All good things have to slow down eventually. That’s exactly how this particular episode of Preacher feels, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pacing is incredibly important, especially in a world where so much television is consumed not weekly, but in one long, drawn-out binge. After kicking off the season with three episodes that moved set pieces around fairly quickly, it’s important to take some time to ruminate about what we’ve learned. Even better, Preacher is able to feed us new information, and keep a sense of progress to the moments. Sure, ultimately everyone is still somewhat stagnant from where things ended after “Damsels”, but that doesn’t mean we were served up an empty episode, with no meaning, no growth, or no movement.
Also, you really have to hand it to Preacher for the insertion of one particular character into Hell. Yes, I’m talking about Hitler. And no, I am in no way defending the actual man, and I don’t think for a moment that Preacher is doing that, either. They are, however, making a fictional version of him, laced with some truths but, shockingly, turning him into a somewhat sympathetic being. With as messed up as Jesse Custer’s world is, maybe it’s actually fitting that one of the most evil men in history is being recreated as a meek, sorrowful, and kind everyman. The treatment of Hitler actually helps underscore just how terrible the world of Preacher actually is, while also reminding us that there are clearly darker corners everywhere. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s check in on “Viktor”.
The opening of this week’s episode once again picks up just where we left off after last week. Tulip is back in the laundromat, surrounded by Viktor’s men, before being taken back to his mansion. Jesse finally makes it Denis’s apartment, where Cassidy tries, if only barely, to express concern about Tulip’s whereabouts. After a night on the town, however, the only thing plucking at the back of Jesse’s brain is the need for sleep. Just before the opening credits roll, we see that Cassidy has texted Tulip, asking if she’s ok, only for her response to be interrupted by Viktor’s entry into his office. After all, Tulip is a problem for him, and he wants her to figure out how to solve it.
We’ve been seeing throughout this season just how single-minded Jesse really can be. His attempt to find God is yielding fruit, albeit only in small bites, but it’s clearly enough to keep him going. Throughout the episode, he bats away any of Cassidy’s concerns about Tulip, even going so far as to declare that worrying about Tulip is a fool’s errand. Jesse is going to find out the truth about God’s disappearance no matter what, and his chase leads him to the Teddy Gunt talent agency. Turns out the FakeGod that Jesse had met in the church had been a local actor represented by Mr. Gunt, and Jesse drew himself one step closer to meeting the hard-to-track down Mark Harelik. Thanks to some quick thinking by Cassidy, we all get to watch Harelik’s audition tape, and watch Jesse’s wheels turn trying to decipher another small clue. It isn’t until Cassidy finally snaps, telling Jesse exactly what Tulip told him not to, before the preacher springs into action. He storms Viktor’s mansion, using Genesis liberally throughout the house before finally running afoul of Pat, Viktor’s main torture goon. In a brilliantly scripted move, Jesse is forced to actually fight Pat off, instead of falling back on Genesis, because a little Billy Joel goes an awfully long way. Eventually, Jesse does make it to Viktor, which allows Tulip to drop her bombshell on Jesse. By pacing this episode in such a way, we get to see Jesse at his absolute most self-centered. Brushing off Cassidy’s concerns because Tulip is just “mad somewhere”, due to you two having a fight, shows Jesse’s flaws when dealing with others. When the episode flips the script and has Jesse storming to Tulip’s defense, it’s actually refreshing that he’s both so completely dedicated to her protection, and so completely wrong about everything he’s doing. Tulip may not need saving, but it took Jesse an awfully long time to realize she might be looking for a little help.
As for Tulip’s story, this entire episode is a personal one for her. The reveal about her relationship with Viktor was ultimately somewhat predictable, but this show hasn’t allowed Tulip to delve into actual fear too often, nor have we seen her forced to really deal with the negative side of her previous actions. Peppered throughout this episode, we see Tulip truly scared that she may have run out her clock, and later we see her trying to reach out to those she left and disappointed, only to have her advances rebuffed. It’s also fitting that her exchange with Ellie is the one laced with the most vehemence, especially in light of her relationship with Viktor. Ruth Negga handles all of these conflicting, yet quieter, emotions well, and proves more than capable stepping back into the ass-kicking role that we’ve known of Tulip since day one. She continues to shine, and showing Tulip as being vulnerable, not so much to fists and bullets, but to words and feelings, helps bring out another dimension in this character, which only bodes well for the future.
