Jesse Custer wants to be the good guy. And that’s great, because as someone once said, there’s way too many of the other kind. Being good isn’t easy, though, especially not when you have a talent for violence and theft, and a bad temper that sends you raging whenever anyone gets between you and your girl. Last week, he found out that Tulip’s secret mob boss nemesis was actually Tulip’s secret’s mob boss husband; instead of calming him down, the news sends him spiraling. He beats the shit out of Viktor and then carries him to the torture room, and when Tulip tries to stop him, Jesse uses the Word on her. He’s out of his mind, and the problem with spending so much time trying to do the right thing is that when you finally give in and do the wrong one, there’s a lot of lost ground to make up for.

“Dallas” traffics in a more straightforward sort of darkness then usual. The Saint shows up to slaughter everyone in the final moments, but most of the hour is devoted to people we like being horrible to each other. Roughly half the episode is devoted to the flashback that gives the entry its name, catching up on Jesse and Tulip’s time together after Carlos betrayed them, and seeing the split that put Jesse in Annville and, ultimately, in the path of Genesis. If last week’s outing slowed things down a little, this one is nearly in neutral; yet where “Viktor” sometimes felt like less than the sum of its (excellent) parts, “Dallas” has a focus and a heft that adds to our understanding of the show’s central relationship, using a brief lull in the action to raise the emotional stakes and give some useful context to the general madness.

I’m not sure there are any truly shocking revelations here. After Tulip’s miscarriage, she takes up a job as a realtor’s assistant, while Jesse sinks into depression, spending his days drinking and watching TV (and arguing with a friendly pothead named Reggie about John Wayne). At night, Tulip comes home, she takes a home pregnancy test; it comes up negative; then they fuck. At some point, Jesse goes to a nearby convenience store to get more beer and another pregnancy test. On his walk, he passes a church. And so on.

All of this builds to one of the more depressing montages I’ve seen on this or any other show, one that uses the rapid editing and repeated scenes to get at the soul-crushing tedium of the couple’s life. We’ve seen Jesse and Tulip fighting, we’ve seen them madly in love, we’ve seen them robbing banks and beating people up, but I’m not sure we’ve ever seen them quite this broken before. Neither come off as perfect—it turns out Tulip is doing jobs on the side and lying about it, but at least she’s trying to move forward with her life. Jesse is wallowing in his misery and self-loathing, and when the break finally comes, it’s as much a relief as anything.

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Well, except for poor Reggie. In the episode’s darkest scene, Tulip calls Jesse on his shit, and in response, he beats up Reggie because he isn’t going to hit her. It’s fucked up and ugly, and shows Custer at his worst; and the fact that he decides to go back to his father’s church soon after would be evidence enough that he’s on the wrong path, even if we hadn’t already watched the first season.

One of the challenges for Preacher is that Jesse’s quest is essentially self-motivated. The Saint is after him, and he and his friends will make more enemies as they go, but his need to find God isn’t based on any immediate danger or need. He’s doing it because he’s decided it’s the right thing to do, and that can be tricky to motivate. So far the show has done a good job of doing that (mostly through his relationship with his dead father), and “Dallas” does well to underline the dysfunction that drives him.

It also gives us a bit more on Tulip, offering a quick justification for why she’s married to Viktor without spending too much time on their marriage. Which makes sense: while Jesse ends up sparing Viktor, the Saint does not, and there’s no real need to get to know the guy beyond “he was nice and Tulip wanted someone who wasn’t an asshole to her for a while.” Still, if there’s a weak point in the hour, it’s the last flashback, which shows why Tulip abandoned her new husband in the middle of a Monopoly game. She got a lead on Carlos from an old contact (Danny, who also gets a hilarious dinner scene earlier in the hour) and went running. That’s fine, and it’s yet more evidence that Tulip can’t quite Jesse no matter how rough things get, but it’s not all that necessary a scene.

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More importantly, we also see Cassidy’s manipulations laid briefly bare. He offers to help clean up the mess he made (after all, he is the one who told Jesse where Tulip was), but instead of talking Jesse back from the ledge, he does the best he can to push his friend over, talking about how, if he were in Jesse’s shoes, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from killing Viktor—an act both men know would turn Tulip on Jesse for good. The lie is the first really direct attempt Cassidy’s made yet to weasel in, and it’s such a perfect dick move on his part. Tulip sees through him, but not enough to realize just how much of a bastard he can be, making the mistake thousands (millions?) of women have made before in the presence of an ingratiating asshole who swears up and down that he really does have her best interests at heart. Jesse decides not to kill Viktor, but while that solves the immediate crisis, Cassidy is still hanging around, doing his best to fuck everything up. That’s going to be a problem down the line.

And of course, there’s the Saint, who’s in New Orleans and also (presumably) knows where Jesse is staying, thanks to Viktor’s daughter. I had not expected him to show up quite this soon, but given that Jesse has used the Word multiple times recently, it’s not a huge surprise. Looks like things are going to get crazy again very soon—but I appreciate that the show was smart enough to spend some time reminding us why we should care what happens next.

Stray observations

  • Cassidy’s passive aggressive pout when Jesse doesn’t kill Viktor is hilarious.
  • John Wayne is an important figure in the comics, appearing occasionally to Jesse to help guide him through tough times. (It’s never explicit if this is a hallucination or a ghost, although I’d assume the former.) I’m not sure if the show is going in that direction, but if they don’t, it was at least nice to see the reference here.
  • “We are not killing your husband, Danny.”
  • There’s a bible propping up a window in Jesse and Tulip’s old apartment. Reggie tears out pages from it to use for joints.
  • Cassidy is very committed to his foreskin jokes.

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