Eugene might be the one trapped in an eternal prison, reliving the worst day of his life in a cell within shouting distance from history’s most infamous dictator, but this week’s “Preacher” suggested that he might not the only one in his own personal Hell.
The pursuit that seemed so noble in the early going of Season 2 has soured somewhat, both on Jesse’s part and in the overall placement of the show. No longer seeking out God in one of the 138 New Orleans area jazz clubs, Jesse and Cassidy stumble on a familiar face when watching late-night TV.
Meanwhile, Tulip faces the horde of henchmen sent to capture her at the close of last week’s episode. Wandering around a mansion filled with minions and spitting children, everyone seems all too eager to ignore her, as if she were someone sentenced to share a bunk next-door to Eugene.
Much like the rules are changing up above, everyone’s favorite condemned high school student is facing his own moral tests down below. Proving that last week’s sendoff was more than just a visual gag, “Viktor” took us unexpectedly inside the personal nightmare of Adolf Hitler. (Sorry, Frankie Muniz cameoing as himself in an infomercial about homelessness in post-Katrina New Orleans. You weren’t even in the darkest punchline of your own episode.)
The tricky thing about Eugene’s storyline is that “Preacher” has already shown that moments of reprieve for Eugene have already proven to be part of his grander punishment. If he finally got a chance to relive a quiet moment with Tracy and it led to his life’s most inescapable tragedy, then being spared having to relive it might not necessarily be a good thing, either.
And with a bigger glimpse of the rest of Hell’s population (we’re going to assume that Justin Prentice is actually playing his “13 Reasons Why” character and that this is the logical end for Bryce), the overall vibe feels more like a boarding school than neverending damnation. At this point, the banality of his surroundings, however monochromatic they may be, seems too meet and tidy. There might be something else more horrible around the corner.
That idea of a cycle of repetition without a satisfying ending is something that Jesse is becoming familiar with as well. Once again, God is not who he seems, as Jesse and Cassidy find out when they track down the actor who subbed in for God during last season’s closing revelation inside the Annville church. Even with a hard proof of Mark Harelik’s audition tape, the alternating frustration and obliviousness that continues to tinge Jesse’s search is starting to feel more like punishment for him than reward.
Skip Bolen/AMC/Sony Pictures Tel
Cassidy isn’t having the greatest time in the ranks of the mortals, either. The frequent texting and the “If I had a girl like Tulip…” hypothetical is another hint that the love triangle teased at this season’s outset hasn’t completely been forgotten. Plus, he’s stuck inside watching late night local TV, knowing that the subject of his crush is out risking danger.
While Jesse is only a little bit closer to his goal, the search still yield some pretty fantastic sidebars. This week’s delightful one-off is talent manager Teddy Gunt, proof that “Preacher” can be thousands of miles away from Hollywood and still deliver some quality showbiz send-up. Cassidy’s straightfaced insistence that they are somehow “Game of Thrones” talent recruiters is another case for some extra weekly Joseph Gilgun screentime.
But if there’s one thing that can drag Jesse away from his search for God, it’s Tulip in danger, despite his insistence that she can take care of herself. In the house surrounded by less than friendly acquaintances, Tulip lives up to Jesse’s assertion. Even though the lock on the gun safe might have changed, Tulip’s skill set does afford her an opportunity to get whatever she might need, even from a trained criminal henchman.
As good as Tulip is at fighting her way through familiar territory, ”Preacher” seemed just as eager to withhold the episode’s big secret, much as it’s done ever since the gang showed up in New Orleans. While the episode’s final spoken line may not have ended the way Jessie might have expected (“husband” was not the word we expected to end that sentence either), that reveal didn’t seem worth having to sideline a largely silent Tulip off on her own for the second straight week. Hopefully now that she and Jesse are reunited, the show can use them to actually learn from each other instead of dancing around their past like they did for most of Season 1.
Where the show’s character development stalled a bit after a strong start, one area where “Preacher” has kept the pedal to the floor is in its fight sequences. For the second straight episode, director Michael Slovis has delivered another cutting-edge centerpiece brawl. (Last week, we declared Jesse’s one-on-five brawl as the year’s best fight scene. Turns out we were one week early.) The sheer amount of kinetic energy in this disguised-cut, 360 view of a hand-to-hand showdown is the kind of electric sequence that the show delivers best.
As much as Tulip’s revelation would serve as the ideal punctuation to a week that connected the dots, the grand entrance of the Saint of Killers across the Crescent City Connection might just end up having a bigger impact. In Jesse’s haste to track down Tulip, he seems to have forgotten what happened the last time that he overused Genesis. As bad as things might seem for each of these folks for now, Hell might actually be another person, one that wears a cowboy hat and walks unafraid right down the middle of a two-lane bridge.
“Preacher” Season 2 airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC