In its second outing, Preacher seems to retain the pilot’s issue of preaching to the converted, the converted being fans of the comic. In an opening flashback to 1881, we meet a mystery man setting out on horseback into an utterly apocalyptic horizon to procure medicine for a sick child. The man meets a group of upbeat travelers, but his taciturn nature clashes sharply with them. We then see him ride his horse past a tree decorated with hanging, scalped bodies of Indians like a perverted Christmas tree. The man barely seems to notice. This all seems terribly important and meaningful, and I’ve no doubt it immediately struck a chord with the Preacher faithful, but we neophytes in the audience are left scratching our heads. It’s one thing to be a bit mysterious, and to plant some seeds for a future harvest, but Preacher doesn’t seem to feel any powerful need thus far to be inclusive to those of us who are new here.
This trait extends to the present-day portion of the episode. Jesse is still stumbling through his attempts at being a holy man, still unaware of the power that now resides within him. He and Cassidy are now fairly close, even though Cassidy only just showed up near the end of the pilot. Their instant camaraderie smacks of a corner being cut, of the presumed familiarity of the audience with these characters papering over the lapses in building this friendship. I might have liked to have seen a more gradual, natural build of this relationship, as it almost feels like an episode was missed between this one and the pilot. Cassidy, however, remains an absolute hoot, his caustic, brogue-tongued witticisms remaining the most consistent source of levity in this otherwise gloomy series (though his opinion of The Big Lebowski is objectively wrong).
Tulip is also still hanging around, just itching for Jesse to cast off his frock and get back to the business of being a bad boy. She bides her time cleaning out mooks at poker down at the local brothel in between haranguing Jesse about rejoining the dark side. The character is feeling a bit peripheral thus far, but Ruth Negga is still doing a bang-up job as a spunky hellcat, managing to make Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. even more contemptible for wasting her gifts so thoroughly.
“See” is largely preoccupied with setting up the eventual players in Jesse’s world, all of whom remain shrouded in mystery by episode’s end. On top of the traveler from 1881, there’s also Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley), a local muckity-muck instantly established in one scene as a deeply unscrupulous businessman. There are also the other two mystery men we first glimpsed in the pilot, who seem to be tracking the unholy entity that Jesse is unwittingly hosting. We don’t yet know what the story is with these two (well, the comic fans almost certainly do), but they are responsible for the best sequence in “See,” as their attempts to violently extract the power from an unconscious Jesse leads to their bloody comeuppance at the hands of a protective Cassidy.
Dominic Cooper is still the weak link of the primary cast, his Jesse still not emerging as a compelling character the way that his compatriots have. I imagine that will change as Jesse grows more cognizant of his abilities, as he seems to be nearing by the end of “See,” but we’re not quite there yet, and that lack of a strong central presence does hinder these two episodes a bit. Thus far, Jesse’s utter obliviousness to what is happening to him renders the character a bit difficult to invest in, at least in these early goings.
It should be said, however, that despite how insular and impenetrable Preacher has been thus far, the series is still highly entertaining. It has a dust-colored aura of nastiness to it that makes it visually arresting and, most impressively for a new series, it’s never dull for a moment. It’s easy to see how remarkable a series it could evolve into once it stops playing so aggressively to its fanbase and starts letting the rest of us in as well.
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