Season Two, Episode Three — “Damsels”
By Jarrod Jones. Preacher took a moment this week to pop in on Arseface.
He’s still in Hell, the very place Jesse Custer sent him last season, reliving the horrifying moments that turned meek, cherubic Eugene Root into the pitiable character we know today. (Y’know, into the dude with a face like a bum.) We got a peek at how adorable Ian Coletti is underneath all that puckered makeup during this flashback sequence, which featured doomed Tracy Loach in her final moments before Eugene’s alleged botched murder-suicide took place.
It turns out that squishy-eyed Eugene could scarcely swat a fly let alone blast Tracy into a coma. It was her doing all along, the coma bit anyway; a suicide attempt gone haywire thanks to Eugene’s feeble attempt at stopping that double-barreled shotgun from sending Tracy to Heaven. (Tracy, who had tasted quite a bit of forbidden fruit before this day, was banking that certain, erm, loopholes would grant her access through the Pearly Gates.)
Trapped in a locked bedroom on a beautiful afternoon with a dying girl’s blood splattered all over the place, Eugene panicked. And in his panic, after attempting to “fix” Tracy by scooping her brains back into her skull (because Preacher is that kind of show), Eugene decided to pick up the shotgun and blast himself straight to Hell.
He got there, eventually, but not that day. So it was that Arseface lived in his own personal Hell ever since, scarred, hated by every person in Annville, despised by Reverend Custer, and ultimately punished for the crime of caring too much. (You’ll recall that Jesse only sent Eugene to Hell because Jesse had brainwashed all of Annville and ‘Gene was calling him out on it. Jesse sucks on this show.) In a world like this, love comes with penalties — unless you’re armed with the Word of God, of course.
Eugene told Jesse Hell was crowded last season, or maybe Jesse just dreamed that in a fit of guilt. Either way the Hell we ultimately discovered in Preacher was an Orwellian labyrinth so empty that Arseface ended up bumping into Adolf Hitler of all people. He’s played by Noah Taylor, so this turn of events still has a chance to be amusing.
The episode moved on to our Trinity, seen zipping their way towards New Orleans. For Tulip, her former life as an assassin came rushing closer and closer with every stretch of highway (Jesse noted that the typically lead-footed Tulip was driving just under the speed limit). In New Orleans, Tulip found herself stuck in the one spot in the wide world where her pissed-off boss could find her with a minimum of fuss. Maybe if Tulip had told Jesse about that little scrape at the casino last week, she might have felt a bit more prepared. Secrets seem to be the only way this show can compound any substantial drama.
But New Orleans was where God was hiding, maybe, digging on the jazz he seems to love so very much. And Tulip has to support Jesse, who felt as though they were closing in on the Almighty.
They weren’t, or at least, not really. Ater an extended sequence of Jesse loafing through New Orleans like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, we finally came across Julie Ann Emery’s Lara Featherstone, acting incognito as a fading lounge singer.
In secret Lara’s an agent for The Grail, a “super-secret crypto-religious fascist organization with designs on total world domination,” she tells Jesse later on, because it’s important to be specific when you’re shooting through 75 issues worth of material as fast as you can. Put a pin in The Grail for now; Pip Torrens made his debut as Grail leader Herr Starr this week, but that turned out to be just a silent cameo. Next week, perhaps.
Lara’s name in the comics is actually Sarah, though I’m sure there’s a good reason why the show changed it. Then again, maybe there isn’t! You can never know for sure.
Cassidy found himself tucked away in the episode, a development that annoyed him just as much as it did the viewer. “You’re treating me like the idiot Irish sidekick,” Cass told Tulip this week, though his protestations didn’t reap any benefits for the character. Tulip left Cassidy in the lurch with a Frenchman named Denis and old Three Stooges reruns.
Speaking of Dennis, er, Denis — he didn’t seem happy to see Cassidy, which could be a hint towards the vampire’s notorious history with drug abuse and wanton abandon. Instead of getting to the bottom of that, the episode simply put Denis to sleep in an armchair while Tulip and Cass waited for Jesse to come home. Juggling three characters is not one of Preacher‘s stronger suits.
