Preach On: Season 1, Episode 4 – Monster Swamp

On Father’s Day, AMC gave us a rousing Preacher episode, one packed with plenty of different storylines all moving forward piece by piece. While not all of the disparate stories worked smoothly, those that did really felt like they were a greater part of the whole. Four episodes into the series, and we’re starting to get a better idea of how the characters of Preacher really do fit together, and we’re seeing deeper motivations start to bubble to the surface.

This was also an episode where the main trio was moved incrementally closer, as we all know they have to be. Without a strong bond between Cassidy, Tulip, and Jesse, Preacher is bound to fail, but the show is making sure to take steps to draw them into an intricate web. While the show is working to pull our trio together, it’s also throwing a bunch of sheer craziness at the wall, seeing what sticks. We know one of the threats that is out there for Jesse, with hints of others filtering through. This continual forward movement is propelling us towards an epic confrontation, and there are enough threads being spun that there is no way they can all be tied up in one short season. It’s a veritable Monster Swamp out there, and we’re all just playing paintball in it.

Preach0104b

Via AMC.

This week’s episode, much like each episode before, began with a seemingly disconnected story playing out before our eyes. In the pilot, we saw the entity currently cozied up inside of Jesse first coming to Earth. The second episode showed us a glimpse into the past, and the cowboy. Episode three featured the man in the white suit, and Grail Industries. So the fourth episode, which opened with a horror-movie scenario, just continued what we’ve already come to somewhat expect. It was a surreal scene, with Linus’s school bus driving past a few times, and a strange person in a mascot costume strolling down the street. We’re following Lacey, one of the town’s prostitutes, as she appears to be running for her life, and encountering other women also on the run. Lacey’s presence confirms that it’s modern day, and the entire horror scenario ends with her being shot with a paintball gun. She starts to complain about the paint, but immediately plummets into a sinkhole. Without skipping a beat, the opening credits roll.

After having gone through a bit of a crisis of faith in the last episode, this one shows Jesse clearly determined to rebuild his congregation. He has flashbacks throughout the episode to different experiences with his father, all of which shaped him to being the man that he is. From the responses to sermons, to the failed interaction with Quincannon, Jesse’s father clearly had a shaping hand, and Jesse wants to live up to, and surpass, that particular legacy. To this end, he has struck upon a tactic to bring the town to church, first through a raffle, and then though a public exhibition. Jesse seems bound and determined to make his church full again, and the fact that he taps into his Voice to ensure that means that he isn’t necessarily going to play by the rules. Of course, Jesse believes that his gift is directly from the God that he chastises the people of Annville for turning away from, so he clearly believes that he is doing the right thing.

Tulip’s story has her gathered with the prostitutes of the town, at the Toadvine Whorehouse, first during a quick speech from Odin Quincannon, and then during a small memorial service for Lacey. While we actually saw Jesse’s past, we instead had Tulip’s relayed to us, giving us a reason for her spending time at Toadvine. Tulip’s temper was underscored, not that it really needed to be. The nighttime paintball games, and the bland response to it, sent her off, and she ended up lashing out at a man she thought was Clive, the one who had been specifically chasing Lacey. Of course, that would have been too easy, and instead of killing Clive, she merely wounds Cassidy, and then panics, bringing him to the hospital. It shows that Tulip, while she can get caught up in her own anger too easily, she is also someone who can regret her actions when the wrong person gets caught in the crossfire. Also, Tulip and Cassidy are now more intricately connected, which means that the main three are much closer to working together more explicitly.

As for the Irish vampire, there was a bit of a hint last week that Cassidy might throw Jesse under a bus, with regards to Fiore and DeBlanc, especially knowing that they weren’t vampire hunters. Instead, Cassidy is clearly trying to play these two like a couple of well-tuned fiddles, as he first takes up their time to warn Jesse (to no avail), and then gets himself well-paid, in order to bury himself in drugs and prostitutes. Cassidy warning Jesse shows his true character, and it’s actually too bad that he was dealing both with a man starting to fall to his own hubris, and the barrier of his own manner of speech. Cassidy doesn’t fall on the drug angle until he realizes that he might not be able to convince Jesse satisfactorily, and it’s pure escapism for him. This is exactly what leads to his encounter with Tulip, and the injuries she inflicts on him lead to him indirectly admitting his vampiric nature to her. Another wall separating the leads has been torn down.

But, as mentioned above, this episode featured a lot of side stories being carried forward. Fiore and DeBlanc showed that they’re even less likely to be convincing than Cassidy himself, but they’re also terrified that Heaven will find out where they are, and why. It seems as though Preacher is hinting that the reason Jesse’s entity was out was due to these two, and their Heavenphone ringing at the end of the episode only reinforces that notion. We get to learn a little more about Odin Quincannon, too, and his awkward speech warning everyone to be careful underscores just how disconnected he is from the world around him. The man is power-hungry, however, and Jesse’s little bet to get him into the church was exactly the kind of thing that Odin wouldn’t be able to refuse, even if it did lead to him being a specific puppet in Jesse’s play. And what about Emily, Jesse’s assistant? Well, her desire for Jesse was certainly underscored during the exchange about the raffle, which wasn’t a big revelation (although Jesse’s willingness to use it to his advantage shows a certain lack of empathy on his part). However, her exchange with Miles, the mayor of Annville, shows that maybe she isn’t just hanging on the hope that the preacher will come around. Sure, she may have told Miles that they’ll never actually be together, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t willing to have a little companionship once in a while.

Four episodes down, and we’re getting a better understanding of the world of Annville as a whole, and how everyone fits into it. The “lesser” characters are growing in their own rights, and our big three is moving towards working as one unit. The show is also continuing to balance a certain level of dark humor with the more serious aspects of the story. Cassidy’s exchange with Fiore and DeBlanc was pitch perfect, as none of the men really understood the other side, but Odin Quincannon’s gentle cajoling, in front of the recovered body, really was the strongest visual for the sheer oddness of this world. And ending the episode with Odin being compelled to “serve God”? Jesse is clearly tapping into his memories of his father’s failed time at QM&P, but giving a man of Odin’s mental state such a vague command can only end up blowing up in the faces of everyone in Annville, and we’ll get to sit back and see it happen.

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