Preach On: Season 1, Episode 8 – El Valero

We’re quickly running out of episodes for the first season of Preacher. No pun intended, but it’s been one hell of a ride so far. The way that the creators have infused this little West Texas town with true, vibrant life has been impressive, as has their willingness to play things with both deadly seriousness and dark humor has been refreshing. There have been a lot of plot threads bounced out for the audience to pick up on, and we’re seeing just exactly how tangled the ball bearing those threads is.

So how was this eighth episode approached? Well, it actually decided to focus a little bit more than previous episodes. Instead of bouncing from main character to main character, and important story to important story, it really honed it all down into two main threads. On one hand, we have Jesse Custer, and on the other we have Odin Quincannon. It all goes down in El Valero.

Preach0108b

Via AMC.

Instead of picking up the story right where we left off this week, the opening decided to give us a little more of a glimpse into events from the past once again. Remember when John Custer brought young Jesse to Odin Quincannon’s office, and we had that glimpse of Jesse peaking into the open door? Well, we now know exactly what was going on behind the door, with Odin screaming for John to denounce God in front of everyone. Turns out, Odin had lost his family in a tragic accident in Vail, and, while pursuing his point that no God could allow such a thing to happen, Odin also holds aloft intestines; one from his daughter, and one from a cow. He demands that John tell which one is which, then proceeds to declare “It’s all meat.” It’s a gruesome scene, and one that allows us to see what exactly was the event, or at least the final nail, that turned Odin away from any belief in what the Custers were selling.

When the story returns to the present day, it does pick up with Odin’s men about to make their raid on Jesse’s church. They didn’t take into account Jesse’s prowess in a fight, however, as he is able to summarily defeat and disarm a much larger group. He later is able to use precise shooting to defuse another group of Quincannon’s men. The scenes of Jesse successfully defending himself from each group of attackers showcase part of how scary Jesse actually is when cornered. We’re never given a glimpse of him relying on Genesis to turn away Quincannon’s men. Instead, it is his own abilities that save him time and again. In fact, the only time he does rely on the power, it ends up as a failed attempt, thanks to some dark cleverness on Donnie’s behalf.

Jesse also gets to show that he’s actually truly penitent regarding what he did to Eugene. After commanding the Eugene “come back”, Jesse hears a scratching from the place where he disappeared, and he pulls the younger man from the dirt. It isn’t until the two men have been hours deep into conversation, and Eugene lets slip about the “men in the motel” that Jesse realizes it isn’t Eugene at all, but merely a figment of his own imagination. Jesse’s guilt over what he has clearly done to Eugene is palpable, and it leads to him making a deal with Fiore and DeBlanc. True, Jesse still believes that there’s a chance that Genesis picked him for a reason, and this belief is seemingly reinforced by the two angels drawing Genesis out, only for the power to escape its coffee tin cage once again and return to Jesse. Now with access to Genesis again, and the knowledge that Hell can be escaped, clearly we’re going to see Jesse do something drastic in an attempt to bring Eugene back, while we also get to wait for Fiore and DeBlanc to utilize the “other option”.

Seeing this episode, with Jesse both highly competent and less-prideful allows us to empathize more with the character than we have over the last few weeks. Instead of him being so certain that he was doing the right thing, and following the will of God, we actually see a very human side of Jesse, and his willingness to try and set things right is a breath of fresh air. Of course, when dealing with Odin Quincannon, Jesse does have a bit of the old bravado slip back, but that could have stemmed from having to defend himself and his property for over a day, and feeling like Odin cheated him out of their deal. While Odin never lied, he did allow Jesse to mislead himself, and therefore Jesse promising to bring God to Annville is both a bit of the old hubris, and a reaction to everything he’s been through at Odin’s hands.

With so much of the episode focused on Jesse, it isn’t surprising that we don’t see a whole lot of the other main characters. In fact, we don’t see Cassidy at all, as we’re lead to believe that there’s a chance that Jesse did in fact let him burn in the sun. We follow Tulip briefly, as she first rescues a stray dog from a shelter, and through scenes of caring for Brewski before eventually leading him to a room and shutting the door behind. Farewell, Brewski, but welcome back, Cassidy. While we didn’t get to see much of her this week, we did see a bit of a softening of Tulip’s character, at least with regards to Cassidy, while her frustration towards Jesse grows. Previously, it seemed like Cassidy was simply a fling to her, and a way for her to get closer to her desired goals, with or without Jesse. However, after the way that Jesse abandoned the man who may be his only true friend, Tulip has taken on a caregiver role, and it’s clear how little she wants to serve Brewski up to the ailing vampire, despite knowing that it is exactly what’s needed to bring him back to health. Getting to see something of Tulip other than the 120% gung-ho attitude that has been displayed before is refreshing, and helps round her out.

Meanwhile, the rest of the episode deals with Odin Quincannon, his men, and their attempt to take Jesse’s church. Much of the raid is also where the episode drops in fair amounts of comedy. Whether it’s Odin promising his men a food court where the church once stood, Clyde having his manhood shot off, or Odin’s later suggestion to “drink water, I guess”, there’s a darkly funny thread running through this episode. There’s also a just plain dark one, either with Odin’s past, or with Donnie, who at first seems intent on ending his own life, but instead shows cleverness and a willingness to sacrifice. After all, if you can’t hear, you clearly can’t be affected by Jesse utilizing Genesis. Donnie is not going to end up the hero, even in Odin’s eyes, but the man needed a win to be perceived as anything that could be a threat to Jesse’s continued existence, so having him be the one to bring Jesse down will provide story payoff down the road. We also see glimpses of Miles and Emily, reminding us how they stand on different ideological bases concerning Odin’s continued land grabs, while also showcasing how, despite their intentions, the two are more reliant on each other than at least Emily would be happy to admit.

We’ve only got a couple of episodes left. Jesse is now with Sheriff Root, but has regained the use of Genesis after attempting to give it to the angels. We know that Eugene can be saved from Hell, although we don’t know how as of yet. The fallout between Jesse and his closest friends has to be reaching a boiling point. And, as for a boiling point, the episode showed us the mysterious gauges once again, complete with the pressure needle rising into the danger zone. Given how much of Preacher is set in their version of the real world, it seems highly unlikely that this location, while serving as a metaphor for what’s seemingly going on within Jesse regarding Genesis, isn’t going to be carrying consequences for the town of Annville in a much more pressing manner. All that, and a return to the Cowboy’s storyline, await us next week.

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