The world of Preacher is a one that once sprang from the words of Garth Ennis and from the pens of Steve Dillion and Glenn Fabry. This world of the panel and page has been interpreted for television by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and a host of writers, directors, and actors.
Although Annville, Texas, only exists in our collective perception when we read an issue or watch an episode, that doesn’t mean what goes on there can’t resonate within our own lives.
It’s been a rough couple of months to be a citizen of the world. It’s increasingly difficult to sit helpless and see unspeakable horror follow unspeakable horror with too many of these atrocities tying back to someone’s twisted interpretation of God.
The cold open of “El Valero” with Odin Quincannon covered in blood, holding entrails in his hands like rattlesnakes is supposed to be shocking. Given the real world context this episode was shown in, Odin’s crisis of faith and the conclusions he drew aren’t all that outlandish.
In his grief following the deaths of his entire family in a freak cable car accident, Odin sees nothing divine in the celestial God. The guts of his daughter are no different, no more special than the guts of the cow he butchered in his office. Based on that conclusion, Odin raises a question that’s been on the mind of so many people on this side of the TV screen: how can a divine creator be silent when terrible things happen?
For those of us in the real world, how do you keep thinking and praying for something better when every day brings a new body count or misguided debate? And, for the reader of this review, what does any of this have to do with a TV show based on a comic book?
The answer to both those questions is faith. This episode was a meditation on faith.
You keep going in the face of horror because of faith. In the ideal situation, faith becomes action and action becomes change and change keeps the horror from happening. For the TV show, faith is something in short supply around Annville.
Odin lost his in that office filled with crates of the remains of his loved ones Jesse Custer saw as a kid. With guts in his hands and tears in his eyes, Odin implored Jesse’s father to denounce God in the church. Although that connection hasn’t explicitly been made yet, refusing to do that might have been what cost Jesse’s father his life. Odin also turned his back on the celestial and just focused on the real, or, as he called it, the god of meat.
Jesse’s faith is hanging by a thread as he fends off Odin’s goon squad inside the church. Jesse’s faith takes form in the guise of an Arseface Eugene “rescued” from the bowels of Hell by the power of Genesis. It doesn’t take long for Jesse to realize hallucination Eugene was returned thanks to equal parts guilt and whiskey. And Jesse is willing to give up his power to get the real Eugene out of the inferno.
There are some decidedly Preacher moments along the way to the episode’s big climax. Jesse shows he’s a regular Ramsay Bolton with a rifle. Emily joins the siege/family picnic (even the Pedro Prairie Dog appears for his weekly cameo). Donnie shows he’s not as dumb as he looks when he blows his eardrums out to counter Jesse’s power. The angels show up and actually get Genesis out of Jesse for a while, but the bond between Jesse and Genesis is so strong, it breaks out of its coffee can prison and goes back into its host. Then, there’s the decidedly sad tale of Tulip, who gives an abandoned hound dog one last, glorious day before it becomes a healing meal for Cassidy.
At the end, the man without faith and the one whose faith is in tatters have a sit-down. Odin wants the church and its land so he can build a food court to honor the god of meat in his way. Jesse buys one more Sunday for the church by playing to Odin’s desire to either see and hear the celestial God for himself, or hear Him denounced before the whole town.
Even without all the current-events context I wrapped this episode in, “El Valero” was one of the strongest hours of Preacher to date. It had the right mix of revelation, relationship, humor, and action to keep us riveted. With just a couple of episodes left in the season, we can only hope it maintains this quality through to the end.