Preacher: Season 1, Episode 10 - "Call and Response"
Preacher wraps its first season as only it could, which isn't necessarily such a good thing.
PreacherAirtime: Sundays, 9pm
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joseph Gilgun
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 10 - "Call and Response"
Air Date: 2016-07-31
Preacher has officially wrapped up its first season. Now, we can now all lean back, take a breath, and begin to unspool the wild, twisted web of insanity we've just witnessed. This ten-episode introduction to the world of vampires, angels, demons, arsefaces, and the gods of meat stuffed more into one season than many shows would have the guts to stuff into five. The fact that it was a show that was still mostly coherent, intriguing, and one hell of a fun time is a testament to its creators, but it was also one of the most uneven seasons of television made this year, and the finale was no different.
The big draw of the finale, and one that encapsulates the shows grand vision, was Jesse’s (Dominic Cooper) promise to bring God himself down from heaven and to the church for Sunday services. Easy right? Just call him up on the phone using an angel’s amputated hand and ask him of a few of the questions that have been burning on the minds of Jesse’s troubled flock.
It makes sense narratively to hold this, the ultimate reveal, till the latter half of the finale, but that didn’t make the first half, which focused one of the show’s more uninteresting storylines, any less meandering. One of the greatest schisms this season is between how much the characters and how much the audience care about the whole Carlos (Desmin Borges) revenge-for-Dallas plot. You'd be hard pressed to find a viewer of this show who doesn’t love Ruth Negga's Tulip, but the fact that she’s so dead-set on exacting revenge for something that feel ancillary when compared to, you know, god-like power, vampires, and a battle between heaven and hell, undermines her story.
It is only after the finale, where the story, past and present, comes full circle that we begin to identify its purpose, even if it's still hard to argue for its necessity. You see, Tulip's passion for vengeance isn't really about Carlos at all. Yes, he did ditch them just as they were about to complete a bank robbery, but it’s what happened after he ditched them that has Tulip so shaken. As we learn through more complete flashbacks, Jesse and Tulip were not only happily in love prior to the betrayal, but expecting their first child, a child that seems to have died as a direct result of the robbery gone wrong.
While this does help to round out Tulip's seemingly unfazed bad ass into a more complete and slightly tragic figure, it could have easily taken far less time to tell the tale. What Preacher treats like a big reveal comes off more as a "oh that's why this matters" moment, which is far less affecting than they likely envisioned. The fact that they ultimately let Carlos go makes the whole thing feel like an elaborate way to get Jesse and Tulip back together, which is definitely good for the show but didn't need a whole, season-long plotline to play out. As you will see later, this is an issue that plagues much of the finale and, in turn, much of the season, but more on that later.
First, let's discuss God (Mark Harelik), the alpha and omega, the almighty, showing up to the church via some shoddy video conference call technology. After all the build-up and promises Jesse is seemingly able to deliver on his promise, as God -- a white guy of course -- shows up, happy to speak to the astonished congregation. This scene plays at classic Preacher, with a mix of absurdist humor, epic strangeness, and some light commentary on religious devotion and belief.
Unfortunately, also in Preacher fashion, the sequence drags a bit and ultimately leaves you unsure of the point of it all. By the end of their conversation, Jesse realizes that to whomever they're speaking, it isn't the alpha and omega, but someone doing their best impression. Using Genesis, the preacher even gets the man to admit this and spill the beans that God is, in fact, missing from heaven. So, fed up with once again having his plan foiled by the almighty, Jesse and Tulip and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) leave the church, and Jesse's eager flock, with a simple and direct plan: find God.
This is where the first season of Preacher begins to come into focus or, more appropriately, changes focus altogether. As our three heroes discuss their plan to strike out on their own and find God -- sounds simple enough -- we learn that the entire town of Annville, and in turn every other character we've meant aside from those with supernatural abilities, have exploded due to a methane leak cause by Quincannon's (Jackie Earle Haley) meat packing plant.
So, what about Emily (Lucy Griffiths) and Quincannon and Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown)? It appears they were casualties of a season which was, in truth, a long and wild prequel to the real Preacher. It isn’t that the idea of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy embarking on an epic road trip, which is how the finale ends, doesn’t sound decidedly awesome, but it does make you question what the hell it was all for.
Sure, we learned a lot about this tight-knit cast of beautifully written and endlessly intriguing characters, but did we need ten hours to get all this exposition? The answer is no. There were times, as I have discussed, that the show seemed to be stalling, and now that the full story of season one is told, the reasons are abundantly clear. In theory, I actually don't hate the idea of doing away with the tiresome trope of character exposition through flashback, and simply giving a short history of the characters before entering the bigger game, but when that history encompasses and entire season, and has its own flashbacks throughout, it feels a bit sloppy.
All this being said, they have still set themselves up nicely for season two. You still have Cassidy and Tulip, two of the most electric characters anywhere on television, together with an all-powerful and complicated protagonist. You could even argue that now that they are out of Annville and have a more specific goal, the narrative will be much more streamlined than in the patchy first season. Above all the story factors, you still have the creative team of Catlin, Goldberg, and Rogen who together were able to create a show with, above all else, a unique and exciting vision, which is more than you can say about most shows on television.