After a terrific season 2 premiere, Preacher follows up on its renewed focus by letting the road trip deliver more action and personal story beats.
At the start of season 2, Preacher asks the tough questions. In addition to "Where's God?", the series also want to semi-seriously ponder the notion of "What do you do when the Terminator is a gun-toting cowboy from hell?"
At least that's the gist of the incredibly violent opening sequence that starts off 'Mumbai Sky Tower'. Last night's premiere made certain that such a question would be a major part of season 2, as the episode more or less kicked off with a graphic depiction of the Saint of Killers' opening salvo against Jesse Custer and the entity known as Genesis – with Tulip and Cassidy also in the line of fire, along with anyone foolish enough to cross paths with the unstoppable killer. 'On the Road' saw a group of lawmen mowed down in an exchange of hot lead, and in keeping with the idea that one good turn deserves another, Preacher repeats the altercation by having the Saint go up against some gun enthusiasts, who don't need much prodding to unleash a hail of bullets into the dusty cowboy. The results, however, are much the same: the Saint of Killers cannot be stopped.
The scene plays out in with a similarly anarchic vibe as before. It's like a live-action Looney Tunes as the Saint stands unharmed and expels all the rounds shot into him with a shrug. Every scene has some astonishingly gory moment undercut by Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy's reactions. First, as the carnage continues to erupt outside the seedy roadside motel they've holed up in for the night, Tulip, Jesse, and then Cassidy can't turn their eyes away from the television set. Their nonchalance is explained moments later as shock over the discovery that Annville was wiped out in a methane explosion. Ruth Negga gets a nice moment trying to process what's occurred, which is juxtaposed nicely by the flippant reaction to the unrelenting bloodshed happening just outside their motel room.
As with Tulip syphoning gas with a dead man's intestines, the series' dark sense of humor plays the dismemberment of a gun aficionado mixed up in the shootout as much for laughs as it does to generate tension. If one scene could convince people Preacher is most definitely not for the squeamish, it would be the one where a man, having recently been relieved of his left arm, lodges a complaint about the motel's vending machine to the only person listening: Jesse. Playing violence for laughs can be a tough sell, and Preacher certainly walks a fine line, but the irony of a group of Texas gun fanatics being wiped out by a man who might otherwise be their poster boy, and the exaggerated nature of the violence itself, helps to sell both aspects of the chaos.
The trio of Rogen, Goldberg, and Catlin also knows when it's time to cut and run. The premiere balanced the ultra violence of the Saint's arrival with a series of character moments that kept things light and offered some insight into Tulip's fear of what might happen should Jesse be made aware her fling with Cassidy. Those few minutes spent with Glenn Morshower's character, before he killed himself rather than let the Saint take his life, were the sort of diversion from the twin problems facing Jesse and his crew that continue to show how much more focused the series has become in season 2. And as the trio winds up tracking down Fiore, who is now working as twisted illusionist in a casino, making a life out of dying on stage and being restored in a new body, the series finds just how far it can take a tangent and still stay on track.
It also further heightens the world of Preacher and elevates it as perhaps the comic book-iest comic book series on television right now. Season 1 wasn't much for grounding its story in any way that might suggest the series had allusions at being taken seriously. And if season 2 demonstrates anything, it's that Preacher's chaotic spirit means it absolutely doesn't want to take anything too seriously. So when Fiore's and Cassidy bond over an afternoon of heavy drug use, indoor basketball, ice cream, and some implied exploration, both parties are doing so as a means to an end. The show, on the other hand, gets to indulge in its character's indulgences, with much the same agenda. Rogen, Goldberg, and Catlin have infused the series' flippant playfulness with a newfound sense of purpose. A drug binge produces some much-needed information – for Fiore – and results in Jesse figuring out where they need to head next – New Orleans.
'Mumbai Sky Tower' again demonstrates how much more propulsive Preacher is this time around, and how, even when it seemingly pauses for some debauchery, a spontaneous yet failed marriage proposal, and a deadly run-in with Tulip's past – during which she shows off why you don't want to mess with Ms. O'Hare – it's for more than just a bit of fun. Hopefully, this renewed focus means that Tulip's affairs will amount to more than the Carlos storyline did in season 1. For Fiore, however, it appears this is the end of the road, as he was clearly never going to be the same without DeBlanc, and his terrible existence of perpetually existing finally wore him down.
With no one left who can negate the Saint's contract, Preacher has committed itself to a solid story line that's has served as one half of the season's catalyst. There's a lot of road left ahead, so hopefully the show won't get burned out on the Saint or Jesse's ongoing quest to find God. But after a terrific season 2 premiere, Preacher follows up on its renewed focus by letting the road trip deliver more action and a few personal story beats.
Preacher continues next Monday with 'Damsels' @9pm on AMC.
Photos: Skip Bolen/AMC/Sony Pictures Television