Taking a page out of Quentin Tarantino’s playbook, ominous music and desolate landscapes set the stage for the second episode of “Preacher.” We open with a reticent ranger on a mission to find medication for his daughter, coming across a chatty caravan of settlers who have traveled from St. Louis out into the wilderness, believing it to be “paradise.” To illustrate that paradise “it ain’t,” as the ranger puts it, we cut to a chilling shot of a tree riddled with hanging, mutilated bodies as the mystery man heads on towards the “Towne of Ratwater.” You may have noticed “Ratwater” labels on alcohol bottles in the premiere, so we’ll likely see a deeper connection soon.
Back in the present day, the episode shows us the measure of a certain alcoholic vampire. Just when Cassidy is starting to seem like one of the good guys, we get a real taste of his selfishness as he abandons Custer, after a fun and existential (and inebriated) chat, passed out on the church floor. Remember, he’s on the run. But the quirky vampire soon proves he has at least a little conscience because, before it’s too late, he rushes back to the church to find DeBlanc and Fiore. These two are trying to capture the entity inside Custer, using a creepy musical version of Eugene Field’s “Wynken, Blynken and Nod.” When that doesn’t work, they try some harsher tactics, but before they can effectively use a saw to dismember Custer, Cassidy butts in and gorily dispatches the two henchmen, chopping them up and burying them outside. It’s worth noting that Cassidy has some major cleanup skills, leaving only a small, bloody print on one of the church pillars as evidence of his activities. Being 119 years old is definitely worth something. The hilariously vile Cassidy is often unintelligable, but he’s still a breath of fresh air amid all the religious vernacular. A fresh, gory breath, just like the doctor ordered.
But, wait — it looks like DeBlanc and Fiore aren’t stuffed in a box underground somewhere, despite Cassidy’s efforts. Claiming to be from “the Government,” they’re alive and well in Annville and ready to continue their mission to capture that force. Truth is, the only one who knows they were chopped into taco meat is Cassidy, so they’re free to pop up elsewhere and continue their duties. But what are they? “Preacher” apparently still has many mysteries left to uncover. Which also brings up the fact that this episode almost wholly ignored the fact that a parishioner took out his heart in front of his mother, aside from a throwaway line. You’d think that Custer would have more cause for concern on that front.
So far, the show feels like a perfect fit for AMC, in line with the other violent but savvy shows that have become their hallmark, like “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.” The cheeky banter between Tulip and Custer promises a real spark, but so far we’re only getting Tulip unsuccessfully trying to convince Custer to take on whatever job she has on the docket. I’m guessing we haven’t seen the last of her attempts to persuade him; if she’s willing to drug and chain the holy man to try and convince him, she probably has a few more sadistic tricks up her sleeve.
Custer keeps trying to be a good preacher, and we see that he’s taking his duties seriously, baptizing his parishioners into an outdoor tub of holy water at the top of the hour. But the idyllic illusion won’t last forever. After his baptism, Eugene feels momentarily better, declaring, “You washed my sins away, Preacher, I’m saved!” But ultimately, the act is only ceremonial, because it’s not long before the disfigured teen is back to feeling bad again. He just can’t seem to change, questioning whether his current state is exactly how God wants him to be. The show’s emotional core pivots at the expense of poor “Arseface.” He questions his worth, God’s plan and faces bullies – can’t he catch a break? Slurp, slurp.
Even a dunk can’t clean the worst sinners of their darkest secrets. Linus is clearly a pedophile who drives a school bus and who also thinks that as long as he confesses, he’s good to go. Although Custer tells him that truly repenting and not acting on those urges will save him, you can tell that the preacher’s blood is boiling with disgust at this man. The chillingly tense scene culminates with a forced hug from Linus — is that it?
This can’t go unpunished, that would be too easy. Custer gives in to his own darker urges and we continue to get glimpses of a more violent man, a mercenary. He confronts Linus him at his home. Custer dunks him into scalding water, an ironic funhouse mirror twist on his earlier baptisms, and orders Linus to forget about the young girl. Custer’s power kicks in and blasts away Linus’ memory. This is the first time that Custer becomes fully aware of his power. He chooses to visit Tracy Loach, a comatose girl, and orders her eyes to open — but in typical AMC fashion, whether or not the girl wakes up is a mystery left for next week.
Before you leave:
We meet meat-processing businessman Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley) in this episode, but aside from tearing down a house and setting up shop in Annville, we don’t get much else. Curiouser and curiouser…
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