A change of pace this week, as we took time out to explore the sorry tale of how Tulip came to be married to gangster Viktor. Focusing on the aftermath of Dallas, when Jesse and Tulip were betrayed by Carlos and Tulip miscarried, this mid-season episode saw our troubled lovebirds trying to go straight. Tulip’s job as a real estate broker lasted all of three weeks, while Jesse’s drinking and pot smoking spiralled out of control, so it seemed fairly inevitable that an awkward dinner with their former employer would end with one of them being seduced back into a life of crime.
It was, however, surprising that Tulip was the one to cave. While Jesse dulled the banality of bar tending and sitting about the house all day with narcotics, Tulip seemed genuinely enthused about her prospects at the realtor’s, and about becoming a mother. But Jesse’s desire to be a good man is largely at odds with his short temper and violent tendencies, and Tulip is reasonably unapologetic about where her talents lie. If her return to the underworld was to be expected (if a little fast), her deliberate sabotage of their attempts to get pregnant came as more of a shock. In a clever montage, we saw the repetitive routine which the couple had fallen into, their lives drilled down to a loop of trying for a baby and dealing with the disappointment of not succeeding. These scenes closely mirrored the Hell memory cycles in terms of editing, but in a clever twist, the purgatorial horror Tulip was experiencing wasn’t the lack of a child, but rather the constant need to prevent Jesse impregnating her, and keeping her true occupation secret from him.
It’s interesting that past Tulip and Jesse also had a permanent third wheel in the form of Reggie, another friend of Jesse’s with an addictive personality and a knack of causing friction between the pair. The scene in which Jesse made Reggie stay to witness his argument with Tulip, badly beating him as a surrogate for the woman he really wanted to take his rage out on, was difficult to watch, especially within the context of what was happening with him and Cassidy in the present day.
Framing the backstory of how Tulip and Jesse’s ‘until the end of the world’ romance came to an end, was the scenario of Jesse deciding what to do with Viktor right after finding out he was Tulip’s husband. Initially intending to kill him, Jesse even used Genesis to force Tulip away from the torture room. She fled back to Dennis’ crumbling pile in the French Quarter with her erstwhile step-daughter in tow, and prevailed upon Cassidy to talk the padre out of doing something stupid.
All of our main characters got to hear some home truths over the course of “Dallas”, and all revealed themselves to be problematic in various ways. Jesse’s idea of himself as a decent man of God was undermined by his murderous anger, and his mistreatment of Tulip was called out by Viktor. Although Tulip made it clear that she never loved Viktor, the mobster hit the nail on the head when he pointed out Tulip married him simply because he was kind to her.
Cassidy too was forced to look inwards when Tulip told him she knew what his real motivation was (his infatuation with her) and he showed a sinister side when he told Jesse he’d support whatever decision he came to about Viktor, nudging him towards revenge, knowing full well that if Jesse killed her estranged husband, Tulip would never forgive him. Cassidy and Tulip both fell prey to Jesse’s manipulative abilities, and had crossed-wire conversations with him about their secrets. It wasn’t entirely clear whether Cassidy thinks Jesse has worked out that the vampire and Tulip slept together, but it certainly teased an explosive reveal somewhere down the line. Cassidy’s demons – addiction, greed, jealousy, selfishness – are mostly buried under humour and his apparent loyalty to his priest, but his true nature, like his thirst for blood, is quietly and ominously bubbling away under the jovial surface.
Jesse may have relented evetually, persuading Viktor to sign divorce papers instead of carving him up, but it was all for nothing when the Saint of Killers turned up and gunned him down anyway. Again, there was some ambiguity as to whether Jesse knew the Saint would follow in his wake and finish the job when he used the voice, but either way, the Saint now has an informant capable of leading him straight to Dennis’ door in the form of Viktor’s traumatised daughter, something Jesse won’t have intended.
After a strong start to the season, this episode didn’t have the momentum which Preacher needs to fully succeed. I can see the value in strengthening the emotional investment we have in the pivotal characters, but I’m not convinced we needed an entire episode to do that. The stakes seemed high when we thought Tulip was in danger, but that all turned out to be bluster, and the threat of Viktor’s death didn’t really hold any terror as he’d only just been introduced, and was an archetypal rich mobster. Essentially, Preacher’s weaknesses are highlighted when you take away the wisecracks and spectacular fights, and so this was never going to be the strongest of episodes. But it did fill in some gaps and gave us a deeper understanding of the central pairing.
Final Grade: C-
+ Ruth Negga knocked it out of the park and made Tulip sympathetic while retaining her myriad flaws.
+ Fans of the comics will have enjoyed the nod to John Wayne.
+ Cassidy’s foreskin conspiracy theory lives on!
– The dialogue felt a tad laboured this week, a shame as there was a lot of opportunity for heart-wrenching.
– The pacing was odd, with Jesse bent on torturing Viktor, but then not really taking action. The day to night time lapse suggests he deliberated all day before cutting his captive down.
– Given how driven Jesse was by his misson to find God last week, it seemed a little strange to take such a long detour without referencing that story line at all.
Extra Thought: I’m still so conflicted about how we’re supposed to view Jesse. While he seems to aspire to be like his father, his behaviour week on week is so erratic that it’s impossible to get a hold on the character.
What did you think? Did you enjoy the trip down memory lane, or was it a dead end? Let us know in the comments, or over on Twitter!