Season Two, Episode One — “On the Road”
By Jarrod Jones. Well, this was certainly a pleasant surprise. An hour of a television show named Preacher that looked and felt like the comic book from which it derives its core mission. It really makes you stop and wonder: was Season One all that necessary?
Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Sam Catlin seem willing to kick some dirt over their practice season. (Goldberg & Rogen directed this episode, while Catlin scripted.) One promising indicator of an uptick in quality was found in the first seconds of Preacher‘s premiere. “On the Road” tossed one of those screen-filling signs the show seems so enamored by in front of our eyes, a bold declaration of intent: “The Search For God: Day One”.
The Reverend Jesse Custer, flanked by his lethal would-be paramour Tulip and his hard-drinking Irish vampire bestie Cassidy, are found speeding down a lone stretch of highway, quibbling over the minutiae of conspiracy theories and the overall quality of Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On, Eileen”. (The initial consensus being that it’s “shite”.) If Season One went out of its way to avoid getting the proverbial show on the road, Season Two seems like it’s keen on getting a move-on. It also feels like it’s perfectly happy leaving its past in the rear view.
One telling moment is found three-quarters through the episode, where Tulip comes upon a crew of men at a strip club conspicuously eyeing the television instead of all the goods on display. What’s goin’ on? she asks one spectator, who responds, mouth agog, Hadn’t heard? Whole town blew up. And that’s all we get concerning the decimated town of Annville, Texas, former home of Jesse Custer and his doomed parishioners.
All we’re taking with us in this second season are the particulars. Jesse’s committed to putting his boot up the rear end of the Almighty, who is currently lamming it from Heaven. The good reverend’s armed with Genesis, the angel/demon hybrid entity that bestows upon him the Word of God (which means he can make anyone do what he wants just by suggesting it aloud). He has his friends and he don’t suffer fools.
Got all that? Season Two trusts that you know enough about Jesse Custer and his motley crew so as to avoid any navelgazing. That’s handy, considering Jesse has an aloof deity to find and a seven-foot tall grim reaper hot on his heels. (Graham McTavish returns as the Saint of Killers, bringing to mind chilling echoes of Anton Chigurh in some of the episode’s better moments.)
That gives Goldberg, Rogen and Catlin plenty of wiggle-room to have some fun. Preacher still indulges Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s legendary approach to violence (sequences where the Saint blasts a crew of Sheriff’s deputies into pulp gleefully evoke the comics’ earlier issues), though there does seem to be more restraint this time around.
That restraint provides the episode some truly thoughtful (and morbidly entertaining) sequences featuring character actors Glenn Morshower, as the ill-fated Preacher Mike, and Jeanette O’Connor as Tammy, the chain-smoking proprietor of strip club She She’s. It’s the latter sequence where Jesse and Tulip come up against a substantial hurdle — how often should they use Genesis to get what they want?
Tulip refers to the feeling of Genesis entering someone’s mind as a “smoky brain hand.” It’s mind invasion, she insists, though Jesse seems willing to work around that. Reverend Custer leans on Genesis a lot throughout the episode, though the moral consequences don’t reveal themselves here. Jesse uses The Word (are we calling it that?) and gets what he needs out of Tammy. It’s here where Preacher really hypes itself up.
Tammy admits that God has, in fact, frequented her establishment, and far more than once. (He’s a lover of jazz, as it turns out.) God’s come through often enough that He’s left quite the impression on poor Tammy. “He’ll turn his head and stare through you like glass,” she says in her final moments. “And you’ll feel so naked and terrified that you’ll shit yourself.” Well, then. Let’s start the insanity.
Jesse: “Can’t be that easy.” Mike: “No, son, I’m sure it won’t be.”
“Oof. You’re in trouble now.” – Cassidy to poor Dougie, who was only doing his job.
BEST MOMENT: I’ve been waiting for that moment of unbridled mad love from Jesse and Tulip, and “On the Road” delivered. Jesse breaks down a door to rekindle the fire he once shared with Tulip, and the foundations underneath did quake. One of the crucial plot points in Preacher is the romance between these two characters. This episode started them off on the right trajectory.
EPISODE’S MVP: As it should always be, the premiere episode of Preacher‘s second season was a group effort. Joe Gilgun’s Cassidy frequently stood out as Cassidy, but for the most part it seems the show has finally struck a solid balance in the depiction of its unholy trinity.
GONE TO TEXAS:
– This premiere comes with a dedication: “For Steve”. Preacher co-creator Steve Dillon passed away in October of last year.
– It seems Cassidy has no problem dispatching animals to regain his overall health, which is not without precedent — either on the show or the comics.
– Upon uttering the name L’Angelle, Jesse is seen framed in front of an aquarium where a treasure chest contained within opens its lid, the sound of chains and levers ominously playing in his head. I hope we can expect that to pay off later on.
– Jesse always refers to his father as his “daddy”. As it should be.
– Looks like Fiore has found himself gainful employment during his exile as “The Amazing Ganesh”, a magician performing at one of east Texas’ more discerning casinos. Good for him!
– Things to come: Arseface’s stretch in Hell (accompanied by Noah Taylor’s Adolph Hitler), Jesse’s reckoning with The Grail (led by Herr Starr, played by Pip Torrens), and the terrifying notion that the Saint doesn’t suffer Genesis none (as evinced by the promo video below).
8.5 out of 10
Next: “Mumbai Sky Tower”, soon.
Before: “Call and Response”, here.