Preacher S01E04 “Monster Swamp” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon, new episodes every Monday
Writer: Sara Goodman
Director: Craig Zisk
Essential Plot Points:
- Odin’s male employees – armed with paintball guns – are on a nocturnal mock hunt, chasing the girls from the local whore house. Clive eventually shoots Lacy with a paint pellet… she then vanishes down a sinkhole on Quincannon’s property.
- In flashback we see Jesse’s preacher dad being all pious at the alter but later emotionlessly and methodically whipping his son in front of his mates when he catches the boy smoking. He says Jesse needs to set an example.
- Back in the present Cassidy tells Jesse about Fiore and DeBlanc wanting to get whatever’s in Jesse out of Jesse but the Preacher doesn’t seem too bothered. He just wants the church air conditioning fixed.
- Following Lacy’s death, Odin Quincannon gives a speech to his employees and the Toadvine girls basically telling them to be more careful. Tulip is outraged at his callousness.
- Jesse tells Emily he has a plan to fill up the church congregation, and suggests offering a flat-screen TV as a raffle prize. Emily is suspicious.
- Cassidy inveigles enough money out of Fiore and DeBlance to splash out on a drugs’n’whores binge, promising in return to bring Jesse to them.
- Fiore is getting impatient and drags a “celestial telephone” out from under his motel bed. DeBlanc warns him not to use it.
- Annville’s mayor, Miles Person, tries to convince Odin Quincannon to take health and safety seriously. Odin pisses in his suitcase.
- Miles doesn’t seem unduly bothered. He cheerily ends up having casual sex with Emily after she first makes sure that he knows they’ll never be together.
- The Toadvine girls and Quincannon’s crew gather at Toadvine to remember Lacey. Tulip goes off on one, distraught at how trite the whole affair is. Mosie tries to calm the situation by offering her girls’ services free to the guys for an hour.
- Disgusted, Tulip follows Clive upstairs to hit him with a poker but goes to the wrong room by mistake. She beats some bloke up – thinking it’s Clive – until he falls out of the window.
- But it’s actually Cassidy. He looks in a bad way.
- Not knowing he’s a vampire, Tulip rushes Cassidy to ER but while in reception she loses him.
- She finds him replenishing himself on the hospital’s blood supplies.
- In flashback Jesse’s dad wakes him in the middle of the night and takes him to Quincannon Meat & Power. Jesse waits in the corridor while John goes into Quincannon’s office. Jesse hears Odin shout, “Denounce him!” John leaves the office and tells Jesse that some people just can’t be saved.
- In the present, Jesse convinces the devoutly atheist Odin to come to church on Sunday by promising Odin he’ll bequeath him his father’s land if Jesse doesn’t convert him.
- At the Church service, Jesse tells his very full (thank you flat screen TV) congregation that he’s going to lead them all back to God. And to impress them, he uses his new powers of compulsion to force Odin into converting.
- In their motel room, DeBlanc and Fiore look on nervously as they get a call on the celestial telephone.
Preacher goes off the boil a little with “Monster Swamp”, with a few too many scenes that take an awful long time to make their point. Slow, methodical, nuance-filled and longueur-dripping scenes are very much in vogue with modern TV, but in shows that do them well – Fargo, The Leftovers – such scenes usually have a dramatic energy that infuses the empty pauses and self-consciously banal dialogue with a compelling edginess. Here, though, scenes such as Odin’s meandering (and apparently pointless) anecdote to Miles or Jesse’s sermon simply seem to drone on until they become white noise.
Admittedly both scenes have a good pay-off, but you can’t help feeling that the pay-offs would have had more impact if you hadn’t been dozing off beforehand.
Time and time again, this happens. Miles and Emily’s conversation takes a wonderfully weird turn when it becomes clear she’s inviting upstairs for a shag, but the lead-up to this point seems to take forever. Sure, balancing the prosaic with the unexpected is a time-honoured dramatic device, but there are limits to how much you can bore an audience before rewarding them.
The flashbacks to Jesse’s childhood also feel like a missed opportunity. They’re fine. They do the job of helping you understand where Jesse’s come from. But they’re not particularly… exciting.
Luckily we have Cassidy and Tulip’s first meeting to liven things up, and it looks like they’ve immediately made an impression on each other. Cassidy is as great as ever, especially his bizarre, double-speak dealings with Fiore and DeBlanc; boy are both parties playing things close to their chests. It’s unclear whether Cassidy even believes they’re angels or if he’s just playing along, but the fact that they’ve told him they are comes as a bolt from the blue.
The angels’ celestial telephone is a fun conceit too, though again, slightly confusing. When Fiore first unveils it he seems intent on using it, but by the end of the episode, when it starts ringing, he seems as reticent as DeBlanc to answer it.
Other plus points include the initially puzzling then just downright dodgy hunt-a-whore opening; Odin’s utterly callous speech following Lacy’s death; and the grand finale, with Jesse’s chilling conversion of the Meat & Power boss (and the almost Machiavellian way Jesse manipulates Odin into position for the final flourish).
But overall, this is a rather languid and sluggish episode that does a very good impression of a stepping stone between the previous episode and the next one.
- Tulip and Cassidy finally cross paths, and the results are very amusing.
- Jesse using his powers to convert Odin in front of his congregation is a massively intriguing gamechanger.
- The cliffhanger with the celestial telephone ringing is wonderfully ominous.
- Cassidy twisting Fiore and DeBlanc around his little finger (or is he?).
- Too many scenes go on way too long.
- Especially Jesse’s big sermon, which is a yawnathon until it gets to the point.
- Everything about the scene in which Tulips knocks Cassidy out of the window is just wrong, from the idea that Tulip would even do such a thing, to the very poor way in which it’s staged.
- Clive takes bloody ages to react to Lacy’s disappearance down the whole.
- We were a bit mean about Fiore in the previous review – he’s great here; creepy and funny. But DeBlanc still feels like he’s wandered in from a CBBC comedy.
And The Random:
- The game Odin is playing is the supremely addictive Q*Bert, first released in 1982. 425 is not a very good high score.
- Did anybody else briefly mistake the “Big As Texas” burger for an Alien xenomorph?
- Writer Sara Goodman has said that the reason Jesse and Odin are show building a model of the Alamo is a metaphor: “It’s the definition of Texas lore, but it’s also an unwinnable battle.”
Review by Dave Golder