In a flashback-heavy episode, Preacher looks at Jesse and Tulip's relationship, as recent revelations send Mr. Custer past the breaking point.
The romantic relationship between two of Preacher's three main characters requires something of a leap of faith for the audience, and for the most part that's fine. Those watching have been told time and again that Jesse Custer and Tulip O'Hare have shared a long history with one another that is both professional and personal. It is a history that, although fragmented, has spanned quite some time and seen them through a number of tricky predicaments. But as the story of AMC's Preacher moves forward into its second season, more and more of the storytelling avenues it wants to explore requires a more concrete foundation on which to build such a significant relationship.
A big part of why it's important that Preacher look into Jesse and Tulip's past is that, at some point, her recent fling with Cassidy is eventually going to come to a head. It's not entirely necessary that we see Jesse and Tulip's failed attempt at domestic bliss in order to know that one slip of the tongue is going to blow up this cozy little triumvirate and derail a certain search for the Almighty in ways that will surely make season 3 a necessity. After all, Preacher has strong and entertaining enough characterizations that if it tells the audience something, they can easily take it at face value. So, when the series says that Tulip and Jesse is a love affair for the ages, well, then, it's easy enough to believe. So, as 'Dallas' gets rolling and takes a trip in the way back machine, to look at how such a romance fell apart, the hour is as much about pulling back the curtain on something that could easily have remained obscured as it is about finding a way to tread water in the most entertaining way possible.
'Dallas' is not entirely successful in the later department. The season has been stuck in the Big Easy for three weeks straight now, and while there have been some interesting digressions into some of the stranger corners of the larger Preacher story, the accelerated progression of the narrative and increased focus that was demonstrated in the first few episodes has more or less ground to a halt. The Saint of Killers is still on Jesse's tail – thanks to his over use of Genesis in the last few episodes – but there's no sense that the series is ready to ditch New Orleans, since there hasn't been any sense the search for God has come up with a fresh lead worthwhile enough to once again hit the road.
And while it seems that 'Dallas' is ready to get the trio on the road sooner rather than later, there's still something interesting about the show's examination of the Jesse/Tulip dynamic and how, despite their apparent feelings for one another, the relationship is unhealthy as all get out. A lot of that has to do with the immediate aftermath of the season 1 Carlos debacle. While the actual payoff of that story line was a bit underwhelming, the series deems that time period worthy of a second look, as it affords Preacher a chance to better understand why two people would keep circling back to one another despite a history of lies and betrayal.
Much of that has to do with the loss of their unborn child, and the couple's (deliberately) unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant again. Preacher avoids addressing the loss in typical fashion, and instead uses a repetitious sequence showing the monotony of Jesse and Tulip's "normal" daily lives to demonstrate just how perfunctory their second attempt at becoming a family is, and later, how far apart the two have drifted since that fateful day they were double-crossed. Although the hour revolves initially around the question of whether or not Jesse is going to kill Tulip's husband, Viktor, the question at the heart of 'Dallas' is whether or not this couple is on a new path or if they're doomed to see history repeat itself. That approach spices up an episode that might otherwise be described as having spent too much of the hour spinning its wheels.
Still, though it doesn't progress the overarching narrative much, 'Dallas' does make for an interesting, almost introspective change for a series that's been in the midst of a creative reboot in season 2. The opportunity to look back and see how Jesse and Tulip v. 1.0 collapsed under the weight of betrayal, loss, burgeoning alcoholism, and lies (or truth avoidance) casts their renewed relationship in a different light. Much of that has to do with Jesse's ultimate decision to not give into his baser instincts and desire to kill Viktor, but to leave him (relatively) unharmed and instead coerce him into signing divorce papers. It would be too much of a stretch to see this as a kinder, gentler Jesse Custer, but it does point to a Jesse who can put the needs of others – namely, Tulip – ahead of his own, and suggests a departure from his John Wayne-inspired notions of what constitutes a man and woman's roles in a modern relationship. In other words, Tulip's not some damsel in need of saving, but rather a woman who made a series of independent decisions about her role in a failing relationship, and if left to her own devices in this instance, likely would have resolved the situation in a similar fashion.
Preacher's decision to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate Jesse's personal growth bodes well for his future with Tulip, but still leaves the question of what's coming once Cassidy's secret is out up in the air. The series has spent a great deal of energy in the first half of season 2 underlining the importance of what this friendship means to Cassidy, and it's only a matter of time before Preacher finds some conflict in watching that alliance go down the tubes just as Jesse and Tulip's once did.
Preacher continues next Monday with 'Sokosha' @9pm on AMC.
Photos: Skip Bolen/AMC