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Review: Preacher 2×09 “Puzzle Piece”

Written by Katie Young

This season started off on the road, but since our troublesome trio have been holed up in Denis’ crumbling New Orleans pad, it feels like Preacher has been spinning its wheels somewhat. “Puzzle Piece” really highlighted this, doing little to drive the plot forward, although there were enough flashes of brilliance to make it a thoroughly entertaining episode.

My issues with Jesse as a main character have been well documented, and the opening flashback to his childhood on the night of his father’s murder gave me hope for a bit of insight into his motivation. Alas, just as my empathy was piqued, our preacher was back to being a grade-A dick, failing to ask after Cassidy’s terminally ill son because he was busy searching YouTube for God, and using Genesis to put Tulip to sleep against her wishes.

Speaking of Denis, he had perked right up, as it happens. Well, an injection of vampiric blood will do that to you. Yes, Cassidy succumbed to guilt over being a deadbeat dad and gave the old man what he craved. But will Denis’ fledgling bloodsucker wantonness come back to bite his father on the arse? You bet. It proved quite handy this week though, refusals to turn down his Edith Piaf records aside…

The Grail turned their attentions to Jesse in a big way this week, with not one, but two large set-piece attacks. The first was arguably the most exciting and inventive, deploying another horror movie trope – night vision goggles! We got to witness the failed assassination via the POV of one of the Grail operatives, all murky green and reflective eyes, and largely silent due to the protective headphones worn to prevent Jesse using The Voice. Until the preacher managed to wrestle them off our man, we had none of the usual aural indicators that something was about to happen, and this made the lightning quick vampires genuinely frightening.

In the later incident, where Jesse and co. were waiting for an imminent strike on the flat, there was too much noise coming from Denis’ music for them to be able to hear each other or the anticipated intruders, and this sensory overload effectively created a sense of panic just as disarming as the eerie silence. Of course, what the gang didn’t realise, was that the second assault was not coming in the form of a person. Instead, the mysterious ‘Brad’, engaged at Lara Featherstone’s suggestion, was a state of the art missile, headed straight for the apartment block. There was some nice misdirection though, as a trigger happy and sleep deprived Tulip shot the man who’d come to clean up the first massacre in a fit of paranoia, and a huge man in a horrid mask lumbered towards the police cars on watch outside the apartment. He turned out to be a harmless drunk with a full bladder, but he gave me goosebumps!

It’s not entirely clear why Herr Starr called off the strike at the last minute. His rather astute comment about a woman obeying a man not being proof of any kind of supernatural occurrence was swiftly followed by an odd and protracted scene in which he went on a date with the Louisiana governor’s daughter and, after hearing about how an act of kindness towards a disadvantaged child was her life’s ‘missing puzzle piece’, humiliated her by asking her to strip and hold a stick of butter under her chin. After being called away to hear that the attempt on Jesse’s life had failed, Herr Starr was set to terminate Hoover and Featherstone, but was persuaded to change tact, and asked Lara to arrange some prostitutes to indulge him in a ‘rape fantasy’.

I’m not sure what purpose this served. We know Herr Starr has sadistic tendencies already. We know that he harbours the kind of deep rooted ennui that would make Jean des Esseintes seem positively cheery by comparison. We know he’s cold and utterly ruthless. So did Lara’s misinterpretation of his request serve as anything more than an off-colour joke? Starr seemed to have his epiphany about Jesse being his missing puzzle piece in the midst of being gang-banged by a trio of male prostitutes, but unless the oft repeated ‘no means yes’ has some relevance further down the line, it seems like we’re simply being asked to laugh at the fact Starr is so indifferent to most things that even being non-consensually fucked can’t distract him from his work.

The meeting of Jesse and Starr was clearly intended to draw parallels between the two men. Both are obsessed with their own personal missions, but Starr’s offer to help Jesse in his clearly isn’t an altruistic one. It will be interesting to watch what plans Starr has for the preacher, and how he plays out as the main antagonist (in the absence of the Saint of Killers) now he’s not simply sending in suicide squads to try and take Jesse out.

Final Grade: C

+ The ‘Do you like cats?’ pop-up was probably my favourite thing in this episode.

+ The celebrity deaths continue with poor Harry Connick Jr. on the receiving end of Brad.

+ Cassidy’s parenting leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s very sweet to watch.

– Tulip is a smart cookie, so why isn’t she asking more questions about why her new friend ‘Jenny’ isn’t asking more questions!? Or even warning her about the impending attack?

– Jesse’s blasé use of Genesis getting creepy and making him less sympathetic every week.

– While there was a lot to enjoy here, in terms of the narrative arc, we could have skipped this episode and it wouldn’t have made a huge difference to the season. Mostly it showed us things we already knew.

Extra Thought: Jesse’s file contained a leaflet about Angelville – a callback to the place he was raised. I am desperately hoping we get to see some of his experiences there, which would go a long way to making him a more sympathetic character if the show is going to follow the source material in this respect.

What did you think? Did this episode complete you, or leave you puzzled? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter!

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Katie Young

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