In the world of Preacher, Jesus spends the last free evening of his life having a lot of sex with a married woman. As blasphemies go, this one is genial enough. Jesus seems like kind of an airhead, but he’s not an asshole, and the woman is clearly really, really, really into all the fucking. When he says he loves her, it’s because he’s Jesus, and Jesus loves everybody. And if “It’s been real” is maybe not something you want to hear from your messiah, as we see later, it could’ve been worse.

No, the real blasphemy is what comes next. Jesus’s disciple Thadeus catches on to what (and who) Christ was doing, and when the lady gives birth nine months later, the disciple is there to take charge of the infant. He also has the mother killed. The Grail, it seems, were assholes straight from the start. After some dancing around the subject and a few applications of the Word, Jesse gets the group’s backstory from Starr, and also gets a chance to meet Christ’s current representative on Earth. The pay-off isn’t exactly what he’s hoping for.

As I’ve mentioned (several dozen times), I’ve read the comics, so I knew more or less what was coming. But I’d be lying if I said it still wasn’t something of a shock. I’m not a believer, haven’t been to church in decades, and yet the sight of Humperdoo pissing on Jesse still managed to have an effect beyond the immediate revulsion/silliness of a good gross out gag. The Jesus in the cold open wasn’t the ideal vision of a savior, but he at least seemed to have his basic shit together. This dude, though? He’s sweet enough, but if he’s supposed to be our salvation, we’re even more screwed than usual.

Which is, of course, the point. The Grail has dedicated its existence to manipulating world events and protecting Jesus’s bloodline, and this is the result: immense power to be held by an idiot, signifying absolutely nothing. The group doesn’t even know where God actually went. In an attempt to show Jesse some of the resources he has at his disposal, Starr brings in the Pope and the Archbishop of Rome. When Jesse asks them where God is, the Archbishop offers some nonsense about an angelic rebellion, and the Pope thinks God has abandoned Man to create something more worthy of His love. The most powerful religious figures in the world know fuck all about what’s really going on.

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This is all part of Starr’s pitch: the goofy theories, the secrets, the whizzing messiah. Everything Jesse sees in “Dirty Little Secret,” even the stuff he’s thinking he’s forcing Starr to show him, is designed to lead into Starr’s final offer. He doesn’t give a damn about helping Jesse find God, although he’ll presumably let Jesse exhaust the Grail’s resources if he so chooses. What he wants is to have Custer, and his wonderful way with the Word, to take Humperdoo’s place as the Chosen One.

It’s a more nuanced idea than just having the two men start off as immediate enemies. It makes a certain amount of sense—Starr is an asshole, but he’s smart enough to realize that Humperdoo makes a shitty cornerstone to build a future on, and, at least in concept, replacing him with someone with actual superpowers would go a long way to justifying the effort. This also speaks to Starr’s remarkable arrogance. Anyone else might have had a few seconds of doubt. Humperdoo is a buffoon, but he’s a pliable buffoon. An actual intelligent human being with the ability to bend others to his will just by talking to them represents a risk. Starr, though, assumes he’ll still be in control.

To be fair, the Grail is doing a decent job of getting up in Jesse’s shit so far. Not only does Custer do more or less exactly what Starr assumes he will, Featherstone and Hoover keep working on Tulip to split the happy couple up—the idea being that if Jesse’s isolated, he’ll turn to the Grail for support because he won’t have anyone else to turn to. I’m not entirely convinced things would work like that, but it at least seems consistent with how the Grail approaches problem solving. And it also gives Tulip something to do that’s more interesting than “another nightmare about the Saint.”

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The problem is that while Featherstone’s efforts do eventually lead to Tulip finding the Saint’s guns under the bathroom floor, we’re going to have to wait till next week to see how she handles the discovery. (Given how much she had invested in the idea that Jesse sent the Saint to Hell, I don’t think she’s happy.) It’s hard to shake the vibe that Tulip has spent the past few weeks mired in a storyline that’s little more than a stall until something happens that pushes her back into the action. She hasn’t disappeared or anything, but while Jesse’s been poking around, Tulip’s just been going over and over her experience with the Saint, to a degree that doesn’t seem justified by what we know about her.

The fact that she discovers the hidden guns suggests that the reason the writers put so much emphasis on her PTSD is to drive a wedge between her and Jesse when she finds out he lied to her. So at least there’s a reason, but that doesn’t justify the time spent getting to this point. It’s also weird how quickly Featherstone is able to distract Tulip when the former inadvertently lets more information slip than she meant to. Everything we’ve seen of Tulip so far is someone who can take care of herself, someone who survives, and yet she’s spent too much of the back half of season two fumbling along, scared of her own shadow.

At least Cassidy’s storyline has shown some progress. His relationship with Denis has improved substantially since Cassidy turned his son into a vampire, and “Dirty Little Secret” finds the two partying together with hookers with video games. But new vampires have hungers they don’t quite know how to control, and Denis’s sudden need for blood has him getting violent. If he had a stronger role model, maybe that wouldn’t be a problem, but Cassidy isn’t much good at the hard parts of being a dad, and, as the hour ends with Denis coming home grinning with his face covered in blood, this is probably only going to get worse before it gets better.

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Preacher’s second season has been stronger and more focused than its first, but the show has lost some of its energy since Jesse dumped the Saint in the swamp. Without a pressing threat, the narrative tension has gone slack, and while individual storylines are still effective, there’s a sharpness that’s missing. Hopefully things will get worse again for everyone soon, though.

Stray observations

  • Nice use of shadowplay, show.
  • Jesus’s disciples mention the “garden” where Jesus was supposedly praying for guidance before Judas betrayed him—I mean, I think that’s how it worked, my knowledge of this stuff is largely based off Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • “How’d you get so good at video games?” “My parents died.”
  • I miss Rock Band. I was never very good at the drums, though.

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