‘Preacher’ Season 2, Episodes 7-9: In Search of the Holy Grail

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Slowly but surely, this season of “Preacher” has been edging ever-closer to the source material, which is more firmly in my mind since my last review, as I started re-reading it again. There’s a reason for that confusion, and it’s a good one- even when the show veers wildly in different directions, it feels like it could be lifted from the comics.

So much so that I felt compelled to withdraw my original collections from storage to re-read them again to confirm whether or not something I saw on the show was, in fact, derived from the comics, or if it just seems like it was. I’m happy to report that, though I’m still making my way through them, more and more stuff is starting to filter in, despite the diversions into “new” territory.

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For instance, the current Herr Starr storyline features a lot of stuff taken directly from them, including things one might think would never have made it in, such as Hoover (Malcolm Barrett, “Timeless”) accidentally hiring male prostitutes to have rough sex with Starr, instead of females. Only here, Starr enjoys it right off the bat, instead of raging against Hoover for his mistake. He does indeed like it in the comics as well, but it’s more of a process there, whereas here, it’s pretty immediate- a “piece of the puzzle sliding in place,” as it were.

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It’s this sort of corner-cutting that manages to be both true to the source material while tweaking it just enough to keep fans guessing that makes for an interesting watch for comics readers, but I can only imagine how wacked-out the show seems to non-readers not used to the arguably even-more over the top comics. (Can you imagine, say, Jesus de Sade making the cut, comic readers? After the aforementioned scene with Starr I’m beginning to wonder if he just might after all!)

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Either way, it’s a kick to see Starr brought to life in such wonderful terms as we got in episode 3, “Pig.” Perfectly cast with actor Pip Torrens (“The Crown”), we see how Starr rose in the ranks of the secret organization known as the Grail, ruthlessly taking out anyone who gets in his way- even if that person happens to be his own boss, as we see with Saltonstall (Fredric Lehne, “Chicago Fire”), who Starr casually tosses off the ledge of his own office balcony.

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As much a scary and worthwhile villain as the Saint of Killers was, Starr is as smart as he is intimidating, and it will certainly be interesting to see what he has in store for Jesse (Dominic Cooper). The fact that he recognized early on that brute force wasn’t the way to go with Jesse shows that he might have bigger plans on his mind, perhaps in line with what he gets up to in the comics, which I won’t spoil here for non-readers.

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BTW, speaking of the comics, loved the nod to Jesse’s grandmother’s house in the files Starr had on Jesse- still holding out hope the show will delve into Jesse’s past more in that regard, as that would be a good story to see come to life relatively intact. Given that we keep getting recurring flashbacks of Jesse’s father’s death, I think it’s a distinct possibility we just might, and maybe even this season.

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Speaking of traumatic events, it’s also been interesting to see the effect the whole Saint of Killers thing had on Tulip (Ruth Negga), who is still suffering from some major league PTSD, having nightmares all the time, and engaging in dangerous behavior, like having guys literally shoot her in the chest for “fun,” albeit with a bullet-proof vest on. We aren’t used to seeing Tulip so out of character- this version of her is worlds away from the woman-of-action we saw in her first scene on the series, in which she fashioned a rocket launcher out of some coffee cans or what have you and vanquished a host of foes after her.

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It’s admittedly sort of unnerving seeing her this way, TBH, and don’t think Jesse hasn’t picked up on it. What he hasn’t quite picked up on is just how bad it’s gotten, though he at least finds out enough to force her to sleep, using Genesis. What he doesn’t know is that Tulip has made friends with an agent of the Grail staying down the hall, Lara Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery), which could well come back to bite them later on, and probably will, if a certain plotline from the comics is followed.

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I love how Featherstone will instantaneously go from looking sleek, crisp and stylish in her Grail garb to rundown, frail, quivering and homely when she answers the apartment room door whenever Tulip comes by. It’s a clever bit of business, and shows how these agents have the power to do some impressive stuff without being showy about it.

Might they use Tulip as leverage on the show instead to get to Jesse? If so, count on Tulip’s decision to make a new acquaintance with her neighbor coming back to haunt her. Cassidy might not be off the hook, either, or his son, as the Grail could well kidnap the whole lot of them to get Jesse to do what they want him to.

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Speaking of Cassidy, the following episode, “Holes,” featured a solid amount of character development of our favorite vampire, as he finally discovered what his son, Denis (Ronald Guttman) was so upset with him about- he was dying and wanted Cassidy to “save” him by granting him the “gift” of immortality by making him a vampire. Cassidy struggled with the decision, as he knew all too well the repercussions of such a thing, but lucky for Denis, he ultimately went through with it, or he’d be prematurely dead right about now.

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Though, granted, Denis was already dying- hence his wanting his son’s help in the first place. Still, for his to have been shot dead out of nowhere would have been tough on Cassidy, so the fact that he had already chosen to turn him was a good thing, even if the decision may come back to haunt him as well. After all, if past incarnations of vampire in books, movies and TV have taught us anything, it’s that the transition from human to vampire can be a tricky, treacherous transformation, often fraught with opportunities to make horrific mistakes.

