Monday, August 7, 2017

REVIEW: 'Preacher' - Cassidy Agonizes Over a Decision While Eugene Is Too Nice for Hell in 'Holes'

AMC's Preacher - Episode 2.08 "Holes"

Jesse investigates a clue about God. Tulip makes friends with a new neighbor. A glimpse into Cassidy's past relationship with Denis.

Once again, it feels like Preacher is only making the slowest of progress this season. Its scattered narrative means that supporting characters appear and disappear seemingly at random. This is the eighth episode of the season and it's still difficult to have a feel of what all of this is essentially building towards. It seems highly unlikely that all of the stories will come together in a really rousing and rewarding way. It feels more likely that they will have their own individual resolutions that leave things with the possibility for more crossover with the other stories in the hypothetical third season. That's certainly one way to tell story. In the first season, the show had such a rigid approach to staying in one location for the totality of the year. That quality is still present this season as Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are no longer road tripping for God but have placed roots in New Orleans. The city has allowed for more colorful interactions with a number of random characters largely because the show views the city itself as eccentric. That has been amusing to watch. But the pacing still feels like a problem. Lara and Hoover show up for the first time in awhile and the action cuts away to Eugene and Hitler down in Hell too. Both stories are significant to the season but haven't had too much importance. As such, it's a little difficult to care once the narrative starts twisting these stories in order to force this big moments to happen.

The audience is also just suppose to except that there were representatives from The Grail in the apartment building when The Saint attacked but they emerged unharmed. That's a very weird moment. Did Lara and Hoover only take up residence in that apartment after that tragedy occurred? It was revealed that they had set up surveillance long before that moment. The purpose of which was never really clarified. Last week's episode made it clear that Jesse is a threat to The Grail's main objective in this world. He has the power to turn people away from the true beliefs. And now, Lara and Hoover are just waiting for Herr Starr to arrive before moving ahead to the next phase of their plan. So, it's fundamentally a story about waiting. That's not a whole lot of fun in the execution. Lara is completely serious about the job while Hoover just wants to enjoy his cereal. It's intriguing once Tulip shows up at the apartment to fix the holes created by The Saint's bullets. Julie Ann Emery is still delivering an intriguing performance because she's asked to put on these disguises and different personalities. But it's all just setup for a relationship that is bound to be compromised in the future. There's nothing all that exciting about it. Sure, it's weird that the two of them will bond over getting shot at together. That will forge a bond quickly. But the eventual betrayal seems all too inevitable and takes a lot of the fun out of it.

Meanwhile, it has taken eight episodes until the people in charge of Hell realize that their problems come from someone being there who isn't suppose to be there. Again, it's already been established that Hell is a glorified prison that is overcrowded and understaffed. That parallel has already been made about this environment. It's still just taken a long time for the people in charge to figure out what's going on with their technical difficulties. The season is half over. This story is only now starting to kick into motion. That seems weird. It took until this episode for Hitler to make his intentions of escaping with Eugene known. That's not particularly surprising either. In fact, it again seems like the inevitable twist. It's not shocking that the people in charge of Hell won't be accommodating to whichever of their prisoners happens to be a mistake. They seem bound and determined to just make that person suffer even more because they caused all of these problems in the system. It's clear to the audience what's going on. Eugene believes he deserves to be in Hell even though he doesn't technically belong here. He's been forced to relive his worst memory with Tracy. He's full of self doubt. It's also amusing that it takes Hitler to tell Eugene that he's not so bad and doesn't deserve to be in this place. Hitler seems very perceptive on this show which is such a strange statement to make given everything that Hitler has done in the world.

But again, there's a sense of familiarity to the story in Hell. The show has been very consistent in its depiction of Hell being a place where you relive your worst memories over and over again. Those big mistakes are what led to these people being condemned to this place to suffer for all of eternity. The season has already spent some time in Eugene's memory of that fateful day with Tracy that left her braindead and him with no mouth. There's really no purpose to seeing that story play out in the same way once again. That's what the show seems to suggest when Eugene is thrown into the hole to suffer after a public act of goodness. But instead, it twists the expectation and makes the memory significantly worse for Eugene. It's a new way to torture him. The machine gives him a moment of happiness and peace only to take it away in swift fashion. So, Eugene kisses Tracy and she is actually receptive to it. They sing and are ready to commit to a relationship. And then, Jesse shows up and takes Tracy away from Eugene. After condemning him to Hell, it's not surprising that Eugene's opinion of Jesse has diminished. But now, seeing him in this memory is enough to truly damage his soul. It gets to the point where he wants to kill himself simply because the evil spirits are telling him to. All of this serves a purpose in breaking Eugene down. He won't be the same person he once was when he escapes from Hell. The show is just a little too obvious with what it's doing. It's not as inventive as it believes it is.

And finally, there's a true sense of sorrow and despair to Cassidy's story. It's nice to see him at the forefront of the story over the last few episodes through his relationship with his son, Denis. It's a tragedy because they can't speak to each other because of the language barrier. Denis wants to live. Cassidy can provide him with that gift but doesn't want to because he knows the cost it will claim. And yet, the audience just doesn't have a good enough barometer for what Cassidy's life has been like as a vampire over the years. It's largely amounted to him getting body parts blown off during fight sequences or burning alive when out in sunlight. That's essentially all that the show has delivered in regards to vampires. It's not even clear that biting someone is what turns them into a vampire. Cassidy's past history having been alive for hundreds of years hasn't been a useless skill yet either. His past led them to a place to live while in New Orleans. It has produced this story where Cassidy is incredibly torn over what to do. He wants someone else to make the decision for him. He knows that this isn't a miracle like Denis claims it to be. And yet, the audience needs to be told all of those consequences now instead of already having a good idea over how things can potentially be bad. The story itself seems very limiting throughout this hour. It starts with Cassidy singing to a newborn Denis in the hospital. That sets up the idea of this hour being a huge one for the two of them as it reveals what their relationship has been over the years. Except it isn't. It's all set in the present with the eventually symmetry of Cassidy singing to Denis the same song. That moment has finality to it. But it's still unclear what Cassidy decides to do. This story needed to be resolved at the end of this hour and it's left too unclear to work. Does Denis die? Or does Cassidy save him? Only the next episode will be able to give the audience the answer.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Holes" was written by Mark Stegemann and directed by Maja Vrvilo.
  • This week's fun New Orleans-eccentric characters are two employees at a video repair store who claim to have seen it all and are very discreet too. They fully believe that the video Jesse has given them is of him killing a guy. They aren't disturbed by it. To them, it's just a normal part of the job.
  • Jesse's morality is still so conflicted. He believes he's on the right path. But his actions are proving to only do more harm than good. He's still pushing others away because he can't connect with Tulip or Cassidy in their current struggles. Meanwhile, he's praying to God because it's comforting not because anyone is there to actually listen.
  • The video guys aren't able to find anything in the audition tape that can help Jesse identify the people who made it. That's the only lead he has at the moment. However, the audience is given a clue upon the destruction of the CD. The Grail is involved because their name is on the CD. That's the one place the three guys foolishly forgot to look at.
  • Eugene's body is transforming while in Hell. That only builds on the prison parallels more. He's getting incredibly buff because all he can do in that room is workout. Meanwhile, he has gotten an unfortunate tattoo that further drives the connection to his central pain. It's good that he'll largely be responsible for getting out of Hell. But just how changed is he going to be?
  • It really does seem like Justin Prentice is essentially playing the same character here as he did in Netflix's 13 Reasons Why. The names are different. Here, he is Tyler. And in 13, he's Bryce. But both are incredible douches who repeatedly rape women.