Is it weird to anyone else that Jesse Custer still believes in God’s plan? We’re four seasons in, and the man has seen a lot of shit go down. And yet tonight is the closest we’ve come to him finally realizing that God is a selfish, petty asshole who needs to get taken down. Stubbornness can be an interesting character trait, and it makes a certain amount of sense that Jesse would cling to his faith even as the world falls down around him; he continually blames himself for all the bad shit, and wanting, needing to believe a higher power has a plan for all of it isn’t that hard to relate to. But it’s gotten old. I guess he’s managed to believe this long in part because the show has rarely stuck to it’s “Let’s find God” quest long enough for it to develop much past a whim. But that’s Preacher in a nutshell, really. It’s mostly a show about cool moments; if a story occasionally coheres around those moments, you get the feeling that the creative team is as surprised as anybody.
“Messiahs” has a some good bits, per the usual. It also has a lot of bad bits, and one of the continuing problems with the show is the way it presents its worst material with just as much gusto and confidence as its best, as though no one involved has any idea that there might be a difference between the two. Swagger can get you pretty far in art, but it can’t make things coherent, and so little in this show is coherent at this point that it boggles the mind. I’m not talking about plot, exactly. I’m sure if you sat down and spent a lot of time moving from point A to point Whatever, you could make all of this make some kind of sense. But stories aren’t just a collection of incidents. They’re supposed to build over time, and become more than a simple sum of their parts. As it is, Preacher is a show where most of its most effective scenes would be best viewed in isolation. It’s a show in desperate need of editing and reconfiguring and just, I dunno, some goddamn narrative discipline.
This week, Jesse is in Hell and learns why God abandoned his throne. I don’t really get why Fiore is able to communicate to him through the Hell device, but I’m sure there’s a justification for it. I just don’t know why we’re three quarters of the way through the series and just now getting the reveal. It makes sense in terms of character, as it finally pushes Jesse towards realizing God doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing (and then realizing that God does have a plan, it’s just “wiping out the human race for a new species”), but we’ve had ample opportunity to see God’s cowardice on the series, and this tells us, the audience, nothing new. I’m glad we found time to see him buy the dalmatian fetish suit, I guess. I was always wondering about that. (You could argue that we seem him buy it as a way to underline his selfishness; he ignores the beggar on the corner but goes for the suit. But it’s still dumb.)
All of this is just super weird to happen this late in the show’s run. Like, the series spent so much time dicking around and wasting momentum (remember last year when we spent the whole damn summer in Angelville?), and all of a sudden we’ve got the Grail bringing about the apocalypse, God making plans for a replacement species, and Jesse dead and being asked to take God’s place on the heavenly throne. I appreciate the renewed interest in trying to actually tell a story, but I question the efficacy of cramming all of this in at the last minute. The show has always felt small no matter how epic it tries to get, and this just enhances the effect. There’s no scope to it, and not a whole lot in the way of suspense.
Like I said, though, there are some good bits. Watching Tulip and Cass struggle to come to terms with Jesse’s death is well done. I’m not a huge fan of them deciding to kidnap Humperdoo for their revenge on God, as it feels more than a little like the show just needing to tie up a few side-plots before the end, and I don’t know what the hell to make of the Orthodox Jewish community who apparently decided that the mentally enfeebled descendant of Jesus Christ was their savior. But actual emotional weight of Tulip’s rage is very effective, and I like how dangerous both of them feel. The scene where Cass threatens a nice Australian gentleman is very good, and the conversation the two of them have in the diner before Tulip shoots a guy in the head honestly belongs in a better show. That’s probably the worst thing you could say about Preacher now; its highlights mostly exist to remind you how inert everything else is.
The dingo from last week ripped Starr’s dick off, and we’re treated to a “hilarious” scene of the animal running away with the pixelated genitals in its mouth as Starr crawls after it, begging it to stop. I hated this. It was unpleasant and unfunny. We learn that the Grail subordinate who seemed incredibly competent was actually an undercover cop, and then Featherstone shoots him, because of course she does. Hitler introduces Jesus to the Humperdoo clone, and reveals that he knew it was a clone all along because the clone doesn’t dance. I guess we’re supposed to care about the Heaven/Hell/Messiah stuff, but for the life of me, I don’t know why. Apart from the novelty, there’s no story value to any of it. The actors are fine, but if this is making some sort of point, it’s missing me.
This is a show that’s centering its last season on the possible end of the human race, cut down by a wrathful and petulant God for failing to be sufficiently loyal to him. It’s also a show that has repeatedly and aggressively rubbed our noses in how stupid and shitty people can be, so I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel much suspense about the fate of the species. The only thing that has any juice in it left at all is the relationships between Jesse, Tulip, and Cass. I wouldn’t say it’s worth watching just to see where they end up, but it’s at least something. Everything else is just so much smug and snarky noise.
- Nice to see Fiore again. He’s a fun one.
- “This is God’s Chosen One? He’s raping blocks of cheese.” -Annie
- “She still loved God. Because she was an idiot.” -Cass