Preacher has been talking up The End—the apocalypse—for quite some time now, and the Season 4 premiere really wants you to know it’s coming. In just part one of the two-part opener, we get one literal extinction event, one vision of the apocalypse, and a preview of the ending of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy’s journey. But to what end? Let’s rewind.
Part one of the two-part opener (“Masada”) doesn’t really provide a whole lot of forward momentum. We pick up largely where Season 3 left off. Cassidy is imprisoned by the Grail with Jesse and Tulip on their way to break him out. And that break-out is the entirety of “Masada,” or it would be if it succeeded. Our twist here is that Cassidy doesn’t want to go, citing some machismo “I was gonna do it myself” bullshit, as Cassidy is wont to do. Jesse is forced to leave him behind, and he and Tulip return to their hotel. Jesse has a nightmare of the apocalypse, his “Dad” calls to tell him to stop screwing around and find God, and Jesse leaves, leaving Tulip with just a note. Oh, and God is revealed to be working with Herr Starr. I suppose that’s important.
“Masada” feels more like a season finale than a season opener. It wasn’t a bad episode by any means. Tulip and Featherstone’s feud continues to be a highlight, the show continues to find new and interesting ways to mortify us, and the fight scenes are always a joy. The real problem is that, for a season premiere, it spent more time concerned with the rescue of Cassidy than setting up the villains and motivations for the final season. The final five minutes are undeniably loaded with plot development, but getting there feels decidedly mid-to-late-season. Only one new character is really introduced—the New York torturer Frankie Toscani—and the plot picks up in a way that feels like a continuation of Season 3 rather than the beginning of a new story arc. But thankfully, “Masada” is only part one of two, and the second part does a lot to recontextualize the first.
Part two of the Preacher Season 4 premiere, “Last Supper,” picks up exactly where “Masada” left off, with Jesse walking off onto his own journey to find Dick Rock, Tulip struggling to break out Cassidy, and Cassidy working to break himself out. But “Last Supper” also introduces some hard questions.
Early on Jesse hitches a ride with a woman from Jesus De Sade, though what that organization does is unclear. While driving, they pass a child sobbing on the side of the road over a seemingly dead dog. Jesse wants to stop but the woman refuses, stereotyping the child before exclaiming that the child isn’t Christian anyway. Jesse forces her to stop the car, only to be mocked by her and ultimately proving her right. The child holds him at gunpoint, demanding everything Jesse has. Jesse forces the boy to drop the gun, actually killing the dog. After repaying the boy with his wallet and shoes, Jesse moves on.
He bums a ride on a camel with a Muslim man, and they come across another Muslim man, though one of a different creed. The two men begin to fight, with Jesse ending the conflict when weapons are drawn—or so he believed, as the newcomer cannot speak English and thus can’t be swayed by Genesis. The newcomer shoots the other man, causing a chain reaction that ends in both of their deaths as well as the deaths of the two camels. Jesse resumes his walk alone.
These interactions felt like they were attempting to set something up for the episode, if not the series. We first see a bad Christian: one who does not feel for those outside the faith. Shortly after, we get the two men squabbling over differences within the same faith. It seemed as though the episode was going to try and set up a criticism of Christianity through the lens of other faiths, which is something that could have been really clever and elevated the show. Unfortunately, those two interactions are both the beginning and the end, as the rest of the episode doesn’t really deal with religion in that way. Hopefully, Season 4 will return to it.
Meanwhile, back in Masada, Cassidy almost manages to break out of the Grail HQ but backs away as the front doors open to broad daylight. Clearly, watching his vampire friends cook under the sun last season has him shaken. His hesitance to leave no longer seems tied to machismo but to trauma. Cassidy continues to be, metaphorically, burned by relationships as he sinks deeper into despair, afraid of trusting people and afraid of seeing people (including himself) hurt. His trauma has manifested in a literal fear of burning under the sun.
Finally, we have Tulip. Jesse’s sudden departure clearly rocked her. She’s more driven than ever, single-mindedly focusing on the one goal she has: to break into Grail HQ and get Cassidy out. We have yet to see the extent of the damage Jesse’s disappearance has had on her, but you can bet she’s not happy. However, sneaking into Grail HQ is a good way for her to kill some guys and blow off some steam, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
We end the two-part Preacher Season 4 premiere with Jesse on a plane, heading to Australia. This is fine by itself, but immediately after we get the teaser for next week’s episode. Apparently, we’re not quite heading to Australia; first, we need to see what happens in the Jesus De Sade building. I’ve, up to this point, glossed over Jesse’s lighter because the story felt cut and dry. Jesse forgot his lighter in the Jesus De Sade lady’s car, returned to the building, got his lighter, and moved on. We don’t even see the fight.
However, in light of the teaser, it’s clear that the plane ride is another flash-forward of sorts. Why they skipped the Jesus De Sade plot just to come back to it next week is unclear, but as of right now, it just feels bizarre and rather out of place.
Part of me wonders if “Masada” was meant to be the original conclusion of Season 3, with “Last Supper” as the opener for Season 4. Season 3’s conclusion, while satisfying, left me unimpressed. Finales look to resolve the plot of the season and leave you with a hook to return. Clearly, with the burning of Grandma Custer’s house, Jesse’s arc was completed. But the stinger of Cassidy being captured didn’t really resonate as a finale. Adding “Masada” onto the end of Season 3, however, would make a lot of sense.
Let’s imagine “Masada” is at the end of Season 3 but move the opening of “Masada” (with God and the flash-forward) to the beginning of “Last Supper.” It introduces Frankie Toscani, a fine antagonist for Cassidy throughout Season 4. It brings Jesse and Cassidy back together, allowing Cassidy to make it very clear he is done with Jesse. Plus, backloading the plot creates the perfect hook for next season. Jesse is gone again, Cassidy is still in prison, and what? God is working with Herr Starr? That’s incredible! I can’t wait for the final season!
Then Season 4 starts with the extinction of the dinosaurs, playing with the “Last Supper” title quite well. We cut to the flash-forward conclusion of Season 4, then the show starts in earnest. New plotlines are developed, revelations are made, stories are recontextualized, and new themes are added. Plus, it helps explain the shift in Genesis. In “Masada,” Genesis is used freely, with little or no negative consequences; then “Last Supper” starts, and suddenly Genesis is wreaking havoc when it gets used. A seasonal split between the two episodes would help better define the change in Genesis.
At the end of the two-part Preacher Season 4 premiere, though, we have two decent episodes of the show. “Masada” is weird and fun, though a little bit light on actual plot, while “Last Supper” makes the themes of Season 4 clear as the end draws ever closer.