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Review: ‘Preacher’ Demands Our Faith in ‘Monster Swamp’

In Season 1, Episode 4, "Monster Swamp," Jesse gets hardcore about conversion to the church.

Dominic Cooper and Lucy Griffiths in "Preacher."

Dominic Cooper and Lucy Griffiths in “Preacher.”

Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Preacher’ Builds Its Mysteries In a Low-Key Episode (By Comparison)

In The Beginning

You know the old trope of how when small Texas towns are dominated by a single business, that business lets its employees hunt down prostitutes with paintball guns in the dead of night? We open with that classic scenario, as the Quincannon men chase down and corner a girl named Lacey. She gives up, but Clive, the guy Tulip beat at cards last episode, shoots her anyway. She takes a step back and vanishes into a sinkhole. Just another typical night in Annville!

Tulip Does Cool Stuff

Despite the rather out-there beginning, this is a pretty sedate episode, but Tulip does get a chance to raise some hell. After Lacey’s dead body has to be pulled out of the hole by a crane, Odin Quincannon, ever the picture of tact, takes a moment to address his men and let them know, “You boys need to watch your rough-housin’.” That stirring speech delivered, he goes on about his day. Clive doesn’t seem particularly broken up about Lacey’s death, but Tulip is plenty steamed (turns out, her mother was a prostitute in the very same house). She later interrupts Lacey’s wake with some strong words for the other ladies, urging them not to let Quincannon’s men hunt them for sport. None of the girls are having it, since if there’s one thing all the citizens of Annville share it’s a sense of resigned defeat, so Tulip takes the matter into her own hands and decides to beat up Clive. The only problem is that in her rage she picks the wrong room, so it’s actually Cassidy she winds up tossing out a window. Whoops.

Most Bonkers Moment

Cassidy’s going to be fine, obviously, but Tulip doesn’t know that, so he hams it up on the way to the hospital, reveling in her attention, and even convincing her to give him a kiss. Once they’re at the hospital, Cassidy wanders to the blood bank (leaving an obvious trail for Tulip to follow) and drinks his fill. “You were right, love. I think I’m going to make it.” For a man on the run, Cassidy is awfully cavalier about his secret vampire identity, but he’s also arrogant and usually on a lot of drugs. While this moment isn’t particularly bonkers, at least someone else knows Cassidy’s a vampire now. Between this revelation and the final moments of the episode with the angels, the more bizarre aspects of the show are hopefully set to take center stage going forward.

Tom Brooke in "Preacher."

Tom Brooke in “Preacher.”

Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Send Me An Angel

Speaking of Fiore and DeBlanc, they spend a bit of time this episode hassling Cassidy for not bringing Jesse to them (he tried to get Jesse to talk to them, but Jesse wasn’t buying it). Cassidy, in classic grifter fashion, convinces them to give him more time, as well as a good chunk of money, which he immediately spends on hookers and drugs. Oh Cassidy, you rake. Turns out the angels are poor negotiators, but they also can’t get any help, because they’re on Earth without permission. Which is why they’re so put out when their direct line to heaven starts ringing off the hook by episode’s end. Now that they’re not dying every episode, the bits with the angels fall flat. They’re kind of weird (Fiore tries to order a hamburger he saw on TV at the front desk) but not weird enough to be funny (he just goes to the vending machines instead). Their knowledge of and relationship to the mortal world hasn’t really been developed, so they’re stuck sitting in a hotel room, fretting.

Say The Word

We get some more glimpses of Jesse’s dad this week, and the picture isn’t particularly pretty. John Custer was the preacher of Annville in its heyday, and his congregation was always full. But he also held Jesse to a ridiculous standard, and whips him with a belt right in front of his friends (including Tulip) when he catches him smoking. It seems the one thing John couldn’t do was convince Odin Quincannon to join his flock, so Jesse perceives that as the key to reviving his church.

Jesse’s plan is to lay a trap: he lures Quincannon to church on Sunday with the promise that if Quincannon doesn’t leave a Christian, Jesse will give him his father’s land. That’s a prize Quincannon can’t refuse, so he agrees to appear. It’s great to see more of Jackie Earle Hayley’s Quincannon, since it’s a part that could easily lead to scenery chewing, but instead Hayley plays him as a man unfazed by everything. He’s someone who dispassionately takes care of business, and if that business includes urinating in the mayor’s briefcase to prove a point, then so be it.

When Quincannon shows up to church on Sunday (along with a big crowd, lured in by a raffle for a flat screen TV), Jesse launches into a big sermon about how the people of Annville have lost their way and forgotten the power of the Lord, but that Jesse will bring them back to God. If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s clear now that Jesse’s faith is pretty rotten, that he’s driven more by honoring and surpassing his father than truly honoring God. When Quincannon gets up to leave, Jesse commands him to “serve God,” and Quincannon immediately agrees. Of course, faith that’s coerced isn’t faith at all, so Jesse may fill those pews, but the rock upon which he’s building his church is crumbling. Quincannon himself hits the nail on the head that when Jesse tells him he could force him to come to church, “That wouldn’t be very Christian of you.”

Grade: B

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