In The Beginning
Considering the number of narrative threads it potentially had to juggle, it’s fair to say that “Call And Response” had its work cut out for it. As we entered the finale, the following things were up in the air: we had to get the full story on Carlos and determine his fate, sort out things between Tulip and Jesse, determine if Eugene could be saved, see if Jesse could get away from the law and settle things with Quincannon, have a video chat with God almighty himself, and oh yeah, the cowboy assassin from hell had to show up, too. Some of these weren’t resolved, but most of them were, quite definitively. So now that Season 1 is in the books, the question is, did everyone enjoy their 10-hour pilot? I’m mostly joking, but by the end of “Call and Response,” it honestly felt like the entire season was set-up, to introduce the real series to come.
Tulip Does Cool Stuff
Before all that, there’s the Carlos stuff to deal with. Tulip’s got Carlos (played by “You’re The Worst’s” Desmin Borges) in her trunk, and in case this is your first episode, Tulip really, really wants to kill Carlos with Jesse’s help. Turns out Carlos ditched them at their bank robbery because he was jealous of their happiness together, and oh yeah, Tulip was pregnant at the time and miscarried due to the stress. Well that’s as good a motivation for revenge as any! Jesse, as always, doesn’t want to do it, arguing that they’ll go to hell if they do. Since we now have proof of heaven and hell, I’d say Jesse has the better end of this argument, although he eventually decides he’s going to hell anyway (true), so he might as well get Tulip’s revenge for her. Of course, as soon as he’s about to do it, Tulip changes her mind, because really, she mostly just wanted Jesse to offer, and now that he’s done so, they’re cool. So Carlos gets to live, but Jesse and Tulip beat the shit out of him anyway, because they’re both badass anti-heroes. Honestly, the biggest relief about the renewal for Season 2 is that Tulip might get to do something more interesting than constantly badger Jesse about murdering some goofus. Fingers crossed!
Say The Word
Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
Obviously the big headline this week is Jesse’s fateful phone call with God. The episode opens with one of “Preacher’s” now-patented weird narrative gaps, with Jesse hiding out at Donnie’s place and Cassidy in jail, having been nabbed in between episodes. Donnie, it seems, has seen the light after Jesse spared his life in that gas station bathroom, and has decided to help Jesse any way he can. Donnie’s always been a sketch of a character, so he might as well have an out-of-the-blue, between-episodes change of heart so that Jesse can avoid the cops until he gets to the church.
The town dutifully shows up, and the episode goes out of its way to indicate that people seem to really believe that Jesse’s going to really talk to God. The guy couldn’t get Odin to convert, but people think he can deliver the Lord of hosts? Maybe word got out about Jesse’s weird powers? If this were a better show, the people of Annville would feel more like real people and less like an angry mob from “The Simpsons.” Anyway, Jesse makes his call, and hey, God shows up on the phone’s video screen! And he looks just like his pictures! It’s all incredibly cheesy and fake-looking, which is the point, but it still convinces everyone in the church, none of whom have apparently heard of Skype. Still, they’re delighted to get some answers to their burning religious questions, and are even more delighted to find out that Jesse’s efforts have gotten them all saved.
Jesse’s convinced too, at first, until he asks God what His plan for him is, and God doesn’t seem to know that Jesse sent Eugene to hell. Once the seeds of doubt are planted, Jesse has to ask, “You’re not God, are you?” God tries a little “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” until Jesse magic voices him, which makes “God” admit that he doesn’t know where God is. He’s left the throne of heaven and no one knows where he’s gone.
Most Bonkers Moment
Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC
After the call ends, Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy beat a hasty retreat, but the citizens of Annville are stunned. Then they’re angry. Pandemonium ensues. The citizens tear the church apart, then go off to deal with their despair in their own ways. Some commit suicide. Tracy Loach’s mother smothers her to death while her son takes a grinning selfie. A pack of grade school girls murder the pedophile from the start of the season. Sheriff Root stares mutely at the television, wondering if Cassidy was right — that he’s relieved that Eugene’s disappeared. Odin Quincannon cradles a child he sculpted from meat wearing his daughter’s parka. And poor, sad Emily tells her children that everything is fine. That they don’t need God, and they never did. These moments are the show at its boldest, showing what a group of people might do if they were offered true and everlasting salvation, only to find out it was the sad deception of some middle-management angels. It’s grief and pain and rage. And then Annville explodes. Literally.
The man in charge of keeping Annville’s methane in check dies on the job while having sex with a prostitute (hey, God quit, time to live a little), but unfortunately no one else is around to keep the pressure down, so the entire town goes up in flames. Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy went out of town for dinner, but all the townspeople we’ve been following this season are dead. What’s more, Jesse isn’t even aware of it, since he misses the news report on his way out of the diner. Our heroes decide to seek out God wherever he’s hiding and never look back, which is probably for the best because behind them is a smoking crater where their town used to be. It’s an incredibly odd note to end on, since the show has killed most of its cast but our heroes are blithely unaware of it. Is it supposed to be funny? Tragic? A bit of both? Honestly, it just feels like the show saying, “Thank God that’s over! Now on to the real show!” It’s certainly a definitive choice, but it’s not one that justifies all the time spent on the half-developed citizens of Annville. What will Season 2 be like? Not like this one, obviously. We’ll see if that’s a good thing.