Preacher’s central trio of characters is the best thing going for it thus far, and it’s a shame the series stubbornly refuses to keep the focus squarely on them. In trying to grab at so much mythology all at once, the series is still coming no closer to congealing into a tightly woven package. The series remains a colossal mish-mash at exactly the point where its grasp should be more concise and concentrated. In trying to do so much at once, it winds up doing precious little at all.
“Monster Swamp” kicks off with a gripping opener, with the girls from Mosie’s brothel running for their lives (and in their skivvies) from a menacing band of armed marauders. Our focal point is Lacey, who tears off into the night like a potential Jason victim. The sequence is exciting, versed as it is in recognizable horror-movie language, with the ultimate twist being that this is just a paintball game put on for the purpose of allowing Odin Quincannon’s employees to let off some steam. Then the sequence switches right back into the horrific when Lacey’s unexpectedly falls to her death in a sinkhole. This sequence represents Preacher’s strength for isolated bursts of expectation-upending thrills. The big picture may be a jumble, but the series knows how to create a striking solitary moment.
Cassidy spends his time trying to convince a frustratingly uninterested Jesse about the danger his new friend is in from the pair of angels hunting the entity within the preacher. Jesse’s continuing lack of interest in truly examining his unusual recent developments is irksome, but the other continuing problem here is that Preacher has yet to adequately convey to us why Cassidy cares so much for Jesse when the two have barely had much to do with one another since the vampire dropped into town. The bond between these characters feels so arbitrary and tenuous that it’s hard to invest or even buy into the relationships that the show assures us have developed.
Jesse’s concerns still seem to lie with getting people into the church pews on Sundays, employing infatuated single mom Emily to buy a TV with the meager funds they possess to raffle off as a crass lure. Emily still fares the worst of the regular cast, her character not even being interesting on top of not being used effectively. I don’t think the show is doing a bang-up job with establishing Cassidy or Tulip, but at least they’re fun to watch when they’re onscreen. Anything that might be happening beneath the surface between Jesse and Emily is almost brutally uninteresting.
Quincannon gets more of a spotlight this week, primarily for the show to double-down on his venal nature. Between callously dismissing Lacey’s death and urinating into the briefcase of Annville mayor Miles Person to protest a proposed alliance with the mysterious Green Acre Group (one of many threads on this show that has no meaning to anyone not already versed in the comics). Jackie Earle Haley can do grimy malevolence in his sleep, but Preacher gets some mileage out of the character in the episode’s final scene, where Jesse learns he can turn this monster into a servant of God by commanding it of him. Since Jesse already knew he had this power, he probably could have taken a shot at this much sooner.
But the most intriguing aspect of “Monster Swamp,” unsurprisingly, falls to Cassidy and Tulip. Tulip, fired up with righteousness over Lacey’s death and Quincannon’s men’s indifference to it, decides to strike out for vengeance, knocking a man out a window in mid-rut with a call girl before realizing belatedly that it was actually Cassidy, whom Tulip has apparently not yet met. Tulip doesn’t know Cassidy is a vampire, so she believes his wounds are mortal, the vampire playing into this ruse to con a kiss from her. Upon arriving at the hospital, Tulip frantically demands that Cassidy be seen right away by a doctor before finding that the patient has scuttled off into a back room to guzzle some blood packets. As Preacher’s two unqualified successes in a sea of half-formed characters, any union or alliance between these two can only be welcome. At least that will give us an anchor to grab onto while the series tries to figure the rest of itself out.
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