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Review: Preacher 2×11 “Backdoors”

Written by Katie Young

Could plum cake – or a lack thereof – have been to blame for World War II? It’s an interesting theory, and certainly no crazier than anything else posited by Preacher this year. Yes, Eugene finally got to see the end of Hitler’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and it transpired that a potent combination of rejection, humiliation, and cake deprivation were at the root of this particular evil.

Eugene got a fair bit of screen time this week, telling Tyler that being discovered as the interloper would not result in escape from Hell, but rather an even worse punishment. It was an interesting move to show Hitler’s mask slipping, revealing something of the spittle-mouthed, ranting, tyrant he was in life, especially on the heels of a somewhat overlong scene of his mistreatment at the hands of a homosexual art dealer, a mob of communists, and a Jewish fan of baked goods. His continued loyalty to Eugene remains an enigma, and while re-framing one of the world’s most despicable despots as a sympathetic character, a man driven to distraction by mistreatment, seems a bold move, it’s not an entirely unexpected one. After all, Jesus is now a covert shagger, and his descendant an inbred man-child.

Back on terra firma, Jesse and Tulip watched as the truck containing the Saint of Killers was dragged out of the swamp. Tulip was understandably furious that Jesse had lied about sending the cowboy back to Hell, and even more so when it was revealed he was no longer incarcerated in the vehicle. Jesse’s story about his conscience not allowing him to send his would-be killer back to Hell didn’t ring true, especially in light of the opening flashbacks we saw to Jesse’s childhood in Angelville. Following his father’s death, Jesse spent long periods under the swamp himself, locked in a casket by his grandmother and forced to ponder his ‘sins’, so by inflicting his own private Hell on The Saint, he was not only being far from merciful, but perhaps somehow punishing himself or exorcising those demons, given that the cowboy now shares a little piece of his soul.

Seeing the abuse of Young Jesse should have garnered more empathy for the grown-up version than it did. We know that Custer believes he caused his father’s death by praying for it, and that his guilt was compounded by being forced to thank God for delivering him into his grandmother’s hands. But his attitude towards Tulip and Cassidy continues to paint him as arrogant and selfish. At least they both called him out on it this week, voicing their anger when Jesse suggested they go on holiday before dashing their hopes to continue his search for God.

It’s not really clear why Jesse is so desperate to find God either. His epiphany about God having been the weird dog-masked kink-meister they met on arrival in New Orleans (called it!) was clearly going to be too little too late, another in a long list of missed clues and opportunities, and that’s part of the problem. Although Herr Starr is pinning his hopes on the preacher replacing the ‘idiot’ bloodline of Christ, Jesse really isn’t very smart! Tulip questioning why her and Cassidy had done the things they had for Jesse got me nodding vigorously because that’s been my issue with Preacher from the start. I just don’t see how this cold, self-entitled, fairly stupid man inspires so much loyalty.

Herr Starr seemed to have lost some of his bite this week, insisting The Grail pursue Jesse and the ‘gift’ of Genesis as a Messiah reboot, despite Featherstone’s eagerness to just off him. Starr’s plan to win Jesse round by playing the preacher a recording of every prayer he’d ever uttered since childhood backfired spectacularly, resulting in the tapes ending up where the sun don’t shine. While this may have raised many a smirk in an episode aptly entitled “Backdoors”, Herr Starr’s menace has been somewhat mitigated by all the anal shenanigans in recent weeks. Where Hitler demonstrates flashes of unhinged malice despite his perceived weakness, Herr Starr is in danger of becoming the punchline in a series of butt jokes.

The Grail worked to separate Jesse from his pack, with Featherstone courting Tulip’s friendship as she tried in vain to destroy the Saint’s weapons, and dripping poison into Tulip’s ear with regards to Jesse’s trustworthiness. To be honest though, Jesse is doing a bang up job of alienating his girlfriend without The Grail’s input. The organisation had some additional inadvertent help from vampire Denis, who encouraged Cassidy to be the predator that his nature dictates and take Tulip for his own. Surely it can’t be long before Cassidy realises he has literally created a monster, and must face the consequences?

With just two episodes left of this season, Preacher is still struggling with pacing issues. I think perhaps sticking with the ten episode format would have made for a tighter, leaner season. This episode felt like a slog, even though quite a lot happened – an attempted jailbreak from Hell, the Saint of Killers back on the loose, the reveal that his weapons are indestructible, and Jesse’s realisation that he’s already looked God straight in His pervy eyes. Eugene’s story seems far removed from what’s happening topside, and Cassidy had pretty much nothing to do this week. Dominic Cooper has hinted at a brutal season finale, so let’s hope Preacher can get back on track, weave some plot lines together, and finish with a bang.

Final Grade: C-

+ The flashbacks to Jesse being brought up from the swamp in his makeshift coffin were genuinely harrowing.

+ Good to see Tulip finally calling Jesse out on his selfishness.

+ Julie Ann Emery is quietly stealing the show each week with her quietly unbalanced version of Featherstone.

– Am I the only one scared for Denis’ poor pooch??

– Something felt distinctly off in terms of reactions to huge events. For example, Tulip’s PTSD flashbacks have dominated the last few weeks, so you would have expected her to kick off and panic a lot more at the prospect of the Saint being unleashed. She seemed to take Jesse’s assertion that the cowboy was only after him at face value, so why all the sleepless nights if Tulip knows the assassin is not a threat to her?

– I’m perplexed by the lack of characters in Hell. Surely there’s no environment more ripe for populating with weird and wonderful deviants, and yet aside from Eugene and Hitler, we only ever hear from a random jock rapist called Tyler…

What did you think? A plum episode, or a load of arse? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!

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Katie Young

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