Preacher, Season 2, Episode 13, “The End of the Road”
The second season of Preacher drew to a close on the verge of being something special, but continued its season-long inability to successfully or consistently pay off on the elaborate setup that made up the bulk of the season’s episodes. The finale felt like Preacher was so eager to move on to the next thing, that it forgot to finish off the first thing.
Case in point is Cassidy, who spent the bulk of the season in his ratty apartment caring for his ailing son/fledgling vampire, Denis. It was a slow burn showing the erosion of Cassidy’s ability to restrain his animal nature. We never got the why, however. Are all the drugs and the booze a way for Cass to keep the monster at bay? Is showing that restraint how he’s been able to survive all these years? Did Cassidy learn these hard lessons on his own or did he have a mentor?
It’s not like the show doesn’t love a good flashback. The cold open in the finale was all about Jesse’s misspent youth in a Colonel Sanders suit, but in the span of a few minutes it established where Jesse honed his abilities as a crook, found the need to be tough, learned his skill sniffing out the cops, his soft spot as a person, and his willingness to sacrifice his very soul for something else.
All we learned about Cassidy is that turning his son brought a lot of dangerous impulses back, and all of those impulses were directed at Tulip.
Don’t take this to say the season or the episode were bad. This show has some brilliant spots. The core trio of the case has excellent chemistry together. Pip Torrens’ Herr Starr provided some the season’s best moments. Julie Ann Emery as Featherstone was a great foil for Tulip. Noah Taylor made Hitler a sympathetic figure. This season lacked the narrative cohesiveness that turns a good bunch of episodes into something amazing.
That is the difference between Preacher and a show like Legion. Both series layered on character development throughout their run of episodes, but Legion managed to take us to a satisfying narrative destination before its shocking left turn in the finale. Preacher is still trying to figure out where it wants to take us, but it’s more excited to show us some odd roadside attractions than it is getting us to anything resembling a meaningful waypoint.
Granted, there’s a lot to see. Eugene escaped Hell with a little help from Hitler, and Chekov’s ram horn. Hitler promptly ditching Eugene once they get into our world is both funny and frightening. Jesse’s new career as a budding messiah in the social media age has some possibility. It feels like we’re going to learn just how much of his soul Jesse has left, and how it relates to Genesis no longer working. Seeing God alive, and listening to end of the world jazz as also a nice detail.
Then there’s Tulip’s predicament. Death is only temporary if you know the right people. Cassidy was ready to turn her into a vampire, as the last spasms of life were leaving her body. Jesse has other plans to bring Tulip back, which by his admission is only going to make Cassidy hate him more. Who knows what kind of price Jesse is going to be willing to pay to do it.
The finale was a condensed version of the second season. There were brilliant individual moments and turns of character, but the pieces of the puzzle aren’t fitting together quite right (and maybe some are missing?). Perhaps the narrative will gel in the third season, which could take Preacher to a higher pantheon of TV.