Preacher S01E02 “See” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon
Writer: Sam Catlin
Directors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Essential Plot Points:
- Texas 1881: a taciturn cowboy leaves his homestead to search for medicine for his sick daughter. He encounters some optimistic frontiersmen, women and children who regard the plains as a paradise. He doesn’t agree. Some time later, he rides past tree, from which hang the bodies of scalped native Americans. A sign says the place is called Ratwater.
- Jesse holds an open air baptism session, which includes Eugene (who takes it all very seriously) and Tulip (who doesn’t).
- Emily is tiring of Cassidy hanging around, being generally useless but drinking the communion wine.
- Jesse takes confession from a potential paedophile school bus driver who seems to think confessing alone absolves his sinful thoughts.
- Local meat processing business tycoon Odin Quincannon purchases a farm and bulldozes it.
- His right-hand man is Donnie, whose arm’s in a cast following his encounter with Jesse in the previous episode. He’s not happy when another employee (probably inadvertently) highlights his current disability by picking up a pen he drops in front of the boss. Donnie later breaks his nose. Over sensitive, much?
- Tulip is still trying to enlist Jesse’s help in her new scheme (she even kidnaps him at one point) and he’s still not biting.
- Jesse and Cassidy have a bonding/drinking session in the church and Jesse falls into a deep alcoholic sleep.
- When Cassidy leaves to buy more drink (with Jesse’s money) Fiore and DeBlanc turn up to kill (or maybe exorcise or maybe both) Jesse. When the first attempt – involving a musical box and a child’s poem – fails, they resort to Texas chain saw massacring instead.
- Luckily Cassidy returns just in time to save Jesse. A big fight ensues and Jesse kills Fiore and LeBlanc.
- By the time Jesse wakes in the morning, Jesse has cleaned up all signs of the fight, thinking that Fiore and LeBlanc were after him.
- Jesse visits Terri Loach whose daughter, Traci, has suffered a severe brain injury and is in a coma. Terri is sceptical that God will bring them any comfort.
- Later, when Eugene asks Jesse if will baptise him again, Jesse tells him no, and Eugene worries that that no matter how hard he tries, he will always be the same.
- Eugene’s words on his mind, Jesse goes to Linus’s house, and “baptises” him in a scolding hot bath.
- When Jesse says, “Forget the girl” his new alien powers kick into action.
- Seeing the effect his words have on Linus, Jesse goes back to the Loach’s house and tells Tracy to open her eyes.
A series of memorable set-pieces linked by some quirky character-building scenes, “See” doesn’t fall into the trap of many second episodes: it’s not a mere less interesting retread of a blueprint set out by the premiere. In fact, it probably tries a little too hard to carry on throwing new, intriguing stuff at us: new characters, new plotlines, new mysteries. The end result is a lot of individually great moments – the opening Ratwater sequence, the Cassidy fight, the farm being bulldozed, Jesse “baptising” Linus – but an overall slightly disjointed feel. Somewhat contradictorily, the episode meanders even while each scene desperately tries to get your attention.
By the time Tulip pretend-kidnaps Jesse and pretend-chains him up, it’s like you’re watching ADHD in TV form; sure, it’s more fun than the two of them just having a chat over a coffee but the scene does feel a tad contrived in order to conform to some quirky quota. The show for the moment seems more concerned with setting a tone than tackling a storyline. In the long run, this may turn out to be a canny move, but let’s hope Preacher doesn’t stay in Lost mode – baffling for baffling’s sake – for too long.
On the other hand, many of the set-pieces have so much impact, they more than make up for any slight frustrations with the storytelling. Cassidy’s gloriously demented chain saw battle with Fiore and DeBlanc is full of the kind of black humour that Sam Raimi would be proud of. The “Saint of Killers” (see below) prologue is downright unsettling. The introduction of creepy meat manufacturing mogul Odin Quincannon (wonderfully played by Jackie Earl Haley) has a hell of a twist when a bulldozer crashes through a recently-vacated room. Jesse’s visit to the Loaches echoes the suburban horror of Stephen King.
