“Preacher” S01E04: Monster Swamp

Preacher  is definitely not going to leave Annville any time soon. It’s something the pilot promised right off the bat, but “Monster Swamp” seems to have  confirmed that the action will not be leaving this dirt covered hole in the middle of Texas as much as it will be coming directly to it… eventually. Much like AMC’s  The Walking Dead, Preacher  has  the progression speed of a snail moving through molasses.  Preacher  is definitely taking the “slow and steady wins the race” approach in attempting to win over audiences, try  to have us understand these characters and their motivations before we get to the big stuff. Some of that teasing is dolled out for a bigger context, given the promise of what’s to come with the final moment hinting at LeBlanc and Fiore’s bosses from Heaven  giving them a ring. There’s also a peak into Jesse’s past  even if it looks identical  the present in terms of look wise, making me wonder  if episode director Craig Zisk had specific instructions not to shoot any of this differently from the rest of the episode or AMC’s episodes in general. Yet,  all of that has to wait as we  still deal with Jesse’s attempts to save the people of Annville, which in theory would result in us learning more about the residents and how Jesse interacts with them individually.  There’s nothing wrong with that in theory. In practice however, they’re always  Preacher‘s least interesting moments.

Jesse and Emily have an intimate moment.

Pretty close to the top, we get  Jesse and Emily having a bit more “awkward romantic tension” that they’ve been building on for the last three episodes… to another false start. It feeds us all the same information we’ve been having, about her as a single mother and Jesse as a preacher trying to save the flock of Annville. It’s repetitive to the point of being deadly dull, making me wonder what Emily’s ultimate purpose  is supposed to be. Is she going to die horribly and serve as a catalyst for Jesse’s rage? Is she going to serve as Tulip’s rival as he tries to bring Jesse back to his former life? Is she going to turn bad and be Jesse’s final straw for giving up the priesthood? Any of these scenarios seem likely, but if things keep going like this with her, I won’t care enough to want to see.  Emily keeps talking about her devotion  her kids here, both to Jesse and Ricky Mabe‘s Miles Person. She has herself pinned down as a struggling single mother down. But what else is she? She’s not funny, sucking more comedic potential out of the show. She’s not dramatically engaging, leaving her “romance” with Jesse to whither and giving Dominic Cooper & Lucy Griffiths zero chemistry to work with. She doesn’t seem to have any tie to Heaven, supplanting more time that could be used on revealing more of Jesse’s power. If something happens with her later in the season to make all of this worth it, I’ll be happy. But even then, it’ll be  Preacher  finally doing something instead of staying at one base level.

Odin Quincannon matching my enthusiasm for “Monster Swamp.”

This lack of engaging forward momentum springs out further with the other church going residents of Annville. Odin Quinncannon  returns to little to no fanfare for an attempted dark deadpan laugh involving a woman falling through a sinkhole that sets up Quincannon’s corruption and abuse of power. Said laugh involving a public speech by Quincannon could work as a sort of dry introduction to his apathy  in a modern context along with how he has Sheriff Root in his pocket, given that the comic book version of Quincannon is basically a Yosemite Sam level racist that may not be able to translate to modern television. Yet,  Preacher  doesn’t seem to display much of anything for Quincannon either that a relatable sense of boredom that mirrored my own, making me sympathize more with Jackie Earle Haley than anyone else. It’s clearly supposed to indicate Odin’s complete apathy, right down to his big comedic moment of pissing in Mabe’s suitcase, but the clashing contrast between the dramatic sepia tone and such a typical crude comedy action makes me completely unsure if anyone outside of Cassidy or possibly Tulip is meant to be funny on any level with this program. Scenes like this one show the complete failure of  Preacher  to achieve any consistent drive or tone that’s true to its previous episodes, let alone the original comics. It’s so damn slow, but without  genuinely engaging methodic purpose. Odin Quincannon and Sheriff Root for that matter are satiric characters sucked dry of any personality on the show’s deliberate pace, which makes Quincannon’s  interactions with Jesse run cold. By the time Jesse uses his powers on Odin in church and get out of his land bet, one couldn’t be compelled enough to raise a single query  of triumph or worry or curiosity.

Tulip tries to get Cassidy some help.

Luckily, even with so many bland actions going on, we still get a few shining lights in the form of  Preacher‘s saving grace duo Tulip and Cassidy. Cassidy briefly gets chastised by Jesse for not doing his part, leaving him to be further conflicted about bringing Jesse in to LeBlanc and Fiore & have more interest in some private time with a Lady of the Evening. Meanwhile, following the complete dismissal of the woman in the sinkhole, Tulip angrily attempts to seek justice by giving Clive a hard beating. She mistakes Cassidy for Clive, giving him a beating that flings him out of a window. The distraught look on Tulip’s face shows further layers to this incarnation of the character, desperately hoping she can save this man she’s unaware can make it out of this painlessly. There’s a comedic subversion to the heightened drama that’s fun to see play out, at least one that feels done with deliberate purpose. It’s also nice to see some actual chemistry between two characters with  Joseph Gilgun and Ruth Negga throughout this, furthering my hope that Jesse dies, Tulip gets The Voice inside her and she & Cassidy get the hell out of Annville by season’s end. At least that would make Preacher  interesting, which is something I never thought I’d say about a show with a vampire and heavenly powers. I know it’s still early, but  I still need some consistent hopes that  Preacher  will do something interesting. Hopes that don’t necessarily need to be based in its faithfulness to the comics. Just some sort of excitement  that this can keep any sort of consistency with its story or tone from one episode to the next that isn’t bored religious dirging. While we’re not even halfway through the season, I’m losing much of any faith that  Preacher  can justify its existence for much longer, let along a potentially long running series.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)


Thomas Mariani
Thomas Mariani is a born geek, with a bit of nerd mixed in here & there. A native of the (less) swampy parts of Florida, Thomas has always been a fan of films, television & other sources of media ever since he was a child, having been raised on Jim Henson, Star Wars and the basic cable cartoons of the ’90s & ’00s.

Some of his favorite horror films include Evil Dead II, Poltergeist and An American Werewolf in London. He already has experience writing and podcasting about pop culture, which you can read/listen to on sites like www.oneofus.net, www.horrornews.net or even on twitter as @NotTheWhosTommy.