Stuck between the two, as seems to be his fate at least for the rest of this season, is Joseph Gilgun’s Cassidy. Once again, Cassidy is trying to act as the voice of reason, but he also shows a remarkably quick wit, and shrewd attention to detail. Gloss over how he keeps shrugging off Denis’s obvious disdain, Cassidy is the one to notice FakeGod in the Katrina infomercial (also starring Frankie Muniz!), and he concocts the crazy Game of Thrones cover story allowing Jesse to get his hands on Harelik’s audition tape. Throughout it all, though, the whereabouts Cassidy is trying to get Jesse to learn about are not God’s, but Tulip’s. Every instance of Cassidy helping Jesse along is to try to grease the wheels enough so that the preacher can take his foot off the gas, and realize that one of the passengers is missing. Of course, Cassidy taking the subtle route on this one doesn’t pay off too well, and Jesse is about to try and track down whoever filmed the audition tape before Cassidy finally lets slip about Viktor. Clearly he’s been concerned about Tulip for a while, and he’s trying to get Jesse to share that concern. As to why it at least appears that he didn’t follow, there are a few reasons that make sense. First off, it’s still day, and walking around New Orleans covered head-to-toe is likely to draw some attention. Secondly, it’s entirely possible that things with Denis are starting to come to a head. But third, and, in my opinion, more likely, as much as Cassidy wants to know Tulip is safe, he also doesn’t want to face her wrath when she discovers he told Jesse where she went. He may be able to delay this for a bit, but it shows how deeply Cassidy cares for his companions.
Oh, but that’s far from all that this episode provided us. Take away Jesse’s search, Tulip’s encounters with her husband and his men, and Cassidy trying to balance everything between them, and you’re left with one large piece of the puzzle. That piece is Eugene’s experiences in Hell, and his interactions with Hitler. It’s very telling that Hitler is far and away the kindest person Eugene encounters in Hell. Even Superintendent Mannering, who seems to know that Eugene doesn’t belong there, doesn’t really try to help Eugene out, except to warn him that he is in Hell, and should “act accordingly”. Leave it to Hitler to be the one person willing to extend a kindness to Eugene, even sharing his personal Hell when Eugene gets locked out, to spare him punishment. Of course, by the end of the episode, Eugene’s need to fit in somehow leads to him joining his fellow Hellmates in delivering a beating to Hitler, which serves to make this evil character that much more sympathetic. Meanwhile, we see Tyler doing largely what he probably did in his day-to-day life, before finding his way to Hell. His bullying of a smaller man just because he is able are partially intended to bring a rise out of Hitler, but it’s also a way for him to assert his dominance over the Hellblock. These scenes certainly paint a picture, and fill in some information while allowing our own knowledge to color it all, but they also pose interesting questions. What else is involved in Hitler’s worst day, and is it what truly set him on the path towards the Hitler we all know from history? Has the man reformed, due to having to relive that one moment so many times over and over again? Is this experience changing Eugene, taking away his innocence and turning him into a colder version of himself, or is this all still tied to his almost pathological need for someone, anyone, to accept him? Obviously, not everything can be given away, and Preacher has proven to be somewhat adept at both fulfilling and subverting expectations at the same time, so it remains to be seen how, or even if, these questions will be resolved soon.
All told, there wasn’t an awful lot happening in “Viktor”, and that’s okay. The story was moved forward, maybe incrementally, but still forward. Seeing the subplot with Eugene has reminded us even more of his personal stakes, and the consequences of Jesse casually slipping Genesis free of its leash. As for Genesis itself, the fact that the Saint of Killers is approaching New Orleans means that we probably won’t have time for a quieter, more introspective (at least, by Preacher standards) episode in the near future. It’s time to buckle up, all over again. Looks like we’re just about ready to return to a bumpy ride. We certainly can’t look at a Foosball table the same way again.