It’s also a good episode for the show’s two main supporting characters, Cassidy and Tulip. The Irish vampire may be getting on Emily’s nerves but he’s comedy gold for the viewers. Ironically, while Emily moans that he doesn’t do any work, he ends up doing an amazing overnight cleaning job at the church; not that anyone else will ever realise that. Equally ironically in a show full of characters with dark pasts, he’s the only one who’s totally open about his past – happily telling Jesse that he’s a 119 year-old vampire being chased by religious fanatics – but Jesse doesn’t believe him. Tulip, meanwhile, is a force of nature.
There’s loads to enjoy here. The show is a bit of a genre-straddling melange that wears its multifarious influences on its sleeve, but for the moment it’s managing to combine its disparate elements into an intriguing new beast. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up being an exercise in style over substance.
- We loved the fact that the town’s new PC mascot was indulging in some very un-PC behaviour at the whorehouse.
- Talking of politically incorrect behaviour, Cassidy’s reaction to seeing Eugene was pricelessly inappropriate: “Whoa… Good god… sorry lad… you came through the door there, I went cold with panic.”
- The entire fight between Cassidy, Fiore and DeBlanc is brilliantly bonkers but the moment with the chainsaw dragging the severed arm towards Jesse was like the best Evil Scene scene there never was.
- Meanwhile, the whole surreal demolition scene was like Fargo at its best – especially in the way it’s not clear what’s going on until the bulldozer comes through the wall. However, the most disturbing moment of the scene was Odin looking like he was about to come at the thought of sausages. Great piece of acting from Jackie Earl Haley.
- The opening Saint of Killers flashback was impressive and unsettling too, even if it was slightly annoying it didn’t connect to the rest of the episode in any way.
- Tulip’s cheeky grin when she’s being baptised is adorable. In fact, Tulip in general is one of the show’s greatest assets.
- Cassidy being the other. His Oirish patter may be a little Hollywood, but with lines like, “His plan for me is to let you know that his plan for you is the dumbest, most boring plan he’s ever come up with,” you have to love him.
- With the unconnected Saint Of Killers opening, the townspeople calling the sheriff “murderer”, Tulip keeping her plan under wraps and questions about the nature of Fiore and DeBlanc the show is laying on the “on-going mysteries” shtick a little thick. It could do with being just a tad more subtle about the way it’s manipulating how information is being teased.
- We’re not sure the cartoony CGI representation of whatever it is that’s possessing Jesse fits in with overall visual style of the show. Preacher is comic-book-inspired, not Looney Tunes-inspired.
- Eugene’s conversation with Jesse about how his baptism feels clunky; more like a necessary cog in a larger arc plot (to force Jesse into making a decision) than a scene that stands on its own two feet.
And The Random:
- The cowboy in the prologue is The Saint Of Killers, a character who first appeared (briefly) in Preacher #1 (1995). His origin story, which included scalpers in the town of Ratwater, was told in the cunningly-titled four-issue spin-off The Saint Of Killers (1996). The Saint Of Killers is here played by Graham McTavish who played the dwarf Dwalin in The Hobbit trilogy of movies.
- Odin Quincannon is another character taken from the Preacher comics, where he’s a vile and perverted businessman who runs a meat processing factory just outside the town of Salvation. He first appeared in Preacher #42 (1998) and was killed off in Preacher #48 (1999) which we don’t think is a spoiler as the TV show isn’t exactly slavishly following the comic storylines. Oddly, his brother in the comics, Conan Quincannon (pictured left), who appeared after Odin’s death, was a dead ringer for Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in Watchmen and the new Freddie in the remake of A Nigtmare On Elm Street), who plays Odin here.
- Toadvine (the name of the whorehouse) was also the production team’s code name for the show during filming for Preacher season one.
- The poem recited by DeBlanc is “Wynken, Blynken And Nod” (1889) by Eugene Field (1850-1895), a kind of US version of Edward Lear, known for his playful children’s verse.
- Are we supposed to make a visual connection between the scalped native Americans and the injury that Tracy has sustained? (The way her mother removes he wig could be called a form of scalping.)
- Just in case you can’t quite recall where you’ve heard Cassidy’s line, “Say hello to my little friend,” before, it’s famously from director Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983). It’s what Tony Montana (Al Pacino) calls his M16 machine gun.
- Jesse had a bottle of Ratwater Whisky in his bedroom in the premier episode. It has a label featuring a silhouette of the Saint of Killers.
- This week’s signage vandalism:
- Did anybody else think Fiore was doing a Christopher Eccleston impression at this point?
Review by Dave Golder