Last week, I begged Preacher to actually do something. After a few solid episodes of zilch happening of interest, “The South Will Rise Again” starts with quite a bang. We return to the Old West setting with our mysterious Cowboy, who rides into Ratwater searching for medicine to help his ailing daughter. The Cowboy witnesses the type of debauchery that would turn any man grey. He leaves with his medicine, but turns back to save a family heading towards town, resulting in a massive beating and his horse getting killed by a preacher. The Cowboy walks all the way back to his home only to find his wife and daughter are crow feed, forcing our gunslinger to pick up some firearms and head for vengeance.
Ostensively, this is a very loose adaptation of the first issue of The Saint of Killers mini-series, though with less budget issues like snow or a massive firefight. Here, it seems like the developers of Preacher chose to take elements of the comic and adapt it into this established thematic element of corrupted saviors. In the original comic, The Saint of Killers was firmly established as a murderer from the start. Here, “The Cowboy” becomes a vengeful murderer following the death of his family, realizing that his desire to save ultimately destroyed his life. It serves as a mirror for Jesse’s own corruption and a look into what could happen (or hopefully will happen) to those he tries to save in Annville if he doesn’t change his methods. His sudden popularity and conflicts with LeBlanc and Fiore sets up Preacher for a clash with Heaven far more effectively that previous moments in the season, giving “The South Will Rise Again” more weight than any other previous episode.
Those methods include our Preacher turning people over by force rather than by convincing. Jesse is overusing his power, thinking that the ends justify the means. We see it all around Annville, to varying degrees of effect. Odin Quincannon wants to listen to the Mayor’s propositions with open ears, the mother of our catatonic girl from a few weeks back gives Arseface a hug after nearly trying to kill him. It’s all feeding into Jesse’s current celebrity and massive ego, shown as his followers basks in his every word at the diner. Our titular Preacher has finally become interesting, going from his lacking “need to protect the faith” attitude to a cocksure evangelist selling change through a quick fix that’s bound to unravel. While it’s a different method, it shows that Jesse is slowly sinking back up to the core attitude of his original character, one full of self righteousness that will likely be humbled shortly.
This contrasts wonderfully with Tulip, who’s story is seeped in attempting vengeance. Specifically against Carlos, the man who wronged her and Jesse all those years ago. As she tells Cassidy about this and her desire to leave with her sick uncle, Tulip continues to be Preacher‘s most dimensional character. She wants Jesse and her old life, but slowly realizes that the modern world convolutes that at every step, forcing her to take action with disturbing methods. Jesse is trying to fix his spirit through forced saving while Tulip tries to patch her life with cruel cold destruction. He’s more of a moral compass that can keep the unhinged Tulip from stretching too far into the criminal world, but not a perfect being in the slightest. Not so much a dependence for Tulip as much as a buoy to keep her from going too far off shore. So, his self righteousness is not just keeping his community from progressing on their own, its driving Tulip off the deep end.
The few bits of Annville we get this time finally have some sort of stakes to them. Even Emily has a confrontation with Tulip, who catches her in a vulnerable state. There isn’t much to it, but the scene deserves credit for having some purpose to Emily… even if it is centered on finding Jesse’s location. Preacher‘s best Annville moments though come directly from Arseface and Sheriff Root, two characters who have been severely underutilized so far. Here, we see the resolve of Arseface reach its most endearing point. Despite the townspeople defacing his room and his own father echoing their own sentiments to “finish the job,” Arseface continues to keep his chin up and even try to help out his father. His chipper disposition borders on tragic when his father throws the omelet to the side, to which he responds by simply picking up the pieces. Both father and son have finally reached the sort of tragic chemistry that made them so memorable. Yet, it doesn’t excuse Jesse for attempting to get Arseface out of a situation through forcing someone to forgive him. It’s a conflict that makes Preacher interesting for the first time in weeks.
By the time Preacher hits the final scene with Quincannon’s meeting, we’ve finally stumbled upon the right spot for adaptation. In the scene, Odin has a seemingly sensible meeting with several executives from The Green Acre Corporation. After treating them to alcohol beverages, he pulls out an automatic weapon and blows them away, confirming his status as a true servant of The Lord. This isn’t a moment specifically from the comics, but it accurately captures that bait & switch attitude of Garth Ennis perfectly with an original idea. It manages to be brutally satiric while leaving us begging to see what happens because of this. Even if this is comic Quincannon behavior through different circumstances, it still stays true to the spirit of the comics’ abrasive attitude. While this isn’t a perfect episode – after all, Donnie has an unnecessary subplot and Emily still exists – Preacher is finally starting to find its groove and edge that’ll hopefully develop from here. But AMC has hurt me many times before.
Rating: (3.5 / 5)