In The Beginning
We open, incredibly, in 1881, where a cowboy heads off to find medicine for his ailing daughter. He meets a wagon train on the road with a particularly chatty member, then enter the town of Ratwater, whose entrance is marked by a tree littered with dead Native Americans. The end. Now granted, the pilot did open in outer space, so incongruous openings might be this show’s thing, but that scene was key to the plot, while this one stands on its own. You have to admire the nerve it took to plop a scene like this at the beginning of the second episode, though it’s hard to see how it connects to anything else just yet.
This Week In Problem Parishioners
Poor Jesse once again gets stuck with the weakest story of the episode, focusing on yet another of Annville’s terrible residents, this time a school bus driving pedophile named Linus. There’s no nuance to be found, since Linus is barely repentant of the terrible thoughts he confesses to Jesse. As with the Donnie plot last week, it’s an excuse to push Jesse into embracing his violent past, but with an extra dollop of sleaze. There’s more than one shot of Jesse staring down the school bus as it drives past while horror movie strings blare on the soundtrack. Linus may have well hung a banner reading “I’m gonna touch a kid, preacher and you’re the only one who can stop me!” on the side.
Of course, Jesse finally does gives in to his dark side and heads over to Linus’s to beat the pedophilia out of him. Fortunately, before he can kill him, Jesse finally discovers his magic powers. While trying to drown Linus, he yells “Forget her!” in his reverb voice and Linus promptly forgets that the object of his affections ever existed. Jesse retreats, shaken, but he’s discovered that helping the people of Annville see the light may have just gotten a whole lot easier.
Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
Welcome to Annville
The good news is that not all of Jesse’s flock are cartoon villains — some simply have a hurt so big they’ve given up hope. Jesse goes to visit the Loaches, whose daughter was rendered comatose after an accident. Jesse offers words of hope, but Mrs. Loach rejects them outright, saying that nothing Jesse says can bring her daughter back. Au contraire, mon frere! After his confrontation with Linus, Jesse returns to the house and commands the girl to open her eyes. If God’s not going to come through, Jesse’s going to pick up the slack.
If the arc of the season is going to include Jesse trying to rebuild his church with his newfound powers, hopefully the town’s antagonists won’t be quite as cartoonish as they’ve seemed so far. It’s been much more interesting to see Jesse interact with people like the Loaches, or poor Eugene, who wants so badly to be transformed by faith, but feels no different after his baptism. Of course, this is also a show with vampires and unkillable hitmen, so I understand the desire to make the Annville material more “edgy,” but it hasn’t really done the show many favors so far.
More promising is Jesse’s inevitable confrontation with Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), the man who owns the slaughterhouse at the edge of town and who is introduced this episode by talking a couple into selling their home, then driving a bulldozer through their living room the moment they step out of it. If his villainy is still unclear, Donnie is his right hand man, and the beating he got from Jesse last episode has not made him any less of a bottomless well of rage. Quincannon might wind up being just as broad as Donnie or Linus, but considering Haley’s gravitas as a performer and the fact the show is clearly setting him up as a major player, I’m optimistic.
Most Bonkers Moment
Meanwhile, everything else in the episode is great fun. Jesse and Cassidy have what is hopefully the first of many long talks over a bottle of whiskey, and while things get a tad heated, they’re still on good terms. Cassidy even confesses his vampirism to Jesse, who thinks it’s a joke. (This scene also gives us the biggest laugh line of the episode with Joseph Gilgun’s deadpan criticism of “The Big Lebowski”: “No. No, it’s a shite film.”)
Once Jesse passes out, though, the real mayhem starts. The two men from the first episode who were tracking the entity inside Jesse show up (their overly-specific regional dress is a nice touch), only to find a passed-out Jesse. They try to lure the entity out with a song, apparently planning to store it in a coffee can (!), and when that doesn’t work, out comes the chainsaw. Fortunately Cassidy returns at that moment, assumes they’re the vampire hunters that are after him, and a wild brawl ensues. Cassidy’s able to messily dispatch both men, but not before a bit of Sam Raimi-inspired lunacy where Jesse’s nearly killed by a runaway chainsaw with a severed arm attached. Cassidy may not care for “The Big Lebowski,” but he’s a good guy to have watching your back.
Cassidy miraculously manages to kill both guys and clean up the entire church before Jesse wakes up, so it’s a bit of a shocker when Sheriff Root is seen talking to two individuals who are revealed to be… the supposedly dead men. That’s a neat trick! Anyway, they claim they’re from “the government.” Mmm-hmm.
Tulip Does Cool Stuff
She gets sarcastically baptized and looks great doing it, beats all of Quincannon’s guys at cards, and steals the steering wheel to Jesse’s truck to get his attention. (“What’s the matter, preacher? Jesus take your wheel?”) She later lets Jesse know that she’s going be exchanging the map she stole for information Jesse will be very interested in knowing, and reminds him that his real self is the guy who beat up Donnie, not the pious man asking for suggestions on how to improve his church outside the food mart. Tulip rules, and the longer Jesse resists her, the harder it is to like him.
For Those For Those Who Have Read The Comic (Skip If You Haven’t)
The opening scene may be inscrutable for non-comics readers, but it made me grin. If you were worried the first season wasn’t going to feature The Saint of Killers, that scene put that to rest. It’s unclear how big a role he’ll play before the season’s through, but he’s certainly established. And a quick look at IMDB will tell you that the two men after Jesse are Fiore and DeBlanc, which tells you exactly what their deal is. “Preacher” is playing a long game when it comes to getting to the comic’s central premise, but the major players are being set up.