After spinning its wheels, Preacher pushes its storyline forward by finding a unique solution to the problem that is the Saint of Killers.
The Saint of Killers has always presented a unique storytelling challenge for Preacher. He’s the unstoppable killing machine that eventually has to be stopped, even if just temporarily, in order to keep the series from feeling too repetitive and so that it can explore other storytelling opportunities. The only problem with that is, aside from removing on of the season’s biggest and most effective driving forces, halting the advance of the ultimate enemy is a surefire way to dilute the threat of his presence, as he’s all but guaranteed to be a fixture in the show as it moves forward. In other words, Preacher needed a clever solution to a problem it was lucky to have.
But after a few weeks of spinning its wheels in New Orleans, essentially calling the Saint of Killers to the Big Easy by overusing the power of Genesis (which, to be fair, Jesse only did because he thought Fiore had held up his end of their bargain), it was clear the series’ budgetary constraints wouldn’t allow for a week-to-week road trip wherein Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy escape the killer cowboy by the skin of their teeth. And if Preacher is going to dig into the conspiracy of the Grail, Herr Starr, and the bizarre backstory of its central protagonist, it would have to bench the Saint of Killers without completely putting him on ice.
In that sense, ‘Sokosha’ offers a welcome change of pace for a series that has, despite getting off to an energetic and exceptionally blasphemous start, been stuck in a holding patter for a few weeks. There is a sense of purpose driving the hour, as it’s apparent Jesse and the others can’t leave New Orleans until they have a better lead on God’s whereabouts, but the show has made it so that a confrontation with the Saint is not just inevitable, it’s absolutely necessary if the audience is going to remain engaged. So, in order to deliver on both fronts, the hour needs an elegant way around a narrative roadblock.
The route the series takes, then, is to first pave an entirely new road; one that points the second half of season 2 in a fascinating direction and hints at a deep dive into Jesse Custer’s backstory, his familial connection to the underbelly of the world’s supernatural and religious goings-on, and essentially opens the door for the Grail and Herr Starr to walk right through. Normally, this might require a lot of effort on the part of a series, but Preacher handles it with noticeable economy in a cold open sequence that invites the audience to experience the black market trade of the human soul.
‘Sokosha’ offers little in the way of hand holding, which makes the lengthy sequence involving the partial extraction of a soul and its resale to a wealthy man for his ailing wife, enticing as it presents a heretofore undiscovered layer of the Preacher story and then, surprisingly, announced the protagonist has been entangled in it all along. That’s not to say black market souls and their ready availability – in New Orleans, especially – isn’t something of a cheat built from flagrant coincidence, but given the nature of the story at hand, it’s also easy to give the show a pass when it comes to leaning hard on decisions made of narrative necessity. Besides, Jesse’s knowledge of and ability to navigate this new path gives the show an advantage that when it comes to doling out an explanation of just what is going on.
The revelation also puts Jesse on more even footing with Tulip and Cassidy, as his secret history will eventually have to be revealed, especially if his familial connections are going to be explored further as the season moves forward. For now, though, it’s enough that one percent of Jesse’s soul is all it takes to give him an edge against the Saint of Killers and force him to find a solution that isn’t as simple as sending the adversary back to hell. As such, the hour is one of the more satisfyingly episodic adventures the series has put forth, as it takes on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-like vibe in how it circumvents the budgetary restraints preventing a more visually enticing explanation of the Saint’s resistance to Genesis by showing the characters doing research in the library.
This low-cost solution isn’t the most entertaining way to get the job done, but it gets the point across and leaves more time for Jesse to bargain with the Saint and get him to acquire enough of a soul he’ll be forced to obey Genesis. Jesse’s trick, to give the Saint one percent of his soul is perhaps the most overt nod to Garth Ennis’ past writing the show has ever presented. Though this time, it’s more like the Hellblazer arc Ennis penned in which John Constantine tricked the Devil into saving his life. There’s an elegance to the con that’s underlined by the provisional nature of the solution to the problem, as the Saint may be disarmed and trapped in the muck of a Louisiana swamp (thanks to a narratively necessary armored van that even he can’t break out of), but he’s not out of the picture entirely.
With that, ‘Sokosha’ works as a worthwhile end to the first half of Preacher season 2. As the series turns the page to the next part of its adventure, there’s plenty to be explored in addition to Jesse’s family history and the search for God. With any luck, the season will address these characters’ penchant for avoiding telling one another the complete truth, as Jesse has some explaining to do, and Cassidy’s relationship with Denis – now that we know the cranky Frenchman is the vampire’s son – presents all sorts of interesting storytelling potential.
Preacher continues next Monday with ‘Pig’ @9pm on AMC.
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