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Denis might be out of the woods, in terms of his illness, and saved from a possible early death from the gunshot he suffered at the hands of one of the Grail’s people, but he’s still very much learning to cope, trying to wrap his head around the new “life” he has now, including evading direct sunlight and learning to wean himself off of feeding on humans instead of on blood bags like Cassidy leans more towards these days.

I worry that Denis may not get a handle on things enough to avoid a potential downfall at some point which may end up leading to his death, anyway. Particularly if he goes after someone in the Grail, possibly in defense of his son. Still, it was sweet seeing the two of them bond, as the tables turned and Denis was helping nurse Cassidy back to good health after the Grail attack, instead of the other way around, with Cassidy looking after Denis when he was ill.

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Elsewhere in the episode, we checked in with Eugene (Ian Colletti), who isn’t fooling anyone in Hell with his newly-acquired tough guy act. I had to laugh at his pseudo-“Cape Fear”-style bulking up scene- I’m sorry, but the guy is the polar opposite of intimidating. Hitler (Noah Taylor) sees right through it, despite Eugene’s attack on him earlier in the season, and so does Ms. Mannering (Amy Hill), who tosses Eugene in the dreaded hole, where he realizes that things can indeed get a whole lot worse.

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There, he replays his crucial moment with Tracy (Gianna LePera), only with a twist- this time, Eugene seems to get a happy ending, as he kisses her and instead of freaking out, she’s into it. Overjoyed, Eugene is no doubt thinking this hole business isn’t so bad after all when Jesse enters and starts making out with Tracy! Yep, as Eugene learns the hard way, things can always be worse in Hell. But will he be able to go with the flow? I doubt it, and so does Hitler, who instead offers Eugene an alternative- what if they could escape together?

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We don’t get any more than that in this episode or in the next, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how that plotline pans out later on. In the meantime, consider this: if you were wrongly trapped in Hell, and could potentially get out, but it meant unleashing Hitler on the world again, would you do it? Quite the dilemma Eugene has found himself caught in.

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Beyond that, the only other new development is that we learn that the Grail was responsible for killing/hiring that actor to “play” God- though Jesse doesn’t. Not exactly a shocker, really- who else could it have been, really? Still, though comics readers might have an idea, one has to wonder why the Grail would want to lead people to believe that God was still in Heaven after all, when they obviously know it isn’t true? Clearly, they don’t want people to panic- yet, at least.

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We’ve already covered most of the events in “Puzzle Piece,” so no need to get into them again, but I will say that the show made deft use of Edith Piaf’s music (of all things) as a way of building intensity in the Grail attack, and that the bits about Harry Connick Jr. were a hoot, though you have to wonder what he might think of them, lol. Has anyone from the show been on his talk show? I’d love to hear HCJ’s response to the quirky “death” the show provided for him. Stupid cats!

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Also great was the scene in which Starr dined with that woman, who he inexplicably made take her top off and hold a stick of butter between her neck and chest. Not sure where all that was going, but it was fascinatingly bent, like something out of a David Lynch movie. (Indeed, that scene with the Edith Piaf blaring also reminded me of Lynch, in particular the way he used a car horn to ratchet up a scene by using loud noise to make things more unnerving on “Twin Peaks” recently.)

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The episode ended with Starr and Jesse meeting face-to-face for the first time, with Starr propositioning Jesse with something or the other, in regards with his search for God. What is he up to? What made him call off the attack on Jesse? What does he have planned for the powerful Preacher? We shall see, but I have some ideas…

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All in all, another solid run of episodes. It was great seeing Herr Starr brought to life so vividly, and the training/competition montage was a hoot. I remain impressed by what they manage to get away with on the show, even if some of it is directly from the comics. AMC is to be congratulated for taking a risk on such a quirky, insane show.

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It is admittedly a bit disheartening to see Jesse and Tulip so disconnected this season, after such a strong start, but thanks to those flashbacks, we see that rift was always there. The relationship between the two here is much more fractured than in the comics, but as a direct result, it also feels more real, instead of more of an archetype like it did there. In the comics, nothing could come between the two, no matter what- here, they are way more fragile and at odds with one another, making it feel much more real.

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It’s a different take on the comic, to be sure, but not an unwelcome one. If anything, it raises the stakes more, and ensures that the show will keep even those of us familiar with the source material guessing, as have many of the other changes made here and there. The important thing is that, for all of the changes, the spirit of the comic is still there, and that’s no small thing. So long as it feels right, I have no problem with it, and so far, it has.

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What did you think of the last few episodes of “Preacher”? Are you digging the Grail/Starr storyline? How about the one with Eugene and Hitler? Or the one with Cassidy and his son? Do you hate seeing Jesse and Tulip at odds with one another? Or do you think that sort of tension is good for the show, and by extension, the characters? Any predictions on what happens next, especially from non-comic readers? Let me know what you thought down below, and I’ll check back in after a few more episodes!