Television

Preacher: Season 1, Episode 8 – "El Valero"

Sean Fennell

Preacher's excellent first season stalls a bit as Jesse battles with both his conscience and the revenge-minded Odin Quincannon.


Preacher

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm
Cast: Ruth Negga, Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 8 – "El Valero"
Network: AMC
Air Date: 2016-07-17
Amazon

It's amazing but in just a few short months Preacher has already carved a nice little groove for itself in an overly congested television landscape. It did so by refusing to do all the things that television fans often demand -- most notably an easily understood plot -- and did so with an almost mocking bravado. It has been an opening season that's been at its best when it throwing things at the wall to see if they stick, which they have with almost otherworldly consistency.

We all knew this had to come to end. That showrunners Evan Goldberg, Sam Rami, and Seth Rogen had to eventually reign in all the stray parts of the series and build toward something substantial and concrete. Maybe I knew, but it hasn't helped the fact that the last couple episodes, which feature a show creating boundaries instead of blasting through them, have been just the least bit disappointing.

One of the reasons for the feeling of narrative claustrophobia that both last week's "He Gone" and this week's "El Valero" elicited may be due to the physical boundaries that the show has put on itself. Sure, there's been plenty of weird and wild going on, but the action hasn't really left the church since that awesome opening sequence in the motel room back in "Sundowner", and it's suffered for it.

While "He Gone" was devoted mostly to giving us a front seat to Jesse's (Dominic Cooper) ego-driven demise, "El Valero" deals with the fallout and all the pesky bits of self-realization that go with it. For one, Eugene (Ian Colletti) is still in hell, despite the fact that Jesse’s sees a vision of the arse-faced teenage emerge from the sand beneath the church. Secondly, all of Jesse's closest friends, and sometimes enemies, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and Tulip (Ruth Negga) have been unceremoniously pushed away by the power-hungry preacher. Not great timing considering Odin Quincannon's (Jackie Earle Haley) army of misfits is marching, heads full of vengeance and little else, toward the Church.

So, in between fighting back the meat packing plant, Jesse decides to finally grow a conscience and admit that maybe sending a fairly innocent boy to hell on a whim isn't the kind of power he should have. All but admitting defeat, Jesse calls in the Angel brothers to finally excise the demon spawn they've been coveting for all this time. Out comes the Old Timer Coffee can, DeBlanc's (Anatole Yusef) crooning lullaby, and the demon that has been living inside out favorite preacher. All is back to normal, for about a minute or so, until the demon explodes from the coffee can and rushes headlong back into Jesse as if, dare I say, that's where it's meant to be.

Fiore (Tom Brooke) and DeBlanc leave muttering something about an option B and Quincannon's army eventually breach the Church walls -- losing a few key members in the battle -- but all in all, very little actually changes about Jesse's situation. He still has a power he can't possibly understand, and he still seems driven to use it to save the church.

The last two episodes have seen Jesse broken down and built back up piece by piece, but with little to show in the way of narrative propulsion, they've easily been the most uneven of the series thus far. Ultimately, we knew that Jesse wasn't truly going to lose his Genesis-given powers. Without Genesis, Jesse’s a violent, drunken, failure of a preacher, and watching him fall into dejection would be a very different show than Preacher promises to be.

Some deep character study is great and all, but here's hoping we get back to the battle of angels and demons before too long.

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