Ron Hogan

Jul 4, 2017

Preacher wastes no time in its latest season two episode. Here's our spoiler-filled review…

This review contains spoilers.

2.3 Damsels

Of the characters on Preacher, there’s only one that’s essentially a truly good person. Cassidy is selfish, Jesse is violent and temperamental, Tulip is involved in some serious criminal activities… the only character that’s a good guy, pitiable in his way, is Eugene. He’s so positive and so upbeat, he always seems to be trying to make others feel better—whether we’re talking about his father or Jesse—and every little bit of his background that we see only makes him all the more pitiable. In TV tropes terms, he’s a woobie. Every nice thing he tries to do only ends up getting him hurt, and it all goes back to his very origin.

Eugene goes to Tracy’s house to talk to her while she’s crying. Her boyfriend cheated on her with a five, which is humiliating. A friend is going to tell the world, and so Tracy’s only got one solution for her elevated teenage problems: suicide. But fortunately and unfortunately, Eugene is there to try to talk her out of it. Surprisingly, he’s successful, but a sweet moment leads to a kiss, which leads to a disgusted Tracy putting the shotgun to her face. She pulls the trigger, Eugene pulls on the shotgun, and rather than dying instantly, Tracy ends up like the Tracy we remember from Annville. And Eugene, because he can’t have a single bit of good luck, ends up becoming Arseface after a misfire causes him to look down the barrel of the gun and lose most of his face in the process.

Then, it repeats. Again and again, we get to see the most graphic moments of Eugene’s failed attempt to save Tracy and kill himself. Then it cuts abruptly. Eugene, his face back to a puckered mess, is in prison togs in a room with a projector, reliving the worst moment of his life over and over again. He’s in Hell, after all, banished there by Jesse. But maybe he’s going to make a new friend in the person of… Adolph Hitler (Noah Taylor).

Sara Goodman’s script does a very good job at getting across just how sweet, and how unlucky, Eugene is in moments like these. Mary Poppins in The Sound Of Music is a very clever bit of writing, without coming across as too clever. It’s the sort of dumb thing that a teenager (or a 30-something television reviewer) might say to someone else to make a point. If anyone can see the good in Hitler, it’s going to be Eugene. And when it goes wrong for Eugene, which it will, he’ll still smile and carry on.

The cold opening is one of a pair of effective montages in this week’s episode. Eugene is repeating the same experience over and over again. Barring a couple of disturbing examples, Jesse and company are repeating the same experience over and over again, too. Specifically, Jesse is going to visit all 187 jazz clubs in New Orleans in an attempt to track down God, and we get a nice montage of him exploring various smoky jazz clubs communicated mostly through soundtrack, glowing neon, clinking glasses of whiskey, smoking, and repetition. Like Eugene, Jesse meets someone who might be able to help him out, but Lara (Julie Ann Emery) is not who she seems to be.

It’s clear that The Grail has done research on Jesse Custer, because Lara’s whole story is catered to make Jesse feel sympathetic for her. She’s pretty, she’s a talented singer, and she’s ticking off a variety of boxes to appeal to someone with a heroism complex. She needs aid at the bar, she sneaks away making Jesse chase her, and then she has to be rescued from masked assailants (including Lateef Crowder, noteworthy for his long dreads and capoera fighting style). It’s a good introduction for the group, because just seeing Herr Starr (Pip Torrens) in the flesh should be enough to satisfy comic book fans, if only because he’s been lifted straight from Steve Dillon’s artwork.

Despite being a set-up episode, there’s a lot to recommend for Damsels. The scene in which Jesse, Cas, and Tulip are led through a series of basements to meet with “God” is surprisingly tense in the hands of director Michael Slovis. The two montages, Eugene’s and Jesse’s, are both handled very well, and are clever both in terms of visuals and execution. The brief fight between Jesse and the thugs of the Grail is also very well done, shot wider than usual to show that Dominic Cooper is actually doing a great deal of the fighting himself.

Tulip’s interaction with the goons at the very end of the episode is significant; they’re not going to stretch out her attempt to ghost through New Orleans for half a season. Likewise, Preacher isn’t going to drag its feet in getting around to introducing The Grail, because we see two of the principals in a very brief introductory scene. Ten episodes does not leave a lot of space for wasting time, which will keep Preacher from falling into the trap of some other shows, where too little material is stretched for too long to fill a sixteen-episode season.

Preacher is a comic book show, and it’s attempting to have comic book visuals and comic book pacing. Comics can slow down, take time to tell stories, but they don’t tend to linger too long in one place. That kind of pacing can get old in print, and it can get old in television. I’m sure that Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg have plans in place to avoid this kind of thing; changing filming locations is a great way to keep things fresh, even if the very nature of filming requires some sort of home base. Lots of great locations in Louisiana, and lots of potential complications for Jesse Custer lurk in the cypress swamps nearby.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan really enjoyed the show’s new opening montage, featuring New Orleans in its full hedonistic glory. Even though he’s not a big fan of the city itself, it’s a very entertaining backdrop for a show. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.