This review contains spoilers.
Preacher has always been a show marked by characters having different motivations. Even back in the first season, when Jesse undertakes his initial mission to track down God, Tulip and Cas had their own motivations. As the show has progressed, that hasn’t changed. Tulip wants to kill Humperdoo and throw off the end of the world, Cas wants Humperdoo to live, and Jesse still wants to track down God and get answers for His abandonment of the world while stopping the end of said world. Everyone’s got their own mission, be it secret or otherwise.
Part of the credit to just how well those various visions are executed goes to Carolyn Townsend’s excellent script. Even from the very beginning, the fault lines in Jesse’s core group start to widen. Tulip and Cas discuss whether to tell Jesse, and while Cas is agreeable to keeping his mouth shut, Tulip immediately blathers out to Jesse that the pair slept together again.
When sneaking off into the Grail, the incursion into Masada immediately separates the three, with Cas going off on his own agenda once again. They’re united, to a point, but they all have different missions once they get inside, and the conflict is unspoken, but immediate in the fact that they unite to punch their way through the Grail, but split apart once the initial threat is over, with Tulip and Jesse carrying on to leave Cas behind, knowing that he can take care of himself but unwilling to admit just how weak his character actually is.
Townsend makes great hay with that weakness. Cas is separated, captured by God, and given the ultimate offer, the one thing he’s truly been seeking since the swamp hag turned him: the chance to return home and do things differently, with Tulip at his side. Joseph Gilgun plays Cas’s resistance very well, and when Cas finally admits to Jesse that he eventually caved (while scattered in pieces across the floor of Masada), it’s very effective. Cas tried, and Cas failed, because for all the talk of Tulip being a screw up, that’s his fundamental nature. Cassidy is weak at the end of the day, and like when God challenges Tulip to keep from losing her temper with him for a single minute—with the fate of the world depending on it—He knows just how to get to someone, and just what to do to get them to bend to His divine will.
That’s what God does, after all. He uses people to play out His divine plans when necessary, and lets people make their mistakes when they need to make their mistakes. God as master manipulator is an interesting concept that Preacher has been playing with, and it all pays off in this episode, as God’s machinations make The Grail appear as though they’ve simply been playing checkers with their intricate international conspiracies while He’s been playing 4-D chess. Nothing Jesse, Tulip, and the gang have done has been able to stop God, only (possibly) slow Him down along the way, and for every trump card Jesse lays down, God can match or beat it.
Everyone’s got a price, a breaking point, and God knows where that is for everyone, even Jesse. It’s just a matter of Him using that leverage at the right time. Right before the end of the world seems to be a good time to lay all the cards out on the table.
Previous episodes of the Preacher season four have been good, but not great. This episode inches closer to greatness, courtesy of director Laura Belsey’s clever hand with the cast. Both Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun do wonderful jobs in their respective scenes with Mark Harelik. The pacing deployed sells the tension as much as the performances do, with Cas holding out until well past the time he would be expected to cave, and Tulip restraining her rage almost long enough to accomplish the one thing she wants to accomplish more than anything.
Even the final moments of the episode, with Jesse squaring off with God, are given weight enough to feel meaningful and add punch to the episode’s ending. The requisite visual flourish is there for the other stuff – the fight scene between Tulip, Jesse, Cas, and a bunch of Grail thugs is particularly well done, as was the dissolve between the police detectives watching the Grail’s fancy event and the event itself.
Twists and turns, when properly deployed, work in television, and in the hands of the Preacher crew, this last episode full of digressions and loyalty questions worked better than it had any right to do, thanks to the actors’ ability to sell their shifting loyalties. With only one episode remaining, it will be interesting to see if Preacher has any more surprises left in the tank, or if things will play out in a more conventional fashion over the last hour of the show’s existence. Either way, things seem to be looking up for the show, if not for the titular Preacher himself.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Fear Of The Lord, here. Read about the new horror, sci-fi and fantasy US TV shows on their way, here.