Well, that was unexpectedly frustrating. Preacher has been a show I’ve championed during its run, and that isn’t about to change. I have issues with “The End of the Road,” the series’ second season finale, but Preacher continues to be a show that easily gets by on its style, the performance work and the underlying weirdness of it all. However, with the setups for the cliffhangers we see and the payoffs to multiple storylines that we’ve been following, this season ended on a notably hollow note. It is one thing to see the culmination of several plotlines in one episode, but another to consider the work this show put in and how that payoff feels in relation.
Following the two-part premiere, which brought our leads to New Orleans, where the show would spend the rest of its time, Cassidy and Tulip were placed in two disjointed subplots. This became more of the case as the season went on. I found more to enjoy in Cassidy’s story involving his son Denis, but it is easy to note how much time seemed to be spent stopping the momentum of this series to put a focus on either Cassidy’s regard for his estranged son or Tulip’s PTSD issues, following her encounter with The Saint.
This episode brings both arcs to a close and in the most dramatic ways possible. It could have been seen as effective. Cassidy, in a selfish attempt to keep from facing his worst impulses, ends up throwing Denis into the sun to burn alive. Tulip, who had formed a friendship with “Jenny” thanks to her problems, actually ends up getting shot and dying (more on that later). These are ideas that subvert what is expected, but also feel like a cheap way to wrap up all the work done by this show to keep us involved with these characters.
I get that the team behind Preacher seem to have this desire in really capturing the spirit of Ennis/Dillon’s work in the graphic novel and are applying the sort of take-no-prisoners attitude to the model of TV shows and character arcs, but sometimes that only goes so far. There are plenty of exciting moments in this finale (and the show as a whole, of course), but having great bits also leads to a way of undermining the show as a whole, affecting the pacing and basic enjoyment of a show that has previously been effectively bonkers, while telling a complete story.
Fortunately, Jesse’s stuff works great. Since the Grail is an interesting counterpoint to our preacher, watching Jesse handle his call to the dark side makes for compelling drama. It leads to a fun action sequence George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” There’s room for more back and forth banter between Jesse and Starr. When the time calls for it, it also means seeing Jesse choose to go after someone he loves, giving us a continued sense of what makes this character tick in various ways.
However, once getting to the apartment and building to a scene where Jesse and Cassidy fight over whether or not to turn Tulip into a vampire to save her life, it feels like a scene that just sits there. There’s certainly an end that perhaps justifies the means element to the concluding scene involving these three, but getting to that moment fell flat, despite the work to set up this scenario. This is especially problematic given that of all the people, Tulip is somehow the damsel in distress.
Fortunately, season three will have us looking forward to what goes on with Madame L’Angell in Angelville. This episode begins with another very stylish cold open that takes us through some of Jesse’s childhood. We’ve had some flashbacks dealing with Jesse’s early life, and this is very important to the character. The comics make sure to establish plenty through these flashbacks, and the series is certainly not forgetting about that. It’s why I’m not too concerned about whether or not Tulip will survive (the opening shows Jesse doing what he can to resurrect a chicken), but somewhat concerned about how this altered approach will work.
There are the other questions as well. What is going on with Jesse’s use of Genesis? Is God someone we’ve seen or should we be looking out for some stunt casting next year? Is Hell going to be a bigger issue? And what’s Hitler up to? I can see this show answering a few of these questions for sure, but let’s hope finds more focus next summer. Season two was a step up for the series in terms of providing a clearer direction. With great material to work with, I have plenty of anticipation for what comes next. I just hope a better job is done with structuring these character arcs. Jesse may be on a mission, but I’ll be happy just to be hanging with him, Cass and Tulip if it means keeping them all actively involved.
Preachin’ To The Choir:
- That whole sunscreen scene was a bit much, even for Tulip.
- While I don’t need to return to Hell, I can’t say I’m not intrigued by the land outside of the prison cells.
- “Shit.” – Eugene really didn’t think things through concerning Hitler.
- RIP Dennis, you became a creepy, jerk-ish vampire and died screaming in pain.
- Jesse missed his taping at Kimmel.
- It was a nice touch, I guess, to end on the dog suit and God sorta stepping out of the bathroom, but not quite the, “whoa” feeling that came from season one’s explosive finale.
- Thanks to everyone for reading along, as I broke down the season. We’ll see where things head next year!