It’s so nice when a serialized television program can take time out of their own story to spend an entire episode paying homage to possibly the greatest moment in the cinematic career of Shia LeBeouf. The way that a treasure hunt is buried under the veil of a detention center is truly profound, and not many shows would be able to tie a similar sequence of events in so closely. The cameos from Tim Blake Nelson and Sigourney Weaver really helped– wait a minute. That isn’t at ALL what happened in Preacher this week. Oh, the perils of things being named in a similar fashion, and making early assumptions about what is going to be contained.
No, the “Holes” that Preacher dealt with were somehow both more physical, and more metaphysical, in nature. The episode was all about holes, whether they were in need of patching, simply glaring openings, or new gaps created. It was an episode that further showed the divide currently existing between our three main characters, creating opportunities for other, potentially nefarious influences to exert some control. It was also a chance to add some greater illumination for all of the characters, especially how they dealt with the holes in their lives this episode worked through. Some were self-imposed, some were thrust upon them by others, but all of these missing pieces add up to a precarious whole, especially moving forward.
There was an awful lot packed into this week’s episode, and there was some serious deftness displayed in transitioning from character to character. We were reminded up front about Eugene’s predicament, and see how he’s been trying to modify his own behaviors to fit in with the rest of the prisoners in Hell. We were also reminded about Mannering’s words regarding being “nice”, and the consequences of that particular course. Eugene needs to hide his true nature, lest he find himself a target for the other inmates. It’s a hole in his self that Eugene is trying to create, but, as later scenes show, he isn’t always successful. When Eugene learns that Hell knows one of the inmates doesn’t belong, he almost admits the truth, but defers, a motion not unnoticed by Hitler. In a continued defying of expectations, Hitler is the nicest person in Hell, and he actually wants to help Eugene out. At least, that is what is being presented, even if he uses somewhat underhanded means to get his point across. After all, if it wasn’t for Hitler bringing out Eugene’s good nature by tripping another inmate, he wouldn’t have been sent to The Hole, which also wouldn’t have pointed out the necessity for escape, not admission. Sure, Hitler clearly has ulterior motives, but with what we’ve been shown, it isn’t unnatural to wonder if Hitler himself was broken by Hell, and has turned a page. More likely, Preacher is setting Eugene, and, by proxy, all of us, up for a big turn, tucking Hitler back into the persona that we know from our own history. Right now, though, Eugene needs a friend, and it somehow oddly works for one of the most evil men in history to team up with this incredibly good-natured soul. Of course given the events of Eugene’s personal Hell as viewed through the extrapolator of The Hole makes us wonder what will happen to that good nature when Eugene reconnects with Jesse Custer.
While Eugene’s hole is much more real, and definitely carries trauma with it, it isn’t the only one dealt with in this episode. Going to a more esoteric thought, we first look at the holes around Jesse. These are ones that he has created for himself, as he’s been so intent on his search for God that he’s ignored things going on around him with Cassidy and Tulip. That gets underscored once again in this episode, which really doesn’t have a lot for Jesse to do, allowing him to take a back seat to the others. It was refreshing to see an episode where Jesse was able to prevent using Genesis, even if his answer to Cassidy regarding such rings hollow with his own selfish uses. Jesse may be starting to notice that there is something wrong, but he isn’t allowing himself to act on any of it, because his mission takes precedence in his own mind. Consequently, instead of helping either of his companions through their problems, Jesse spends the bulk of the episode waiting for the “Dork Docs” to perform their analysis of the audition video, just like “on the cop shows”. These exchanges add some levity to the episode, and showcase once again how myopic Jesse is. After all, the legend printed on the edge of the DVD wasn’t terribly small, or discreet, but it was something missed by all. Yes, Jesse once again has a moment of introspection, and offers a prayer to a missing God, but it doesn’t seem to lead to much widening of his perspective. In fact, it’s telling that the Jesse we meet in Eugene’s altered personal Hell is also completely focused on his own needs and desires. Eugene seems to know a little something about the preacher that he has been loathe to admit, and it’s the very same thing that fuels Jesse, while alienating his friends. Our man of the cloth has work to do if he wants to bridge the gaps he has created, and he’s clearly going to need to, since his narrowed vision has continuously caused him to miss the clues he’s so hungry for. This trait clearly hasn’t been missed by the members of The Grail, in their observations of him.
