Preacher exposes the truth of The Grail's plan and presents Jesse with an interesting proposition in an episode that satisfies on multiple fronts.
'Dirty Little Secret' delivers the most gleefully blasphemous cold open Preacher has had in season 2. The series gets an early win with its depiction of the Dan Brown-level "truth" about Jesus Christ, coupled with casting of All-American Rejects lead singer Tyson Ritter in the role, and later the not-so subtle in-episode nod given to the band's song from which the episode derives its title. But the hour also takes the already weird development of Jesse Custer's face-to-face meeting with Herr Starr and twists it into something that very nearly works as meta-commentary on the fascination and veneration of celebrity.
It nearly does so, but the episode has so much area to cover that it really only has time for a cursory pass over the concept before diverting its attention to Tulip's ongoing struggle with her PTSD and Cassidy's efforts to be a father to his son, who is now (physically) his senior, and not adjusting all that well to being turned into a vampire. In other words, while 'Dirty Little Secrets' makes a go of pushing the overarching search for God forward, it is also working to find a way to tie its three somewhat disparate threads together. The plan, it seems, is to give Jesse a monumental choice, one that has him take stock of his two companions, and evaluate the degree to which his search is not only solitary but perhaps even pointless.
Jesse's run-in with Starr goes about how you'd expect, with the wayward preacher first bashing the man's face with a three-ring binder and then using the Word on him to get to the bottom of the God mystery. The pairing works wonders; it breathes new life into a season that has felt listless in the past few weeks, creating a dynamic that can't quite find that right balance between the two characters' common goals and the outright antagonism that exists between them. Mostly, though, the hour works to open Jesse's eyes as time and again he's presented with the inconvenient truth that the institutions he put his faith in are just as hopelessly lost as he is. The meeting between the Pope and Archbishop is proof of that, as not only do the two not agree on the whereabouts of God or his reasons for his abandoning his position, but they also clearly answer to a higher power that is far more earthly in origin: the Grail.
That doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the institution of organized religion, but it does confirm that Jesse's on the right track. God is indeed missing and was last seen in New Orleans – which doesn't feel at all like Preacher justifying how budgetary restrictions kept the show in one location for almost the entire season. As much of a disappointment as the church's leaders are for Jesse, it's perhaps his meeting with Humperdoo, the hopelessly inbred twenty-fifth great grandson of Jesus Christ, that leaves him reeling.
Amidst the joke that in the Grail's efforts to maintain Christ's bloodline the organization has unwittingly created and put its faith in someone incapable of holding the position, 'Dirty Little Secret' delivers another suggestion as to the identity of God. As expected, it seems Jesse should have taken his first introduction to "god" at face value, as Humperdoo's drawings seem to indicate God may well be the man dressed in a dog outfit performing sex acts in the basement of a New Orleans jazz bar.
The hint of a payoff is a welcome one, and although it doesn't necessarily justify the wayward nature of the season's back half, the notion that the slow plot machinations are indeed leading somewhere does offer something to look forward to. And that's in conjunction with how the episode ends. Ever the pragmatist, Starr makes Jesse an offer to usurp God's place and to lead the world (with his help, of course). It's an intriguing offer not just because of how much Jesse has grown apart from Tulip and Cassidy over the past few weeks, but also because it presents Preacher with an opportunity to explore this new Custer/Starr dynamic further. They've only been together for the better part of a single episode, but Pip Torrens makes for an excellent comedic partner for Cooper's otherwise stoic Custer.
If the series wanted to follow Jesse down the road of temptation and potentially greater misuse of Genesis and the Word, it could present Preacher with a very interesting story to explore should the series move into season 3. After nearly two seasons, the show has only begun to scratch the surface of the story told in the comics, and at this point it seems Sam Catlin, as well as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, are content to let the needs of the TV series dictate where to go next. Seeing as how much fun it is to see Pip Torrens and Dominic Cooper together, it might not be the worst idea to give the series and excuse to further their interaction, even for just a short time.
In all, 'Dirty Little Secret' took its opening sequence and ran with it, offering up an episode with more energy and focus than most of what's been on display as of late. There's a light at the end of the season 2 tunnel now, and it looks to open up back on the streets of New Orleans as Jesse contemplates temptation and the true power that he wields.
Random Thoughts From Preacher:
While the joke of having Denis speak only French worked before he was revealed to be Cassidy's son, the novelty has all but worn off by now and the lengths to which Preacher goes to allow the two a chance to communicate isn't justified by the purposelessness of their interactions.
Like Jesse and Herr Starr, Tulip's interactions with Julie Ann Emery's Grail agent have made that subplot far more interesting to watch.
Not quite sure if the glimpse at Tulip's video game-playing backstory works out better for her character or the episode shoehorning in a tune from All-American Rejects via a game no one is playing anymore.
Preacher continues next Monday with 'Backdoors' @9pm on AMC.