Everything falls apart in the Preacher season 2 extended finale that puts an emphasis on teasing big things to come over resolution.
The leisurely second half of Preacher season 2 necessitated a finale that would bring things back into perspective after several episodes were spent watching Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy slowly drift apart, as the search for God became a tedious endeavor with no real end in sight. Even fictional characters are susceptible to boredom, especially when faced with an interminable wait in a dank New Orleans apartment, so it was no surprise when things went south. Rooming with a psychotic septuagenarian who was recently turned into a vampire, while white-suited commandoes and killer cowboys from Hell popped in on occasion helped spice things up a bit, but those erratic visitations were no more capable of keeping a group of disparate agitators in league with one another than they were in keeping the audience captivated. Something needed to give, and in ‘The End of the Road’, it finally did.
The episode’s title is a bit of a clever misnomer as the final moments suggest Jesse, Cassidy, and a dead Tulip have reached anything but. However, if the title is meant to suggest the road that the characters have reached the end of is related to the wait for Preacher to regain its footing and the breakneck pace of the first two episodes, then it may be a sign of good things to come.
There were signs that the finale wanted to get back to what the show does very well, but – whether its due to budget or network mandated episode count, or both – sometimes forgets to share with the audience. The presentation of those qualities doesn’t even need to make much sense. In fact, they’re more fun when they don’t. Earlier in the season, Dominic Cooper showed off his action-hero prowess with a fantastic fight scene incongruously set to a Billy Joel song. Cooper committed to each and every punch that was thrown – either by him or at him – suggesting Preacher had cast an actor capable of delivering big action set pieces that perform a small miracle for a show with a big story and big ideas, but what looks to be the production budget of a much more staid program. In other words, Preacher proved it could reliably liven things up with some stylish fisticuffs.
For no reason really other than “it’s going to look cool”, ‘The End of the Road’ stages one of the best fight sequences this season, and as the series did before, sets the action to an incongruous song. This time, it’s George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’ and my sweet lord, does the moment deliver. It’s the same kind of action set piece that saved the show in the past, but here, with the addition of Pip Torrens’s hilariously harsh facial expressions, it gets the finale off on the right foot, allowing the rest of the extra-long episode a great deal of leeway with regard to its depiction of everything falling apart for the unholy trio at the center of the story.
‘The End of the Road’ begins with the literal meaning behind the title, which is Jesse’s grandmother’s house. Here we get another glimpse into the preacher’s twisted past, which has him directing traffic and acting as something of a ticket taker for those paying for the unique services his extended family provides. Too long by a minute or two, the cold open sees Jesse as a young man savvy enough to spot an undercover cop and skilled enough to lift the wallet of a would-be patron, but also fearful of the still-unseen family who would sooner break his arm than let him keep any money for himself (stolen or otherwise). Jesse’s also so susceptible to the pangs of guilt that he’d secure the services of someone he should not have in order to bring the chicken he stomped to death back to life.
That’s a lot of heavy lifting to do in order to foreshadow the fact that Tulip’s death is probably not going to be the end of the road for her. And while it colors in more of Jesse’s character and reveals some motivations hidden underneath that carefully curated John Wayne-like tough guy exterior, it also undercuts some of the tension inherent in seeing one of the main characters bleeding out on the floor. Tulip’s eventual resurrection – and its inevitable cost to Jesse – is all but a foregone conclusion at this point. Still, sacrificing the emotional weight of Tulip’s (non) death is a choice, one that gives the still-unannounced season 3 some room to run, as the follow through and repercussions of the finale will certainly fuel the narrative early on. But just as the destruction of Annville and subsequent doubling down on the search for God filled the series’ narrative tank after season 1, it doesn’t solve the problem that Preacher is built to tear up the story’s asphalt, not sit and idle for episodes at a time or simply be content spinning its wheels.
For those who were similarly frustrated by the pacing of the series in the latter part of the season, the finale is certainly built to please. But it’s main concern is satisfying the needs of the story moving forward rather than the story it’s meant to wrap up. Obviously Herr Starr is going to be an ongoing presence in the series, so it wouldn’t do to close the door on him at this point. However, the casualness with which the episode addresses his halted plans for Jesse to become the Messiah, and then offhandedly mentioning he is in possession of the one percent of the preacher’s soul that was formerly in the Saint of Killers is an example of the show leaning far too heavily on what’s down the road instead of what’s in front of it right now. Preacher is breaking the first rule of television storytelling by saving a single plot point for later, instead of burning through everything it has right now.
On the bright side, the delayed progression of the larger narrative is offset somewhat by the finale pushing forward with smaller developments between Jesse and Cassidy, as well as a massive leap forward for the Eugene-in-Hell subplot that has stuck in its own kind of Hell all season long. Cassidy saying he hates Jesse and his ongoing struggle to deal with the feelings he’s been harboring for Tulip present a compelling conflict for the series moving forward, one that flies directly in the face of the bloodsucking Irishman’s proclamation of Custer being his “best mate.” As languorous as some of the season was, inserting a little conflict between Jesse and Cassidy, and making it part of the actual story, could have gone a long way in breathing some life into the slower hours. With luck the series will utilize that moving forward.
The finale also finally dealt with the plot suck that was Denis in the most heinous fashion possible. After shoving his elderly son out the window to die a horrible vampiric death, Cassidy is flying solo once again. As such, the struggle over who gets to decide Tulip’s fate not only demonstrates how domineering both men are, but suggests Cassidy has a vested interest in turning Tulip into a vampire like him. That misguided attempt to satisfy a need for camaraderie is similar to Eugene convincing Hitler to accompany him back to the land of the living. The kid can’t seem to catch a break as he makes one bad decision after another, and now he’s set one of history’s greatest villains free to run around in a second-hand, ill-fitting hoodie.
The moment earns its laughs, but like so much in Preacher, it either works only as a single moment free from the larger narrative or to foretell what’s waiting for the characters down the road. That makes the season 2 finale less satisfying than season 1, even though they essentially function in the same way by putting the emphasis on the future as opposed to narrative closure. Season 2 needed more of the latter, so hopefully there will be a season 3 and the series can find some of it there.
Screen Rant will update you on the future of Preacher as news is made available.
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