That brings us to Tulip, who we know has now encountered Lara, albeit in a different guise than the one shown to Jesse. In contrast with Herr Starr’s “seduction” last week, we instead are reminded that Lara clearly has an understanding of what could work to bring someone closer. Casting herself as someone suffering from abuse clearly brings Tulip to her side initially, so much so that Tulip invites the other woman along to the Hurt Locker some time. This is all part of Tulip’s attempts to patch up the holes around her. Yes, she’s working on the physical holes, starting by replacing the fridge, but she’s also clearly trying to figure out how to navigate around the deeper ones she’s experienced, thanks to the Saint of Killers. While Jesse may be aware of some of the holes opening around him, he isn’t terribly inclined to try and make things better right now, all in pursuit of a loftier goal. Tulip, on the other hand, is trying to fix what’s outwardly broken, while hoping to find an answer that works as spackle for everything inward. She isn’t sleeping, and she isn’t connecting, all until she encounters Lara. While Jesse is allowing his mission to get in the way of any connection to his friends, and may not even be fully aware of how distant he’s grown, Tulip is fully aware. She’s holding the men at arm’s length, and, while she may reach out tentatively, she certainly isn’t going to push the issue. In some ways, her presence around them is only out of habit right now. Tulip is being forced into self-reliance yet again, and Jesse is clearly going to have a high price to pay. It makes it all easier for The Grail to infiltrate, even if it wasn’t on their initial timeline. Tulip feels the drive to do something, and she clearly feels that tying herself too closely to Jesse’s mission is the exact opposite of something. Her purpose is being subsumed, and, while she is clearly integral to our trio, she needs them to see it just as much as she does.
Meanwhile, once again, the heart of the episode rests with Cassidy. The writers have done an impressive job turning this potentially one-note character into the connecting thread that finds something true to hang on to. Sure, he’s still got some of the cartoonish quality that we were first shown, but we’re learning that there’s an awful lot of depth to Cassidy. It’s very telling that these last few episodes, with Cassidy more focused on Denis than the others, have also shown the fracturing of our trio. Through “Holes”, we’re given a quick glimpse of some of Cassidy’s backstory, specifically shortly after the birth of Denis, and the rest of episode displays the vampire trying to get advice from those closest to him about how to deal with his son’s dying wish. A lot of credit also has to be given to the show for handling this issue in a way that we’ve seen before, but for allowing Joseph Gilgun to breathe enough new life into the moments to make it feel new. A vampire laboring over the choice of creating a new one of his kind is nothing new, and even adding the wrinkle of the two being blood relatives is well-worn territory. However, Cassidy’s words, through Gilgun’s portrayal, carry a depth that is all-too-often averted. It’s even more heartbreaking when you realize he is baring his soul regarding it all to Tulip, who is so wrapped up in her own head that she isn’t really hearing him. Cassidy eventually reaches out to Seamus to give him advice, and, to contrast with Denis’s repeated please of “Bite Me”, Seamus simply tells him not to do it. The final image of Cassidy in the episode is at Denis’s bedside, echoing the moment at his crib, with the same song slipping from the Irishman’s lips. It’s clear that Cassidy has made a decision, and the parallels between the two scenes certainly up the stakes. After all, this could be Cassidy tragically providing book ends to his son’s life, or he could be intentionally recreating that moment shortly after birth, as a way of ushering in a new life. Cassidy is left with a heartbreaking moment, as even the knowledge that he could save his son fights against his knowledge that he doesn’t actually know much of anything about the man. Their connection is familial, and nothing more. Cassidy could justify making either choice, and, unfortunately, Jesse and Tulip are not really able to help when he needs it the most.
This episode is clearly another one setting up bigger things moving forward, as pieces keep being put on the table. Eugene now has an (unlikely) ally to help him try and escape from the clutches of Hell. Jesse sees his hopes dashed towards finding God, while simultaneously losing the connections to those closest to him who could actually assist. Tulip is now open to The Grail’s machinations, largely because of her own self-imposed distance. And Cassidy, who is the glue that holds the other two together right now, is incapable of doing so because of a larger concern. Meanwhile, we know that Herr Starr is on his way, the Saint is still out there, and Eugene’s altered hell may turn him against Jesse and his crew. It may not have been an action-filled episode, but it was a needed one, and one where these character beats were handled deftly. This particular trio hasn’t been quite this broken before, and they’ve always been able to reconnect. It isn’t going to be easy, but we’re being set up for a pay off that is hopefully satisfying, and earned.