After a long wait, Preacher finally, officially introduces Herr Starr, giving the villain top billing in his own hasty and darkly entertaining origin story.
Leave it to a show as gleefully irreverent as Preacher to launch the second half of season 2 with a brand new arc, one that's made possible due in large part to a floating pig in a remote Vietnamese village. That pig, its owners, and the public fervor connected to them allows the series to finally offer an appropriate introduction to Herr Starr, the comically evil Big Bad played to perfection by Pip Torrens.
'Pig' is the follow through of last week's 'Sokosha', which, for the time being, closed the book on the Saint of Killers, by having Jesse imbue the hellish cowboy with one percent of his soul, making him vulnerable to the will of Genesis, but putting the preacher in a bit of a pickle when it comes to his immortal spirit. It's an interesting quandary, one that Preacher seems content to leave on the backburner for the time being, as it now officially has bigger fish to fry; namely, the aforementioned Starr, the clandestine operation known as the Grail, and the fact that Jesse is now on their radar.
The introduction of Starr comes as just the right time, and it demonstrates that, aside from a few go-nowhere episodes stuck in New Orleans, Preacher still has that forward-thinking mindset that was so evident during the season's first two episodes. Leaving the Saint in a time out at the bottom of a Louisiana swamp means the show can refocus its attention on something other than the unstoppable killing machine. To be fair, the series tried that earlier with mixed results, as whatever the episodes threw at Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy wasn't going to be nearly as captivating as watching them run from the calamity guaranteed to follow in the wake of the Saint's arrival.
This time, Preacher is ready to switch gears, as the Saint's story – for the time being – pretty much played itself out, and it's a credit to Sam Catlin and his team of writers that they recognize there's no way the killer cowboy could sustain a season's worth of stories – especially considering he could barely sustain six.
At any rate, although the show is ready to move on, it's in no hurry to force a meeting between Jesse and Herr Starr. The preacher's already had a run-in with the Grail, and they've confirmed his powers are the real deal, which will save the series a lot of time when it comes to bringing the two sides into inevitable conflict, but it also means and episode like 'Pig' can exist simply to provide some necessary background on Herr Starr and the organization he quickly manages to maneuver himself in control of. It's the trickiest part of the getting-to-know you phase of the viewer/TV show relationship, one that's made more challenging given the amount of time Preacher has already devoted to introducing Starr without actually introducing him. There's a level of expectation for readers of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's graphic novels, but for those who are watching the series cold, seeing Starr appear in fits and starts, without explanation as to who he is who the organization he represents, this summary primer on the nattily dressed heavy should be enough for either type of fan.
To be fair, Starr's backstory is secondary to his chaotic behavior, which is a little reminiscent of the antics already seen by the likes of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy – though it's far more malicious, even when niggling over something as trivial as parking validation. In that sense, 'Pig' works incredibly well in terms of setting up Starr as a character distinctly of this world, and who may also pose a significant threat to our heroes. Serving up Starr's personality quirks, his no-nonsense approach to dealing with specific problems, as well as the violent, sometimes obscene methods of going around rather than over obstacles, and having them coincide with his rather unique physical appearance, works best when the character is given the entirety of the spotlight. The episode could have been wall-to-wall Pip Torrens deftly working his way through the Grail's rigorous and deadly interview process and you might be hard-pressed to find viewers objecting to the lack of Jesse Custer and friends during the hour.
Torrens proves himself to be quite the presence during the hour. His earlier introduction offered proof of just how weirdly perfect looking he was for the role, and in the span of forty some odd minutes he demonstrates it again, breathing life into what could have been a one-note weirdo (and still could be) and making him interesting enough that if his future entanglements with Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy are anything like his introduction here, the character should prove a welcome addition to the cast.
Preacher Odds and Ends:
The anarchic vibe coming off Herr Starr in waves is mirrored in Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy's scam of a bunch of gun-toting morons gambling on who can get up after being shot in the chest while wearing a bulletproof vest. The scene immediately calls to mind Carrie Coon's in The Leftovers season 1, suggesting Nora Durst would probably fit right in with the wayward preacher and his cohort. As a time killing venture, however, it offers an interesting glimpse into the minds of the show's main trio. Jesse easily could have used Genesis on the crowd, but the promise of pulling a scam (using Cassidy's vampirism, but still) proved too much of a thrill. Plus, that kiss between Cassidy and Tulip is gonna be trouble.
The bar also offered Cassidy a chance to actually talk to his son (finally), thanks to the coincidental appearance of a French professor. The show hasn't made much of Denis over the past few weeks. He existed first as a joke, only to be revealed as Cassidy's old and dying offspring. And now, the vampire's son wants restitution for having Cassidy as his father by asking to be made immortal. You could see this coming a mile away. But even though it's a familiar plot device, especially when dealing with supernatural entities, like vampires, the specificity of Cassidy's thread could bring the character a new level of emotional complexity.
Just like Nora Durst, Tulip finds some sort of therapeutic value in surviving being shot. The motivations certainly differ, as Tulip seems to be suffering from some sort of PTSD given her near-death experience at the hands of the Saint. But there's a hint of anger directed at Jesse for cutting it so close, which along with the kiss with Cassidy might mean the lovebirds are headed for a rough patch.
John Ales makes for a TV's best drunken doomsday preacher worried about car payments.
R.I.P., adorable floating pig. the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
Preacher continues next Monday with 'Holes' @9pm on AMC.