Monday, July 3, 2017

REVIEW: 'Preacher' - Jesse Continues His Search for God and Meets a New Mysterious Organization in 'Damsels'

AMC's Preacher - Episode 2.03 "Damsels"

Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy get a tip that God might be in New Orleans. Tulip's hiding a secret and their stop in New Orleans risks exposing her.

Preacher has a renewed sense of purpose and energy this season. It's now the show it wanted to be all along. That has been very exciting to watch. The first two episodes of the season were terrific. They focused intensely on the new road trip feel of the season. Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are on the road in search of God. They have questions that need to be answered. It's an existential crisis turned physical as God has left Heaven and is now just looking for the best jazz in America. That's an amusing concept. Plus, the core trio are being hunted along this journey by the Saint of Killers - a man from Hell who is immune to the powers of Genesis. The season has set up quite an entertaining story that is capable of surprising the audience at any moment. "Damsels" feels like it's settling into a particular space though. It's still very exciting to watch. The trio arrive in New Orleans and the city around them provides some wonderful new storytelling flourishes. But there is a bit more exposition in this hour as Jesse is going from bar to bar looking for God while meeting a new group of characters who are also aware that God is missing and that Jesse has Genesis. It's clear right away that they are going to be important for this entire season as well. As such, they need a bit more of an introduction. An episode like this is necessary for the payoff to be terrific later on. It's just a little less exciting than the two episodes that started the season.

Plus, "Damsels" provides the audience with the first real update on what's happening to Eugene since Jesse banished him to Hell last season. It was clear his story wasn't over yet because Ian Colletti was still a series regular. Jesse may have moved on with a new mission but Eugene is still an important character in the show. This episode opens with the event that would change his life forever. His best friend, Tracy, caught her boyfriend cheating on her and wants to kill herself. Eugene talks her out of it and burns her suicide note only to mess it all up when he tries to kiss her. Both of them then attempt suicide. Of course, the audience knows that the damage is much more complicated than that. Tracy is essentially gone but it wasn't a complete shot to kill her instantly. Meanwhile, Eugene changed the angle of his face at the last second which ultimately spared his life. All of this is information that the audience learned about these characters last season. There was a chilling quality in seeing the aftermath of this event but not the event itself. Of course, it's still horrifying to see here - especially as it plays over and over again. But it doesn't really inform the audience of anything new about this event.

Eugene was already living in his own personal hell in Annville because everyone saw him as a depraved individual who deserved to die for what he did. He was struggling to find peace and acceptance with that. And now, he's actually in Hell. Last season revealed that this place enjoys tormenting people by forcing them to relive these events over and over again. That seems to be what's happening with Eugene at the start of the episode. However, the show already played that trick with the Saint last season. So now, it's aiming to tell a completely different story set in Hell in this universe. It's one where it may be up to Eugene whether or not he's able to escape. So much of this story has been on if Jesse will be able to save Eugene after condemning him in the first place. But it is fascinating to see Eugene perhaps becoming more active in his own story. The corner of Hell he's in is a cold and desolate place as well. It's essentially a prison. A prison that houses the worst people humanity has ever seen. The show makes that clear immediately because Eugene runs into Adolf Hitler. That's a striking image that is unsettling as well. It's enough of a tease that something much more sinister is going to happen in this corner of the world this season.

Elsewhere, Tulip is still keeping her secret about why she's so anxious about being in New Orleans. Cassidy and Jesse know that something is wrong with her. Jesse is largely just content to let her figure it out. Cassidy is able to push for more information because he at least has a few more details about what's going on. Jesse doesn't even know about the man she just killed at the Indian casino last week. Cassidy had to clean that mess up for her. And now, he's able to correctly guess that she's avoiding someone in the city who she double crossed at some point in the past. He's pushing for information. It's so fascinating to see Tulip struggle to let people into her life. She enjoys being with Jesse and Cassidy. But she struggles to properly express herself. She's great when it comes to action. But when it comes to expressing personal feelings, it's very difficult for her. She doesn't want to be the vulnerable girl who needs saving by a big, strong man. It's also clear that she wants to let Jesse in on the truth. But the words still don't find a way out of her mouth. As such, the two of them may be growing more distant. This secret keeping isn't good for their relationship at all. So in the end, it's Tulip all by herself choosing to confront Victor again. That's a powerful ending because she makes the choice to be discovered. She doesn't want to be hiding anymore even though she's afraid over what may happen next. Cassidy wanted to help because he has a unique skill set as well. But she doesn't invite him along. Instead, this is her story that she has to deal with by herself.

And finally, it's amusing to watch Jesse go into every bar in New Orleans asking if God is there. At first, it seems like he gets lucky on the first try. Of course, it's all ultimately a perverted joke about people's very weird sexual fantasies. That's a pretty great payoff. Plus, the show revels in just how complicated this mission is going to be for Jesse. He's committed to it. But it's also fascinating to see him deal with this new group of people. They clearly know something more as well. They are a well-trained organization too. It's an official operation for some shadowy new figure known as Herr Starr. All of it is essentially just intriguing teases for the future. This group knows about Genesis. They just need confirmation that it exists and resides inside Jesse. So, a scenario is created where a woman named Lara plays a damsel in distress who needs saving from Jesse. It leads to an epic fight scene that is fantastic to watch. The show continues to do fight scenes in great and nuanced ways. No two are exactly the same either. All of it shows that Jesse is still capable of being a good guy. He wants to help this woman escape a life of being hunted by this shadowy organization. That's what makes the final revel so significant. It's a twist on expectations. Jesse was being played the whole time by individuals who are smarter and better organized. They may be susceptible to Genesis but they have skills that he isn't even aware of yet. Yes, it's important that he comes to understand why God appreciates jazz so much. But it's also just as ominous to think that even more people will be coming after Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy in the future. Plus, the Saint isn't far behind them either.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Damsels" was written by Sara Goodman and directed by Michael Slovis.
  • Of course, I was also expecting some twist with Jesse's story as well. Once again, it was all because of casting too. Malcolm Barrett plays the bartender who points Jesse in Lara's direction. He's the lead on a broadcast network drama (NBC's Timeless). So, he wasn't going to do this show if it was just a two second cameo. So that made it clear that something more was going on in this story.
  • The sight of Tracy's blood and brain matter spread out on her bed and the wall is very gross and unsettling. But the idea of Eugene trying to get it all back into her head is just as disturbing and horrifying to watch. That's it's own version of twisted as well. It's all futile. Plus, Eugene isn't able to escape because the window refuses to open.
  • Cassidy has a friend in New Orleans, Dennis, whom he insists on staying with. And yet, their interactions are quite peculiar because it doesn't seem like Dennis likes Cassidy at all. Plus, there seems to be a language barrier as well because neither Cassidy nor Tulip understand French.
  • Jesse believes that the Saint is no longer following him and his friends. He believes that Fiore called off the hit last week. He didn't. And now, Jesse is using Genesis in New Orleans. Every time that happened I was just waiting for the Saint to arrive and create more complications. And yet, that didn't happen. It's a looming and very serious threat for the future though.
  • This is the episode that finally introduces the audience to all of the new series regulars for the season - Pip Torrens (Herr), Noah Taylor (Hitler) and Julie Ann Emery (Lara). As such, it's confident with doing the main title sequence again without confusing anyone as to who these new actors are and why they haven't shown up yet.