The second chapter in the televised Preacher adaptation starts off on a rather confident note, one I was worried they wouldn’t really get to on the series as it was one of the more bizarre aspects of the comics. It’s 1881 and a stoic cowboy wanders from his house, wife and ailing daughter to the lonesome trail in search of a doctor. He comes across a bunch of settlers, who welcome him into their circle for dinner. Much of this is presented with little dialogue, aside from an initial plea from the cowboy’s wife, a speech about the nature of this world being a paradise from the lead settler and the cowboy’s simple response: “It ain’t.” This is The Saint of Killers (though credited as “The Cowboy”), the comic’s lead antagonist who has a penchant for murder and lacking in much of any conversational skills. We get the earliest hint of his quiet menace here in a limited backstory, which is fitting for the man who responds with cold gruffness as he does to the settlers’ words and the sight of various bodies hanging from a tree. Graham McTavish‘s uncaring blank stare and episode director Seth Rogen’s almost sepia tone matter-of-fact depiction of the time period start “See” on an ominous note, one that manages to carry over into the show’s present story proper while calming doubtful fans of the comic about the fact that Preacher is willing to adapt.
We get our first glimpse at another comic book character early on in the form of Odin Quincannon, the owner of the “Meat & Power” slaughterhouse/meat processing plant we saw in the pilot as the workplace of Betsy Schneck. Here, he’s seen simply buying up land from an older couple for potential cattle ranching with his various associates, including Donnie Schneck in his full on arm cast. The couple signs and moments after everyone leaves, the seemingly one room house is demolished instantly. Unlike “The Cowboy”, Quincannon at first glance seems to only take a bit of inspiration from the Ross Perot/Yosemite Sam sized belligerent racist of the comics. True, Jackie Earle Haley isn’t a tall man, but not nearly as diminutive as the original character’s drawing, nor quite as ill tempered. Yet, what the scene firmly establishes is a key aspect to translate this particular Preacher character; Quincannon is powerful. His disinterest in babbling on about the finer points of getting this land and immediate demolishing of this small house shows his impatience with procedure. Through Haley’s glazed over looks and lack of concern, we see a man who knows exactly how this will pan out and doesn’t think anything will really stop him. That power translates to his employees, as Donnie’s inability to grab a pen that drops during the business meeting causes him to violently lash out at the employee who did, making him look weak in front of his intimidating bossman. Despite the lackluster fashion in which Donnie dulls out pain (since that nose-shoved-against-the-steering-wheel technique feels a bit poorly put together shot wise), the message of Quincannon’s influence still shines through and sets up what will inevitably be Jesse Custer’s power play with him.
Speaking of Jesse, he’s currently in a bit of trouble himself. Our titular Preacher continues to try and make Annville a righteous place to live, from giving the entire church going populace – and Tulip – baptisms to having a confessional with a bus driver that has disturbed predilections about on of his younger passengers. Throughout all of this, we can see Jesse struggling with the people he’s now sworn to save. The eye rolling performance of Dominic Cooper shows a lot more humorous frustration that was missing from his more self-serious turn in the previous episode. The interaction he gets with some of these townsfolk characters has more of the cynical edge that Garth Ennis’ comic was known for, with Jesse’s traditional attempts at being a Preacher failing at every turn and Tulip’s sly temptations to return to his previous life always around the corner. It’s a solid build up to Jesse intentionally using his powers against the previously mentioned pedophile member of his congregation. That and his episode ending cliffhanger moment of trying to revive a braindead young girl are moves that feel more in line with the character than even the bar scene from our previous chapter. A man who looks at what God hath wrought and decides to take bigger action against it. Still, even the citizens of Annville we have to deal with are never really that interesting, including Lucy Griffiths’ organist character that’s trying to keep Jesse on the straight and narrow. She’s a personification of Preacher‘s unnecessary tether to this town as a moral compass rather than Jesse himself dealing with his inner demons… both literal and figurative.
Jesse’s one moment of peace throughout the whole episode is a drinking session with his newfound vampire buddy/church mooch Cassidy. The conversation and drinking the two have fills us in a bit more about Cassidy, including his distaste for The Big Lebowski that we won’t hold against him… for now. It builds a solid chemistry between Cooper & Joseph Gilgun and includes much more of the comedy that felt lacking in the prior episode. The prat fall Cooper makes after taking Cassidy’s concoction is the current comedic high bar of the show, even if it’s just there to get him out of the picture for what follows. The two British cowpolk (Flore and LeBlanc as they’re credited) from last time are on the hunt for Jesse and sneak into his church while Custer’s out cold and Cassidy’s taken the car to get more alcohol. As they try to release Genesis through drastic chainsaw wielding measures, Cassidy returns and a bloody brawl ensues. The fight is about as gory and over the top as things could get, resembling an early Peter Jackson film in terms of mayhem and showing just how ridiculous Preacher can actually be as a show… even with the forced Scarface reference. The mysterious duo themselves are a curious bunch, especially given their sudden reappearance after Cassidy’s chainsaw actions and burial of their parts. Their brief mention of being part of The Government hints that they may be a part of The Grail syndicate from the comics, but their names and ability to reform implies something potentially more supernatural from the comics. Still, it doesn’t excuse them for being such underwhelming silent characters without much of any intriguing style to them. They just sort of seem like a means to an end for that fight.
“See” is a solid improvement over Preacher‘s pilot. The series eases into its characters more, has a bit more fun with its potential wackiness and introduces hope that they could do justice to the wild aspects of the comic. Yet, the stumbling blocks for some of their new inventions like the townspeople of Annville or Flore & LeBlanc leave more to be desired. Hell, their most intriguing diversion from last time was Tulip and they give Ruth Negga little memorable to do this time. Still, if the pattern keeps going, Preacher may just be able to realize its full potential.
Rating: (3 / 5)