The search for God continues in New Orleans, and Preacher makes the best of a revealing episode with one unforgettable action sequence.
After delivering a pair of terrific, highly energetic, and engaging episodes to begin a semi-rebooted season 2, Preacher has slowed things down a bit as the search for God has taken the show's unholy trinity of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy to New Orleans. Though the tempo may have changed, the show is well aware the need to keep the volume turned up, especially now that the episodes have begun to diverge away from focusing on the Saint of Killers' Terminator-like pursuit of Genesis by breaking off to focus on Tulip's personal problems, and Eugene's time in Hell.
The frenzied, bullet-strewn pace of the first two episodes is certainly more in keeping with the kind of hyperactivity befitting characters like Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy, but it doesn't necessarily work when it comes to Eugene's predicament in the regimented, concrete environs of the underworld. So Preacher has had to make a choice: There can either be a wild tonal variance between segments within the same episode, or each hour can be on the same wavelength more or less, with one standout scene waiting to be called in to close out the hour and ensure it’s a memorable one.
The technique isn't really anything new. As television has become more and more serialized there's been a noticeable increase in single moments that define an episode, rather than episodes that define a season or entire series. The highly serialized nature of a show like Preacher, which last season offered a handful of memorable moments, like Cassidy's aircraft brawl, and Jesse shooting off some guy's… well, you know. But season 2 is an entirely different animal so far, and with that comes a certain amount of expectation. So far, the series has delivered by offering up memorable moments of stylized violence that stay within fairly consistent circles.
The first two episodes offered a pair of takes on what it means to get into a firefight with the Saint of Killers. Though both shootouts ended in similarly gory bouts of grindhouse-level violence, they colored different aspects of the series' sense of humor. The Texas lawman shootout painted Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy as the outlaws they are – opportunists of the highest order who will seize upon a moment of sheer chaos in order to escape two very different pursuers. In 'Mumbai Sky Tower', the situation was essentially replayed, this time for some very dark laughs at the expense of "gun enthusiasts" who were all too eager to play with their toys.
There's a similar kind of mirroring that takes place in last week's 'Damsels' and this week's 'Viktor'. Both hours brought about an expansion of the storyline by catching up with Eugene, and setting Tulip off on her own plot thread that promised to delve deeper into her past – or, more the point, the time between when she last saw Jesse and when she appeared in Annville having successfully fended off an attack by an assassin in her car and then later blowing up a helicopter (and dazzling a pair of kids straight out of a Yorgos Lanthimos film) with a homemade rocket launcher. And while there's more of both in 'Viktor', primarily the revelation that Tulip is apparently married to the eponymous gangster, the hours are distinguished as much by such revelations as they are by two elaborate action set pieces that involve Jesse Custer delivering a special kind of sermon with his fists.
If 'Damsels' was Preacher's jazz-infused homage to film noir, with Dominic Cooper acting as a down-on-his-luck Dasheill Hammett-esque PI, then 'Viktor' is its pop-inspired sequel. Both deliver top-notch fisticuffs, with Cooper impressively handling some fairly elaborately choreographed fight sequences, and the result is a double bill beat-'em-up that infuses a heaping helping of stylized action (and a Billy Joel tune, in this instance) into episodes that, for the most part, set their characters searching for answers and see them come up short.
As is evidenced by the torture room brawl, the musical cue, and crazy violence that escalates until Jesse's finished his adversary off, 'Viktor' takes a much more comedic approach to things, whereas 'Damsels' was, at times, outright bizarre. There's a similar absurdist bent to the hour that is in keeping with the weird sex show the trio nearly wound up paying to witness, but the humor is split between Jesse and Cassidy's dealings with the agent for the actor who played God in season 1's celestial Skype call to the faux Almighty, and the appearance of Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz in a commercial for Hurricane Katrina relief. It's the same sort of quick gag the show excels at, like the popped-collar frat boy Tyler who bullies Hitler in Hell or the French-speaking Denis and his dubious relationship with Cassidy and the rest of his houseguests.
In the end, the hour makes the most of its comedy and action, even if Tulip's portion of the story was agonizingly slow and irritatingly obfuscated the one detail that made it interesting until the very end. Viktor being Tulip's husband is an interesting wrinkle that will likely test her and Jesse's relationship even more, but even the revelation doesn't necessarily excuse the needlessly circuitous road it took to get there. After two weeks in one destination, it seems like Preacher is more than ready to get back on the road, or at least not leave its characters to their own devices. As was seen in the final shot aerial shot, a certain Saint is marching in, which is a promising and foreboding sign indeed.
Preacher continues next Monday with 'Dallas' @9pm on AMC.
Photo Credit: Skip Bolen/AMC