For an episode that pushed the season’s narrative forward, “Damsels” felt largely inconsequential. That may have had to do with how lazy everything looked. Directed by Michael Slovis (who helmed two episodes from last season), the episode’s big moments stalled onscreen before they ever had a chance to dazzle us. Featherstone’s lounge singer sequence was shot head-on without an ounce of atmosphere — it’s plain to see Julie Ann Emery was simply mouthing the words to her song (silhouettes and shadow might have salvaged that one).
There was a fight sequence, one of those showy single-take jobs that turned out to be kind of a mess. Shot from two angles and sped up in fleeting bursts to maximize the brutality of Jesse’s blows, the stunt extras could be seen in full shot pausing long enough for our hero to put the finishing touches on them. I know we need to establish that Jesse can clear a room of shitheads should the need arise, but yeesh.
Jesse even got into a little bar scrape too, only it didn’t come about because somebody had it coming (as it often did in the Vertigo series). “The joke about the preacher walking into a bar… that’s him!” a liquored-up patron guffawed to his beaded girlfriend. “Preacher looking for God! That’s a joke!” he chortled just before Jesse silenced him. The delivery of the scene landed just like that bong-shaped glass did across the drunk dude’s face: abruptly, and on the nose.
The most well-realized moment of “Damsels”, stupidly enough, came when Jesse’s quest for God lead our heroes down the seedier parts of New Orleans, through back alleys, basements, and dimly-lit hallways. Since this is Preacher, their journey ended in front of a grown man dressed in a Dalmatian bodysuit and mask, leashed by a woman and guarded by an old man at the ready with a thorned dildo and a tennis ball. This is Preacher‘s idea of innovation. God help us.
“That’s diff’rint.” – Cass, when they get to “God”.
BEST MOMENT: When Julie Ann Emery finally pulls off that fright wig and reveals herself as Featherstone, attaché to Herr Starr. (She’s sitting next to Hoover, a character I really hope Preacher gets right.)
EPISODE’S MVP: Um, let’s give it to Eugene this week? Cass all but disappeared into the scenery (a crime unto itself), Tulip had to wait out the clock to take control of her fate (in the episode’s final moments), and sweet Moses is Dominic Cooper sleeping through this show or what.
GONE TO TEXAS:
– We got to see Arseface’s face in the comics before he… well, before he became Arseface, in Preacher Special #1: The Story of You-Know-Who, released in 1996. Instead of what we saw this week, the boy known only as A-Face had killed himself to emulate his fallen idol, Kurt Cobain.
– The added grafitti to the “You Are Now Leaving Texas” sign (“Your Loss Dipshit”) is lifted directly from the last page of Preacher #7.
– The name of the jazz compilation Jesse picked up as a primer for New Orleans is named 14 Best Songs No One’s Ever Heard Of.
– Another allusion towards the L’angelle family: Jesse doesn’t like the swamps because “it’s a family thing”. Then we see a poster for Angelville, which is apparently a sideshow now. Makes sense. (It doesn’t make sense.)
– According to Preacher, there are 187 jazz clubs in New Orleans. “187” is also the police code for homicide.
– “New Orleans” is the big, screen-filling sign this week, just barely obscuring a big ol’ booty covered by pink hot pants that blast “French Quarter” across both cheeks.
– Tulip’s keeping her mercenary problems from Jesse, which is a progressive twist. (In Ennis & Dillon’s yarn, Jesse often left Tulip in the dark — or more often in the dust — whenever there was a private war that needed fighting.)
– We heard Jesse & Tulip’s catchphrase, “Until the end of the world” this week, only it’s thrown in just to iron out a spat.
– Since Jesse used The Word this week — twice! — does this mean that The Saint of Killers is gonna massacre all of New Orleans next week?
– “Pig”. What is the significance of the codeword we read from the file sitting on Herr Starr’s desk? It’s the title of this season’s seventh episode, so it’s probably important.
6 out of 10
Next: “Viktor”, in one week.
Before: “Mumbai Sky Tower”, here.