Buckle up, because this season is going to be all over the place in just about every sense of the phrase. The first few episodes have already shown us the highs and lows of Preacher. We’ve split the group across multiple continents and we’re keeping up with the Tarantino-esque non-chronological sequences. Even when the episode is about re-centering and finding ourselves, it can’t help but feel a little scattershot.
“Deviant” (S4E3) is all about self-reflection and revelations. Tulip, now deep undercover in Masada, is up for a psych eval from a friendly Grail doctor. Cassidy gives us some backstory as his tragedy grows every episode. The Saint of Killers and Eugene keep up their long walk from Hell to wherever Jesse may be at that moment. And Jesse just keeps on doing whatever it is Jesse does.
Cassidy gets the most satisfying story this week by far. Trapped deep within Masada with the promise of never-ending circumcision threatening to break him, he finds comfort and friendship in relaying his story of tragedy to the watching angel. We learn of his history in the Irish War of Independence, the loss of his friends (boy, Cassidy just can’t keep his friends from dying), and how he became a vampire. Cassidy has always been a tragic character, clearly hiding his pain behind drugs and attitude, but the more we see, the more we feel for him. He’s gone through some rough stuff, and it seems far from over.
Meanwhile, Tulip submits to the psych eval, but not without a fight. Ultimately, she’s diagnosed with a personality disorder, some gun fetishism, and abandonment issues which…yeah. She herself says that’s about right, and we move on. Her part of “Deviant” is over, and that’s a serious bummer. Forcing Tulip to confront her demons rather than just acknowledging them could have been seriously compelling. Even acknowledging her demons, then saying, “so what, I kick ass?” would have been satisfying. Instead, she says she can’t be fixed and that’s that. She doesn’t really seem troubled by them, or even that this is a hint at something more to come, just a confirmation that she, like Cassidy, has been through some rough stuff. Unlike Cassidy’s storyline, though, this feels like the full intended arc. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but for now, it’s what we’ve got.
Back in Texas, Eugene and the Saint of Killers continue their plodding journey to find the Preacher. Eugene hasn’t given up the idea that this is all God’s plan (and honestly, I’m starting to believe it myself), but boy does the Saint not give a damn about Eugene. Maybe. The Saint, as distant as he seems, is clearly listening to Eugene. When Eugene is hungry, they eat. When the Saint gets angry, Eugene talks him down. When Eugene gets taken by Child Protective Services, the Saint kills the CPS worker and grants Eugene’s wish for a car. Maybe the Saint is softening, maybe Eugene reminds him of his own children, or maybe Eugene is just a necessary pawn in a much larger game.
Lastly, we rejoin Jesse back at Jesus De Sade and once again I have to ask why he even got on the plane at the end of the last episode. It’s clear now that Season 4 is trying to do something with non-chronological storytelling, but it just feels clunky around Jesse’s story, especially since only two important things really happened in Jesse’s storyline, neither of which were enhanced by showing him already on a plane at the end of the previous episode.
First, we get the death of the kid Jesse tried to help in “Masada” (S4E1). At some point during the big fight scene, they’re killed off-screen by a stray bullet. As Jesse leaves Jesus De Sade, God watches him through a window. What God was doing there is unclear, but given that he and Herr Starr are trying their best to torture Jesse, it’s probably something unpleasant—like killing a kid.
Second, Hitler returns to Earth looking to enlist Jesse now that Hitler has taken control of Hell. Jesse declines, but Hitler promises that Hell is waiting for him, which may be one of the biggest understatements of all time. He’s Jesse Custer. Not only is he a rude dude, but he pissed off God. Jesse’s either going to get killed and dragged to Hell, or Hell is going to become his reality.
And there’s your recap. Now let’s talk about the rest of it, starting with the most important thing: Herr Starr finds a new Hoover and calls him Hoover Two. The correct name should obviously be Two-ver.
Now the rest.
I can’t help but feel kind of let down by the fight scene in Jesus De Sade. Preacher does some really cool aesthetic stuff with the set, but it just feels hollow. I think we may have seen Jesse take on a horde of bad dudes one too many times, as it lost all threat. Last season’s fights with Jody had weight to them. Jesse didn’t have Genesis, he was fighting someone who could easily kill him in a heartbeat, and even when he had Genesis, Jesse wanted to win the fight with honor. Now he has Genesis, no reason not to use the power, and instead just likes the fighting. Once again, he’s against a bunch of (in some cases literal) faceless goons, whom Jesse shakes off and kills with ease. There’s never any threat, never any reason to fear the worst, especially since we know he makes it back to the plane. The brawl feels like it clearly wants to be the church scene in Kingsman, but where that scene felt powerful and out of the blue, this has become a weekly occurrence and lost a lot of its impact.
No denying the set, aesthetic, and choreography kicked some serious ass, though.
Finally, and (genuinely this time) most important, Preacher is no stranger to pushing boundaries and toeing lines, but this is the first time I felt deeply uncomfortable, and not in the “weird and outside-the-norm” way, but in the “this-is-genuinely-messed-up-and-not-okay” way. “Deviant” features not one but two minors, in separate storylines, being used in sexually suggestive manners. First, we see the young child from “Masada” at work in the Jesus De Sade house. It’s originally implied that they’re unhappy working there, but then it turns out they’re thrilled to be getting paid $35/hour to do whatever the clientele asks of them. Then we get Eugene discovering what that hole in the bathroom stall is used for and innocently putting his mouth up to it.
In a show that revels in offending the viewers, this honestly feels like a step too far. The child worker feels both racist and creepy while Eugene’s scene is basically just a rape joke, which is never a good look when it involves adults, let alone a minor.
Season 4 continues to feel rocky and uneven as we traipse ever closer to the apocalypse. Preacher still has its highs, but some uneven character moments and lack of satisfying conclusions are an ill omen for the inevitable end.