Preacher: Season 1, Episode 6 – “Sundowner”

The true battle lines are finally drawn in a revelatory and impressive episode.

Episode six of AMC’s Preacher, titled “Sundowner” isn’t the best episode of the season, but it is, without a doubt, the most important one. Catlin, Rogen, and Goldberg needed to stick the landing, and they did so with kind of insane gracefulness only this show seems poised to present.

The one criticism that I, and others, have had for this bizarre supernatural western is that sometimes it feels too loose, like it had all the strands of a great series but had yet to pull anything together that made any discernible sense. This wasn’t as much a scathing critique as it was a genuine worry that, although I was enthralled with the opening half of the show’s first season, they wouldn’t be able to wrangle the delightfully mad bits of story into something sustainable. Whether or not the series creators saw this as a possible issue, they likely knew that “Sundowner” was essential to landing the plane of this half-season set-up without the whole thing ending in ruinous confusion.

Last week ended with the meeting that’s been destined ever since the hilariously incompetent Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc (Anatole Yusef) first showed up in the small town of Annville, but the main takeaway from their conversation is where we start “Sundowner”. What’s inside Jesse (Dominic Cooper) isn’t God, so what the hell is it? Here’s where we get to the meat and bones of the series. In a fairly long opening scene, which takes place entirely over a diner table, Jesse forces the two angels to spill all the details that have thus far been withheld from us, the viewers.

Their tales of long, intense wars between Heaven and Hell, demon spawns and all-powerful forces, come hot and fast and finally draw the battle lines that have been muddy at best so far this season. It’s a lot for both Jesse and the audience to take in, though, and distinctively the kind of thing that would much easier for a comic book reader to digest than a cable drama viewer, so why exactly does this reveal and heavy exposition work so well? Because Preacher‘s earned it.

Five episodes of narrative insanity, visual brilliance, and character-driven madness has made this world, however ridiculous, seem unbelievably livable. In hindsight, waiting six episodes to explain what will ultimately be the point of the series seems crazy, but hitting a pilot viewer with these otherworldly stakes without knowing what kind of world they were entering would’ve been equally crazy and far less effective. So, because we already know about angels and vampires and coffee can spirit prisons, we’re able to digest the idea that the force that lies within Jesse is neither God nor the devil, but rather a spawn of some kind of Romeo and Juliet love affair between heaven and hell. Yeah, that works.

It’s fitting that is mere minutes after this heavy exposition the three recent acquaintances are thrust into hand-to-hand combat with an angel sent to bring Fiore and DeBlanc back to heaven. The battle, which takes place in the angels’ hotel room, lasts an absurdly long time and the body count reaches well into the double digits — which would be a bigger deal if the angels weren’t able to respawn as soon as they are killed. Watching Jesse, the angels and the newly arrived Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) discuss what to do about the spirit within Jesse in a room filled to the brim with dead versions of Fiore and DeBlanc perfectly encapsulates the balance that makes this show work where many others would fall flat.

It’s a testament to the first 20 or so minutes of “Sundowner” that the remainder of the episode, which still has plenty to offer, falls a bit flat when compared with the opening. The highlight may be the unlikely pairing of the jealous Tulip (Ruth Negga) and the tightly wound Emily (Lucy Griffiths) as newfound friends. Their connection is obvious; they’re both in love with Jesse — whether or not either of them would admit that — but it’s what they see in each other’s very different lives that’s the most interesting. In almost successive instances, we see Emily longingly listen to Tulip’s stories of traveling the country with Jesse, followed by Tulip watching with heartache as Emily kindly takes care of her sick daughter. These two women may want the same man, but they’ve made very different choices about how to live their lives, choices they may be regretting just a bit.

Overall, despite all we learn about Jesse’s powers, very much remains the same. Jesse balks at Fiore and DeBlanc’s request to let them take back the power, forcing them to stay away from him, while continuing to push his goal of becoming a more powerful preacher. The problem is that Jesse still doesn’t seem to grasp just how powerful he’s become.

Just minutes prior to giving his biggest sermon yet, Jesse shares a few choice words with Eugene “Arseface” Root (Ian Colletti) who seems to recognize Jesse’s power and admonishes him for using it so freely. The exchange ends with Jesse telling Eugene to go to hell, a request that he seems to follow quite literally, disappearing into a flash of smoke. It seems that Eugene, like the viewer, will now be thrust into the much bigger battle that lie at the center of Preacher, a battle that promises to be as zany and captivating as this supremely impressive show thus far.

RATING 9 / 10