny. Cassidy sensed Fiore’s loneliness and supplied the one thing he needed – a friend. Although there was an end game in mind, it seemed like the two immortals genuinely enjoyed each other’s company for a while there.

Fiore’s promise to call off the Saint of Killers was shortlived, however, when Cassidy left town, and Jesse expressed his intention to keep using Genesis in the pursuit of God. After the threesome departed for New Orleans (the home of jazz and ever nearer to a past Tulip has no desire to revisit), Fiore welched on their deal and finally found peace in the barrel of the Saint of Killers’ gun. Props must go to Tom Brooke for his portrayal of the depressed angel. While Fiore and DeBlanc seemed like stooges at first glance, their relationship and vulnerability proved compelling and poignant, and the image of Fiore in stage garb, with a hole in his chest, and make-up enhancing his beatific expression and sad eyes, will stay with me for quite a while.

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“Mumbai Sky Tower” proved to be a strong second installment in an impressive opening double-whammy. As well as continuing the momentum set off by “On the Road”, and raising the stakes, this episode showed some real emotional depth to our three protagonists, and gave us a reason to invest in their dynamic. It remains to be seen how long Jesse and co. can keep evading the Cowboy now that he knows where they’re headed, and what rationale the show will provide for the Saint failing to catch them time and time again without detracting from his menace. It will also be interesting to see if Jesse’s behaviour changes now the preacher knows using Genesis acts as a signal for the Saint of Killers. Next stop, New Orleans!

Final Grade: B+

+ Brilliant, emotional performances from Gilgun, Ruth Negga, and Tom Brooke, to name a few.

+ As we’ve come to expect, these episodes were full of vibrant, trippy imagery. I especially loved the bullets raining down at the Cowboy’s feet as he reformed, and Cassidy and Fiore cavorting in the Indian themed bedroom.

+ I loved how we got to watch the fight between Cassidy and the bouncer at She She’s on the CCTV screen as a scene within a scene.

– I still think Cassidy and Tulip are far more compelling and sympathetic characters than Jesse.

– Really sad to see the back of Fiore although his death was tragically beautiful.

– There’s a risk of undermining the threat posed by the Saint of Killers if our trio continue to evade him by deus ex machina methods such as the truck crash. Unless it really is God’s intervention of course…

Extra Thought: With the angels dead, the only other surviving resident of Annville is Eugene Root. Jesse seemed keen to rescue him, but how can they extract him from Hell without angels?

What did you think? Was this double premiere pedal to the metal, or running on empty? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

 

 

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Katie Young

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